Trying to get pregnant? Know how to track your menstrual cycle
- Getting intimate 3-5 days before ovulation or a day after ovulation is generally the fertile period for most women but that may vary from one woman to the other.
If you are planning a natural pregnancy then it is imperative to know about the right time to get intimate to maximize your chances of conceiving. Getting intimate 3-5 days before ovulation or a day after ovulation is generally the fertile period for most women but that may vary from one woman to the other due to different menstrual cycle lengths. The average menstrual cycle is about 28 days, but the cycle length can be as short as 23-24 days to as long as 35-40 days.
How to find out about the ovulation period?
Typically, the period occurs 14-15 days after ovulation. If you have a 28-day cycle, then you are ovulating on the 14th day. Similarly, if you have a 30-day cycle then you are ovulating on the 16th day. For a 35-days cycle, ovulation is on the 21st day. Hence, it is important for you to know when you are ovulating to increase your chances of pregnancy.
Once the mature egg is released from the ovary, it is viable only for the next 12-24 hours which makes it an ideal time period for you to conceive. However, when sperm enters your vagina and swim up into your cervix and uterus, it can stay active in the reproductive system for up to 3-5 days. The fertile period starts 4-5 days before ovulation and lasts up to 1 day after the ovulation. Knowing when you ovulate can thus help you improve your chances of pregnancy.
If you get intimate after 3-5 days of ovulation then your chances of becoming pregnant are slightly low, while on ovulation day it is much higher.
How to track your menstrual cycle?
You can track your cycle by writing down in a diary, preparing a chart, or by using period tracker apps by just marking the first day of the cycle, duration of bleeding, and the app can help you with the fertile period.
Another way to know about ovulation is through the basal body temperature or the BBT. It has to be measured using a special thermometer every morning when you wake up before you even step out of the bed. Once you have ovulated then the temperature will rise by 0.5 degrees. A lot of things affect the basal body temperature. So, it is not an accurate way.
Then, even by tracking the cervical mucus (a watery discharge through the vagina), you can find about your ovulation period. Before the fertile period starts, you might have minimal or no discharge at all. But you will notice a thin watery discharge like an egg white. If the ovulation has occurred then this discharge will be thicker, drier, and opaque. This means the fertile period has ended and ovulation has occurred.
You can even opt for a series of ultrasounds called follicular monitoring scans at day 10 of your cycle. The doctor will carry on with your ultrasound and check the size of the follicle and then you will be called again after 3 days to monitor the size of the follicle. If the follicle is ready like around 20 mm, then that is the time of ovulation.
Once you have ovulated then roughly 15-16 days after that if the pregnancy has not occurred then your period will start. If 15-16 days have gone after ovulation and the period hasn’t started then do a simple urine pregnancy test at home using the first urine sample in the morning with the help of a home pregnancy test kit or consult the doctor to confirm your pregnancy.
If you haven’t conceived after trying naturally in the first or the second attempt then don’t be disheartened as it can take up to a year to get pregnant when trying naturally. But if it has been over a year and you still haven’t conceived then just visit your doctor to know the exact problem and get an appropriate solution to it.
(Dr. Sulbha Arora is Clinical Director, Nova IVF Fertility, Mumbai; views expressed in this column are author's own)