What is the fertile window, and when does it occur? To learn how to make the most of the female fertility cycle, read on.
If you and your partner are trying to conceive, chances are you’ve heard the phrase “fertile window.” Though it may seem self-explanatory, the female fertility cycle remains a mystery to many men and women, and knowing how to predict your fertile window is key to well-timed babymaking.
The “fertile window” refers to the period of time in the female fertility cycle during which a woman is able to get pregnant — this typically includes the day she ovulates and the five days preceding ovulation. This is the best time to have intercourse if you’re trying to conceive.
(With that said, it never hurts to do the deed outside of your fertile window, too. One recent study shows it might lead to immune changes that improve your odds when you are fertile, and no relationship has ever suffered from too much mutually excellent sex!)
During ovulation, a woman’s ovary releases an egg into the fallopian tube, where it can survive for around 24 hours before traveling down into the uterus, where it disintegrates. However, if the egg is fertilized in that time, it becomes an zygote that can attach itself to the uterine wall. There, it becomes an embryo that can grow into a fetus.
There’s a common misconception that because the egg doesn’t last that long after ovulation, that there’s only one day per month that a woman can get pregnant. However, because sperm can live in the uterus for up to five days, sex during the five days preceding ovulation can result in conception.
Think of your uterus as a nice hotel lobby where the sperm wait patiently for the egg to get ready for a date. Once the egg steps out of her hotel room and into the fallopian hallway, the sperm can go join her and move into the lobby together (well, at least the sperm that succeeds in fertilizing the egg — the rest meet their untimely demise. It’s tough to be a sperm).
There are a few methods of determining when, during the female fertility cycle, conception can occur. The best way to find your fertile window is to use a combination of methods tracking the signs of ovulation. Here’s what you’ll need: a calendar (or fertility app), a basal thermometer and a willingness to get really comfortable with your own body, because you’ll definitely be spending more time with your vagina (and the fluids it produces).
During ovulation, your basal temperature — that is, the temperature reading you get as soon as you wake up, before you even roll out of bed — rises slightly. You’ll produce a thin, stretchy cervical mucus that looks like egg whites, which you may observe on your toilet paper when you go to the bathroom. Additionally, your cervix will be high and soft in your vagina, so it’s a good idea to feel for your cervix throughout your cycle and notice how its position changes.
It may take a few cycles for you to accurately predict your fertile window, especially if you have irregular cycles or a condition like polycystic ovarian syndrome. To get even more accurate, you can purchase an ovulation test kit, which measures the hormones in your urine throughout your cycle to predict your most fertile days.
Once you’ve determined when your fertile window falls, the rest is up to you and your boo. We recommend making it as fun as possible.
Learning about the female fertility cycle and plotting out your fertile window can take a bit of effort, so you don’t want to sabotage yourself by falling into some common fertility pitfalls. Make sure you’re eating a healthy diet, avoiding sperm-killing heat (stay away from the sauna!) and staying away from lubricants that can hinder sperm motility.
If you’re planning on making it a long night and could use some extra comfort, reach for Astroglide TTC. Formulated especially for partners who want to be parents, TTC has been shown in studies not to impede sperm motility, and is compatible with sperm, oocytes and embryos.
With a little bit of learning, a lot of patience and plenty of orgasms — and maybe some help from products you can find right in your drugstore — you can improve your chances of having the family you’ve always dreamed of.
Images are for illustrative purposes only.