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Getting Pregnant

When Do You Ovulate And How Long Does It Last?

When do you ovulate?

Knowing when you ovulate and how long ovulation lasts is crucial for detecting your fertile window. The fertile window includes the 5 days before ovulation, and the day of ovulation itself. Peak fertility includes the 2 – 3 days just before you ovulate.

When you ovulate, the process of the egg bursting out of the follicle is complete within a matter of minutes or hours. After the egg is released from the ovary, it must be fertilized by a sperm within 12 – 24 hours.

If you’re trying to conceive, it’s more important to know when the fertile window occurs than when you ovulate. Luckily, the fertile window lasts longer than ovulation itself—6 days compared to just a few hours. The reason for this is that sperm can live inside the female reproductive tract for up to five days. Your best chances for pregnancy occur when sperm is waiting in your fallopian tubes before ovulation occurs.

When do you ovulate?

Ovulation is when a mature egg is released from one of the ovaries. It’s then pushed down the fallopian tubes toward the uterus. If a sperm manages to fertilize the egg during its journey, it implants in the uterine lining and grows to become a fetus. If not, the egg disintegrates into the uterine lining and is shed during menstruation. The moment an egg is released from the ovaries is instantaneous.

Ovulation is a complex hormonal event; it doesn’t just happen out of the blue. Early in your menstrual cycle, multiple follicles begin to mature inside of your ovaries. One of them eventually becomes dominant, growing faster than all the others. This dominant follicle is the one that will be released from your ovary during ovulation.

You can use a variety of methods to track your cycle and figure out when ovulation occurs.

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How long does ovulation last?

Ovulation only lasts a few minutes or hours, and if you’re trying to get pregnant, you might be worried that that’s not a very big window for intercourse. But there are actually about six days each month when intercourse can result in a pregnancy; this is called your fertile window. This is because sperm can survive inside your body for up to five days when fertile cervical mucus present.

So if you have sex a few days before ovulation, the sperm can wait patiently in your fallopian tubes for ovulation to occur. And if you have sex very soon after ovulation, the fastest sperm can reach the egg within a half hour—potentially in time to catch the egg before it dies.

How long do eggs last?

As soon as the egg is released from the ovary, it has about 12 – 24 hours to live. If it is not fertilized by a sperm during this time, it dies and is eventually shed with the uterine lining. For the best chances of getting pregnant, you want sperm to already be waiting in your fallopian tubes at the time of ovulation. You can accomplish this by having sex in the days leading up to ovulation, when your chances of conception are even higher than having sex on the day of ovulation itself.

How long does a period last?

While menstrual bleeding typically lasts about three to five days, the length of bleeding is not associated with when in your cycle you ovulate, nor with how long ovulation lasts.

Lindsay Meisel

Lindsay Meisel is the Head of Content at Ava. She has over a decade of experience writing about science, technology, and health, with a focus on women's health and the menstrual cycle. Her work has been featured on The Fertility Hour, The Birth Hour, The Breakthrough Journal, and The Rumpus.

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