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Optimizing Chances for Pregnancy

Optimizing Conception Sperm and Egg

You can determine your optimal time to conceive with a few simple tools. The most important of these is tracking your menstrual cycle using a calendar to determine your likely day of ovulation and knowing when you are most fertile.

The menstrual cycle is divided into the pre-ovulation phase (follicular phase), ovulation, and the post-ovulation phase (luteal phase). In all women the time between ovulation and onset of menses is the luteal phase and this is the most consistent phase in terms of duration. The luteal phase lasts fourteen days (between release of the egg from the ovary) and onset of menses (first day of the menstrual period).  In contrast, the follicular phase (between onset of menses and release of the egg) is the variable phase. It can last anywhere from seven to fourteen days.

The easiest way to determine your likely day of ovulation is to track your cycles for at least three months, determine the average interval between consecutive first days of your menses, and subtract fourteen days. This will yield your most likely date of egg release. Consider the day of onset of full flow as the first day of your cycle, or “day one”. For example, if you have twenty-eight-day cycles, subtract fourteen and your egg is being released on day fourteen. If you have twenty-six day-cycles, subtract fourteen and your egg is being released on day twelve. If you have thirty-day-cycles, subtract fourteen and your egg is being released on day sixteen.

However, contrary to popular belief, women are most “fertile” for the five days preceding and including the actual day of egg release. If you time intercourse to occur on or just after your day of egg release, you may be missing the most fertile time of your cycle. The reason for this is that, once released, the egg is “viable” or can live in the female reproductive tract for about thirty-six hours. Sperm, on the other hand, can live in the female reproductive tract for up to five days. If you have intercourse for the five days preceding and on your day of ovulation you maximize your chances of conceiving because the sperm are physically near the egg as it’s being released, just “hanging out” waiting to fertilize the egg.

Physical signs of ovulation and pre-ovulation can be used in conjunction with cycle timing to predict optimal time for conception. Many women with regular cycles produce a clear mucous discharge in the few days preceding and during egg-release. This is “estrogenized” cervical mucous. It has a “gooey” or “sticky” consistency. Estrogenized cervical mucous is easy for sperm to penetrate and contains high amounts of sugar to sustain sperm on their way to the egg (“sperm food”).

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