The best time to get pregnant doesn’t always mean it’ll happen as soon as you’re ready. In fact, in our recent survey of over 2,000 women, we found that 83% underestimated the amount of time it would take to get pregnant, with nearly half not understanding how important timing intercourse was in order to conceive.
Here’s the thing: the best time to get pregnant comes down to really knowing your cycle. But, to really know it, you also have to be able to bust old myths about the cycle and trying to conceive. To see how well you know the basics of fertility, check out the following post which covers what you need to know about trying to conceive.
You can get pregnant anytime during the cycle—true or false?
It’s a tricky one, but technically FALSE. The best time to get pregnant is during your fertile window, which is the five days before ovulation and the day of ovulation itself.
However, if you don’t know when ovulation occurs, then it might feel like you could get pregnant any time simply because you don’t know when your fertile window happens. Online tracking methods exist but be aware that these ovulation calculators can cut your chances in half. To understand why, check out the next question.
The best time to get pregnant could change from cycle to cycle—true or false?
TRUE. For reasons that scientists are still trying to understand, cycle length and fertility can vary from cycle-to-cycle in the same woman. A study from 2006 observed over 100 women for multiple cycles and found that about one-third of the women, the fertile window varied by up to a week from between cycles 1.
Bottom line? It’s perfectly normal to have your fertile window or ovulation day vary each cycle. BUT, it does mean that to make the most of your fertility calendar, you need to understand your unique cycle. That means breaking away from the calendar method, and tracking your ovulation so you can make the most out of your chances.
The best time to get pregnant is a few days before ovulation—true or false?
TRUE! A study from 1998 observed conception rates from couples who had intercourse during the fertile window and found that the conception rate was 36 percent two days before ovulation and 34% the day before ovulation. For comparison, intercourse three, four, or five days before ovulation had an 8 – 17 percent chance of conception.
You might be wondering about the day of ovulation itself, and the answer is a bit tricky: Intercourse on day of ovulation had a high conception rate (36%), BUT it also had the higher rate of pregnancy loss. It’s possible that this has to do with how long the egg has been around before sperm fertilize it, but more research is needed to know for sure.
What should you take away? Knowing when you ovulate can help you maximize your chances. You can use urine tests for hormones like luteinizing hormone (LH) to detect the LH surge, or the Ava bracelet to better understand ovulation and your cycle.
You have to have sex every day of the fertile window to get pregnant—true or false?
FALSE. Having sex every day of your fertile window results in a 25 percent chance of conceiving, and the chance slightly drops to 22 percent if you have sex every other day.
BUT, a major point to consider is that how often you should have sex to get pregnant depends on the quality of your partner’s sperm. If sperm counts are average (at least 20 million per milliliter of sample), then having sex everyday increases the chances of fertilization. If his counts are lower, then intercourse every other day can increase odds of fertilization because it gives time for more sperm to be available per ejaculation. If his counts are high, have intercourse as much as you want!
The best time to get pregnant is after rise in basal body temperature—true or false?
FALSE. This is one of main problems with using basal body temperature to track ovulation: the most obvious thing to look for (aka the rise in body temperature) happens after ovulation and when the fertile window closes. So, before ovulation, basal body temperature is lower, and after ovulation, body temperature increases. This shift in temperature around ovulation is called a biphasic pattern, so if you see this pattern, it’s likely that ovulation occurred (BUT, the only way to definitely confirm ovulation is via ultrasound).
The bottom line? If you’re really diligent about this method, then you could use information from previous cycles’ body temperature to predict ovulation yourself. BUT, remember the point above that you can ovulate on different days each cycle, so one major drawback is that you might not always get the most accurate information.
Fertility odds significantly drop after age 35—true or false?
FALSE. Many women fear age 35 as the dreaded fertility cliff, scared that chances of conceiving drop dramatically after this point. But, where does the number 35 even come from in this issue? Turns out that it comes from a study that found that changes of conceiving drop from 75% to 66% from age 30 to 35 for women in the 1600s 2. That’s right: the study used women from four hundred years ago, scaring women about age 35 since then.
A study of women from a more recent century (1990s) found that for women between 27 – 29 years old, probability of conception was about 80% within a year of trying to conceive. For women in the 35 – 39 years old group, the probability was about 77% 3 That’s just a 3% difference!
The best time to get pregnant after a miscarriage is after waiting three months—true or false?
FALSE. As soon as you’re ready and you’ve resumed having ovulatory cycles, then you can start to try getting pregnant after miscarriage. But, it can take some time for hCG levels to fall and for ovulation to resume. The good news is that if you’ve experienced a miscarriage, the likelihood of experiencing another one doesn’t increase. If you experience recurrent miscarriage (meaning two or more consecutive miscarriages), then talk to your doctor about causes of miscarriage and what your options are.