When you’re trying to get pregnant, many apps and tracking tools are focused around detecting ovulation, and for good reason. Ovulation only happens once per cycle, and obviously you need an egg to be released for conception to occur!
With all this focus on ovulation, though, you may be wondering about the timing, namely: can you get pregnant AFTER ovulation? Or in other words, once you’ve predicted or detected ovulation, is it worth it to keep trying?
Spoiler alert: The answer is yes, but only for about a day or two, and the odds are better if you instead time intercourse before ovulation.
Curious to learn more? Then let’s talk about why!
Your odds of getting pregnant are better if you time intercourse before ovulation.
What does it mean to “detect ovulation?”
A lot of tracking apps, ovulation calculators, or even some fertility tests talk about detecting ovulation or determining the time of ovulation, but this isn’t really accurate. A well-timed ultrasound is the only thing that can determine precisely when ovulation is occurring.
However, there are many ways to predict ovulation, and get at least an approximate time of peak fertility, and usually if you’re trying to conceive or tracking your hormones, this is as close as you really need to get.
If you’re using an ovulation calculator, this may try to predict ovulation based on past cycle data. These may or may not be accurate though, depending on your unique cycle and hormone patterns.
Other ways to predict ovulation include LH tests, like Proov Predict, which become positive 24-36 hours before ovulation, giving you a good indication of when to time intercourse. You can also track cervical mucus, which becomes stretchy, clear, and slippery as high estrogen signals approaching ovulation.
Finally, you can identify the approximate time of ovulation after the fact by taking your basal body temperature (BBT), which rises anywhere from 36 hours before to 48 hours after ovulation. If you’re detecting ovulation based on BBT alone, you may very well miss your chance at conception.
So can you get pregnant after ovulation?
Following ovulation, eggs live only 12-24 hours. For example, let’s say you waited until your BBT rise to have intercourse. Since that could be up to 48 hours after ovulation, the egg may have been gone for over 24 hours! In this case, conception would be impossible.
You may have already noticed that the math could go the other way too, though. If your BBT rise is up to 36 hours before ovulation, you could very well have an extra two and a half days before the egg is gone.
Technically, of course, you always get pregnant after ovulation, because you need an egg to have been released for it to be fertilized! But again, since it’s difficult to actually determine the precise time of ovulation, by the time you’ve detected the approximate time of ovulation, you may be outside the 12-24 hour egg survival window and it may be too late.
The good news is that sperm can survive 3-5 days in the female reproductive tract! What this means is that timing intercourse before ovulation, during times of high and peak fertility, will increase your chances of sperm being available to fertilize the egg whenever it is released, rather than you having to rely on timing intercourse after ovulation when chances are lower.
Ultimately, your chances of getting pregnant drop by over half from the day before ovulation to ovulation day. Chances of getting pregnant after ovulation then drop again from ovulation day to the day after. Focusing on predicting ovulation will help you maximize your chances.
Your chances of getting pregnant drop by over half from the day before ovulation to ovulation day.
Is there a way to find high fertility?
Yes, there is!
Even before LH surges to trigger ovulation, there’s another hormone on the rise as you get closer and closer to ovulation: estrogen. As the ovary chooses and prepares an egg for ovulation, it releases estrogen.
An initial rise in estrogen is often the earliest sign that your fertile window is opening, i.e. you’re entering high fertility. You can measure markers of estrogen in urine (also called E1G) via a test strip very similar to an LH test.
Proov Complete allows you to measure both E1G and LH throughout your cycle, to get a an even longer fertile window — up to 6 days!
You can find high fertility by measuring estrogen even before your LH surge.
What can I do after ovulation?
So while it’s worth it to keep trying for up to a few days after predicted or detected ovulation, your chances of conception won’t increase beyond that. In the meantime, is there anything else you can do to increase odds of a successful pregnancy?
Fortunately, yes! While detecting ovulation is an important step to time intercourse correctly, it doesn’t actually tell you if you’re ovulating successfully. In fact, you can’t determine that until well after ovulation, during the implantation window.
Proov Confirm is FDA-cleared to determine successful ovulation, and can help you better understand your PdG (progesterone metabolite) levels after ovulation. Many people do not know that PdG needs to rise and remain elevated through the implantation window to allow for a higher possible chance of pregnancy. Chances of pregnancy after ovulation are low.
(Psst! Proov Complete measures PdG, too!)
This is because progesterone is the hormone that prepares the uterus for implantation by ensuring the uterine lining is “sticky” enough to allow an embryo to successfully implant.
So back to the short answer — yes, it’s possible for intercourse after ovulation to result in conception, but it’s far more likely to be just before ovulation. Once ovulation is passed, though, it’s time to confirm successful ovulation and support implantation!