One thing most of us picked up loud and clear in our sex ed days is that in order for conception to occur, sperm needs to fertilize an egg. For most people, this is the result of a man and a woman having intercourse. Unlike what we were taught in school, however, you can’t just have sex at any time during your cycle and get pregnant.
The only time during your cycle that an egg is actually present to meet sperm is in the hours immediately after an egg is released from the ovary — the process known as ovulation. Ovulation doesn’t last long and an egg is only viable for about 12-24 hours after release. So sperm has to find that egg pretty fast.
Luckily, sperm can live in the female reproductive tract for up to 5 days, meaning if you have sex a few days prior to ovulation, that’s still pretty good timing for TTC. We call the 5 days leading up to and including ovulation the “fertile window,” i.e. the days when a woman is most fertile and intercourse is most likely to result in pregnancy.
Timing intercourse during your fertile window is the first important step in getting pregnant. Luckily there are plenty of tools to help you identify the fertile window by measuring luteinizing hormone (LH) — the hormone that surges with ovulation.
If egg and sperm meet during the fertile window, the newly formed embryo must then implant into the uterine lining. That’s when the progesterone — the hormone that helps make the uterine lining “sticky,” is extra important. Again, luckily, there are tools to help you gain insight into progesterone levels during the luteal phase, so you can maximize your chances of success.
Of course, ovulation and your hormones are not the only things that can impact your chances of conceiving. Here are a few other factors to consider:
Diet and lifestyle habits can impact your chances of getting pregnant. Be sure to eat a diet full of protein, veggies, healthy fats, and complex carbs to support healthy hormone production. Try to limit foods high in sugar, saturated fats, and trans fats.
Incorporating moderate or light exercise into your daily routine can also help your chances. Exercise helps promote healthy hormones, and maintaining a healthy body weight (meaning not abnormally high or abnormally low) is important when trying to conceive.
It takes two to tango! Healthy sperm is a critical component when trying to conceive. If your partner is male, at-home sperm tests are a great option when you want to learn more.
We recommend looking for sperm tests that measure quantity and quality, like the Proov Sperm Test. You want to ensure he has an adequate amount of sperm, but also that they’re capable of swimming to their destination — the egg!
If his results show suboptimal sperm, there are plenty of improvements you can try, along with consulting your doctor.
Talking with your doctor
We get it — the doctor’s office may not always be the most welcoming place. But if you’ve been trying for several months or over a year with no luck, or your at-home tests show suboptimal results, it may be time to make an appointment.
The good news is that the more information you go in with, the better prepared you’ll be to have a meaningful, constructive conversation with your doctor. While they are the expert in medicine, you are the expert in you.
Above all, don’t be afraid to reach out to others in the same situation. We have an amazing community ready to welcome you with open arms! We’re on a mission to help make every woman’s fertility journey the best it can be, and we’re here for you every step of the way.