If you are a woman, when you are born you have all the eggs you will ever produce already inside you. This means you are carrying hundreds of thousands of eggs. Your eggs remain dormant, or asleep until puberty whereupon your ovaries will release one egg each month, all the way until menopause. Over the years you will generally release a few hundred mature eggs. The rest do not fully mature but deplete over time. Even when you are on birth control, the eggs are dying instead of being released.
If you have been having unprotected sex in the hopes of conceiving without the results you have been looking for, you can increase your likelihood of conception by monitoring and charting your fertility cycle to determine when the best time will be to have sex with your partner. Tracking your menstrual cycle simply means you’ll be following your natural fertility cycle to tell you when you are ovulating. This part is essential as you can’t get pregnant without ovulation.
Understanding Your Hormones and Your Ovaries
The ovaries in your body work by creating and releasing the sex hormones called progesterone and estrogen. The hormone estrogen encourages enables fertility and creates Inhibin which basically tells your pituitary gland when to inhibit or halt follicle-stimulating hormone secretion.
A typical couple will generally achieve conception within 5 to 6 months of attempting to conceive. After a year of trying, it is recommended to seek help if you have not become pregnant. By knowing when you will be ovulating, you will increase your odds of success. Ovulation is when your ovary releases a mature egg, allowing the egg and sperm to meet in the fallopian tube, where an embryo may be created as it is fertilized. This can only happen when you have sexual intercourse during the time the egg is released.
Monitor Your Cycle With an Ovulation Test (or OPK)
With the help of an ovulation predictor kit, you will be able to detect when the luteinizing hormone (LH) in your urine. This hormone normally rises between 12 – 48 hours before you will ovulate. Because your menstrual cycle is typically about 28 days, you usually have only 6 days a month to achieve conception. Your ovaries will release one egg, so that day and the 5 days before then are when you should be sexually active for exposing the egg to healthy sperm. When it comes to your menstrual cycle, you are most fertile three days before you ovulate and upon ovulation. When the egg exits the fallopian tube (about 12-24 hours after you ovulated) you will not be able to become pregnant during this menstrual cycle. But by tracking your menstrual cycle with an App or journal, you can figure out when the best time for ovulation is right for you as you learn your body’s fertility cycle.
How to Chart Your Menstrual Cycle
Your goal is to note when your menstrual cycle starts and how long you bleed, with day one being the first day of your period. By monitoring your cycle over a period of several months, you’ll start seeing a pattern that can clue you into your natural cycle. Armed with this information, you can now subtract 18 days from the shortest cycle to know when the first day you will be fertile. Next, subtract 11 days from the days of your longest cycle to know the last day you will be fertile during this cycle. Those days in between these numbers will be your most fertile days to conceive.
To determine ovulation, it will help if you check Your Basal Body Temperature (or BBT). To do this, just get a basal body thermometer, which is much more sensitive and therefore accurate, than a normal thermometer. The resulting readings can let you know when your body will ovulate. It’s important to check your temperature every morning before you even arise, and make sure it’s at the same time every day. You’ll notice that your temperature rises slightly after you ovulate and remains higher until your period shows up. Your goal by tracking your BBT will allow you to know when an egg has been released from the ovary.
Beat Infertility Virtual Summit
To learn more about tracking and understanding your cycle, we encourage you to listen to an online presentation recently shared by Shawn Gurtcheff MD, FACOG, from our sister clinic, Utah Fertility Center. Her presentation was given this past April at the Beat Infertility Virtual Summit. Her talk will help you understand your menstrual cycle as well as the natural hormone communication between the brain, ovary and uterus so you can boost your own fertility efforts.
Our Idaho Fertility Center team is ready to help you on your path to parenthood if you are over 35 and have been tracking your ovulation cycle for 6 months or you are under 35 and haven’t been able to conceive within a year. Our board-certified endocrinologists can help you in your efforts and are with you every step of the way. Please call us at (208) 529-2019 in Idaho Falls, Idaho today!