When can you get pregnant?

You can't get pregnant if you are not ovulating because there is no egg for the sperm to fertilize. You can get pregnant if you have unprotected sex anywhere from 5 days before ovulation until 1 day after ovulation.
You can't get pregnant if you are not ovulating because there is no egg for the sperm to fertilize. You can get pregnant if you have unprotected sex anywhere from 5 days before ovulation until 1 day after ovulation.

Whether you are trying to get pregnant or trying to avoid getting pregnant, it's important to understand your menstrual cycle and how it relates to your fertility. There are a lot of myths and misinformation surrounding fertility. Once you learn exactly how and when pregnancy can happen, you'll have a better idea of when you can and can't get pregnant.

You can get pregnant if you have unprotected sex anywhere from 5 days before ovulation until 1 day after ovulation. You can't get pregnant if you are not ovulating because there is no egg for the sperm to fertilize. When you have a menstrual cycle without ovulating, it's called an anovulatory cycle. There are a lot of underlying issues that can cause this. It's a common reason for infertility.

How do you know if you're ovulating?

Ovulation occurs when an egg is released from your ovary. It usually happens about 10 to 16 days before your period starts. It's difficult to predict exactly when you're ovulating because the length of your cycles can vary from month to month. Even if your menstrual cycles are the same length, you may not always ovulate on the same day.

Another sign of ovulation is that your cervical mucus, the discharge from your vagina, may be wetter, clearer, and more slippery around the time of ovulation. Your body temperature may rise slightly after ovulation as well. There are also ovulation predictor kits that can detect an increase in the levels of certain hormones in your urine.

What causes anovulatory cycles?

Anovulation is usually the result of an imbalance of the hormones that control ovulation. It begins with a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels. Anything that interferes with these hormones can cause anovulation, which can be caused by several underlying conditions, including:

Obesity. A high body mass index (BMI) can cause you to have excess male hormones such as testosterone, called androgens. This can interfere with the hormones that regulate ovulation.

Low body weight or excessive exercise. As with having a high BMI, having a low BMI or excessively exercising can cause anovulation. It does this by disrupting the release of the hormones that control ovulation from your pituitary gland.

Stress. Stress also affects the hormones that control ovulation. One study found that women who had high levels of an enzyme that indicates stress in their saliva took 29% longer to conceive than those with low levels of the enzyme.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is the most common cause of hormonal imbalance in women of childbearing age. It affects approximately 1 in 10 women. PCOS causes you to produce excess androgens. High levels of androgens cause the follicles, or sacs, in your ovaries that contain your eggs to remain small. This can prevent your body from releasing eggs.

Abnormalities in TSH or Prolactin. Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and Prolactin are both hormones produced by your pituitary gland. If levels of these hormones are abnormal, it can interfere with the hormones you need to ovulate. Problems with your thyroid gland can lead to over or underproduction of these hormones.

QUESTION

The first sign of pregnancy is most often: See Answer

How is anovulation treated?

Anovulation is usually treated with fertility drugs. There are several commonly prescribed fertility drugs, including:

Clomiphene citrate (CC). Around 80% of women will ovulate and 40% will get pregnant using CC. It works by stimulating the hormones that cause your body to release an egg.

Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This causes your ovary to release an egg, usually 36 to 72 hours after it's given. This is the same hormone that pregnancy tests measure. So, if you take a pregnancy test after receiving hCG, you will get a false-positive result.

Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This is a lab-created version of the hormone that causes the eggs to mature in your ovaries. This may be used on women who don't get pregnant with CC or who don't make their own FSH. FSH treatment has a risk of 20% to 30% of pregnancy with multiplies. Use of FSH has to be closely monitored by your doctor.

GnRH agonists and antagonists. These are synthetic hormones that are used to control the release of LH.

Risks of fertility medicines

There are many different types of hormones used to treat anovulation. Your doctor will closely monitor you while you are on these to minimize the risk of side effects, including:

  • Ovarian hyperstimulation, which can cause serious complications such as blood clots, kidney damage, twisting of your ovaries, and fluid collecting in your abdomen or chest.
  • Pregnancy with multiple babies, which occurs in about 20% of pregnancies that result from fertility drugs.
  • Ectopic pregnancy, which is a pregnancy that occurs outside of your uterus.
  • Adnexal torsion, which is twisting of your ovaries.
  • Possibly increased risk of ovarian cancer, though this is still being researched.

How long does ovulation last each month?

A woman’s complete menstrual cycle is usually 24 to 37 days long, although some women may have somewhat shorter or longer cycles.

Ovulation is your fertile phase of each month. During this phase, your ovaries (a woman’s reproductive organs) release an egg (ovum). The likelihood of conceiving is at the maximum during this period. A woman’s ovary releases an egg (ovulate) only once during menses; therefore, if you are planning to get pregnant or want to avoid it, tracking your period (menses) and finding out when your ovaries are releasing eggs is very essential.

How long does ovulation last each month?

Ovulation takes place only once a month and the ovum stays alive for 12 to 24 hours.

Your ovaries release one mature egg any time from day 7 to 21 of your cycle depending on the length of your cycle. This is called the ovulation phase. The released egg is picked by the uterine tube (fallopian tube). If you have sex during this time, there is a higher chance that the egg may get fertilized by the sperm (semen) here and travel down to the womb and you may get pregnant. Hence, these are your best days to get pregnant.

Very rarely, a second egg may be released within 24 hours from when the  first egg was released from the ovaries. 

For some women, it is difficult to determine exactly when they will release eggs (ovulate) because of irregular periods or various other factors. Many factors such as hormonal problems may contribute to an inability to release the egg. If you are breastfeeding a baby, there are very few chances for you to get pregnant. 

What are the natural signs and symptoms you observe during ovulation?

There are three main signs you may see during your ovulation/fertile period

  • Cervical mucus: You may feel wet in this phase. A fluid of varied consistency comes out of the cervix. It becomes slippery and stretchy and has the consistency of a raw egg white. This is due to the changes in your hormones. This fluid allows the sperm (semen) to travel and live in the woman’s system for three to five days. The changes in the cervical mucus can be seen at the beginning and end of your fertile days.
  • Basal body temperature: You may experience a slight increase in body temperature during your ovulation (fertile) days. The temperature readings can be used to determine the timing of egg release and your fertile days.
  • Mittelschmerz: Some women may have cramps on the side from where the egg is released. Some may even have some spotting when they ovulate.

You can identify your early nonfertile, fertile and late fertile phase of your cycle by observing, recording and interpreting the aforementioned three signs. However, you should not use these signs to determine the exact day of release of an egg.

Women usually do not release an egg and are not able to conceive during the breastfeeding period (time) and after delivery if they do not have menses (most likely for six months). However, this may not be always true.

SLIDESHOW

Stages of Pregnancy: Week by Week See Slideshow

How can you track your ovulation?

Tracking and knowing when you are releasing eggs (the fertile window) will help you to know the best timing/days of the months to have sex with your partner and get pregnant. There are certain methods such as

Ovulation calendar: Writing down when your period starts each month and how long it lasts may help you to determine your fertile days.

Ovulation predictor kits: The World Health Organization recommends home-based ovulation predictor kits to increase your chances of getting pregnant. It is a urine test kit that checks your luteinizing hormone (LH).

Devices and apps: There are popular devices and apps available to assist you to monitor your menses, predict the release of the egg, the best time to conceive and your next menses. However, this may be inaccurate because every woman has varied natural signs of the fertile period.

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Pregnancy & Newborns Newsletter

By clicking "Submit," I agree to the MedicineNet Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy. I also agree to receive emails from MedicineNet and I understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet subscriptions at any time.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 4/12/2022
References
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Fertility Awareness-Based Methods of Family Planning."

Emory Healthcare: "Ovulation Induction."

Human Reproduction: "Preconception stress increases the risk of infertility: results from a couple-based prospective cohort study—the LIFE study."

NHS: "How can I tell when I'm ovulating?"

JBRA Assisted Reproduction: "Obesity and anovulatory infertility: A review."

Merck Manual: "Menstrual Cycle."

Women and Infants: "Anovulation."

WHO

CDC

March of Dimes