Written by: Dr. Amy Beckley, PhD, Founder and Inventor of the Proov test — the first and only FDA-cleared test to confirm ovulation quality at home.
Written on: 2/7/22
If you’re trying to conceive, we want to be the first to offer our congratulations and support! Trying to conceive (TTC) can be an exciting time in your life for sure — but it can also come with lots of questions. After all, just because you’re ready to start trying doesn’t mean you have all the info you need for the best chance at getting pregnant.
High school sex ed wasn’t exactly designed to teach us how to get pregnant — more like how to avoid it. And when it comes to the internet, there’s so much information, it’s totally overwhelming.
The good news is that getting informed about trying to conceive doesn’t have to be complicated or confusing. Just a manageable amount of the right information can go a long way toward setting you up for success. And here at Proov, that’s exactly what we want to provide.
Getting informed about trying to conceive doesn’t have to be complicated or confusing. Just a manageable amount of the right information can go a long way toward setting you up for success.
TRYING TO CONCEIVE: THE BASICS
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 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.
HORMONES 101: GET TO KNOW YOUR CYCLE
By this point in life your period is hardly a mystery. But it’s surprising how little many of us know about the behind-the-scenes hormonal processes that regulate the menstrual cycle and influence our ability to successfully conceive. You can think of these hormones as the small-but-mighty chemical messengers that make it all happen.
We’ll explain the cycle in terms of its 2 major phases, the follicular phase and the luteal phase. The follicular phase is the first half of your cycle (beginning on day one of your period), and it’s all about preparing your body to release an egg (ovulation). Three main hormones are important when it comes to getting ready for ovulation: follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), estrogen, and luteinizing hormone (LH).
After your period ends, your brain knows it’s time for a new cycle and sends FSH to your ovaries, which stimulates them to grow follicles; the structures that eventually release eggs. As these follicles grow, they begin producing estrogen, which thickens your uterine lining in preparation for pregnancy.
Eventually, a single follicle becomes mature enough to release an egg, and estrogen levels rise. Elevated estrogen signals to your brain that the moment for ovulation is near! The brain then sends a surge of LH to the ovary, rupturing the follicle and releasing the egg. That LH surge is super important when you’re TTC, because without it, ovulation won’t occur. And without an egg, there can be no pregnancy.
After ovulation, the luteal phase begins — and the all-important hormone action continues. The empty follicle from which the egg was released produces progesterone. Progesterone is important because it causes the thickened lining of the uterus to become stable or “sticky,” meaning if the egg gets fertilized, the resulting embryo can easily attach itself to the uterus. This is called “implantation,” and without enough progesterone, it can be hard for implantation (and therefore successful pregnancy) to occur.
If the egg is not fertilized or implantation does not occur, the thickened lining of the uterus is shed from the body — that’s your period — and the cycle begins again.
MAKING THE MOST OF THE FERTILE WINDOW
As we mentioned above, timing intercourse during the fertile window is rule #1 when you’re TTC. Since ovulation doesn’t last long, making sure that sperm is waiting for the egg ahead of time can help maximize your chances.
So how do you know you’re in your fertile window? By tracking your hormones! Studies show an LH surge typically occurs 12-36 hours before ovulation. So detecting that LH surge via hormone tracking identifies your 2 most fertile days each cycle. These 2 days are also sometimes called “peak fertility.”
LH tests like Proov Predict (also called ovulation tests) measure LH levels in urine to help you recognize your surge and figure out the best time to have intercourse. Ovulation tests are non-invasive and allow for tracking over multiple days to make sure you don’t miss your surge.
Contrary to popular belief, ovulation tests alone do not actually confirm ovulation. Instead, they predict when ovulation is likely to occur based on LH patterns. Confirming ovulation requires a different test — but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
LH is your clue to your 2 most fertile days, but it’s not the only hormone that rises during the fertile window. As we explained above, estrogen also rises as an egg becomes ready for ovulation. A rise in estrogen serves as the earliest sign of your fertile window, and can be detected up to 6 days before ovulation!
To understand estrogen levels easily at home, we recommend testing for E1G, a marker of estrogen that is detectable in urine. Proov Complete, our most comprehensive fertility test kit, measures both LH and E1G, so you can identify the longest possible fertile window (up to 6 days), and your 2 most fertile days within that window.
In other words, Proov Complete gives you the most possible information about ovulation timing. So you’ll know when to get busy for your best shot at getting pregnant.
While we typically recommend urine testing to understand hormone levels, some women prefer to track peak fertility by monitoring changes in cervical mucus, or to use both methods of tracking together.
Cervical mucus is a discharge that changes consistency throughout your cycle. During most of your cycle, when you’re not fertile, cervical mucus is dry and sticky. This creates a barrier to the cervix that sperm cannot pass through.
However when you are fertile, cervical mucus becomes wet and stretchy. (Some people say it looks almost like egg whites.) Fertile cervical mucus aids the sperm in reaching the egg. A change in consistency of your cervical mucus discharge is another sign of your fertile window.
Your discharge after ovulation will return to the dry, sticky cervical mucus. Dry, sticky discharge after ovulation signals the close of your fertile window, meaning intercourse after this point has a much lower chance of resulting in conception.
MAKING THE MOST OF THE IMPLANTATION WINDOW
After sperm meets egg, it’s time for embryo to meet mama! That’s implantation, and it’s the next step to successful pregnancy.
Implantation occurs when a newly formed embryo attaches to the uterine lining and finds a snug place to start growing. Progesterone plays an important role here, because sustained elevated progesterone levels during this cycle phase allow a higher chance at successful implantation and pregnancy. If progesterone levels are low, or drop too early, it may be more difficult to get pregnant.
Luckily, you can gain insight into progesterone levels during the implantation window with non-invasive Proov Confirm urine tests. Proov Confirm tests measure PdG, a marker that shows up in urine when progesterone is present in blood.
PdG levels that remain elevated through the implantation window confirm high-quality ovulation; a sign that you’re on track for a better chance at implantation and pregnancy. Proov Confirm is the first and only FDA cleared PdG test to confirm ovulation quality at home.
It’s important to understand that PdG tests are designed to be used over multiple days to observe a pattern. A single PdG measurement in isolation really doesn’t provide meaningful info. Proov Confirm uses a patented testing protocol to look for levels that rise, and remain elevated, during days 7-10 after peak fertility.
If your Proov Confirm results indicate high-quality ovulation, then you’re one step closer to that positive pregnancy test! But even if you didn’t have the highest quality ovulation, that’s okay too.
We always recommend bringing your Proov results to your doctor for guidance. In addition, there are plenty of steps you can consider for naturally supporting optimal PdG levels:
Herbal supplements (Psst! Our Luteal Love herbal supplement is great for naturally supporting progesterone production.)
Diet changes, including PdG boosting foods
Prescription supplements or medications from a doctor
OTHER FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN TRYING TO CONCEIVE
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. 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 anamazing communityready to welcome you with open arms! We’re on a mission to help make every fertility journey the best it can be, and we’re here for you every step of the way.
Can I get pregnant at any point in my cycle?
Contrary to what we’re taught in sex ed, you cannot conceive at any point in your cycle. Sperm can live in the body for about 5 days, and an egg is only viable for 12-24 hours after ovulation. To get pregnant, you must time intercourse during the fertile window, when living sperm has the chance of meeting a viable egg.
How do I know when I’m ovulating?
Ovulation prediction methods, like LH tests (also called ovulation tests) or cervical mucus monitoring, can help pinpoint when you are likely to ovulate.
Ovulation itself — meaning the actual release of an egg — is a quick event! Your fertile window, however, lasts about 6 days in total, including the days leading up to and the day of ovulation. This is when intercourse is most likely to result in conception.
Should I track discharge after ovulation?
Cervical mucus discharge tracking is most helpful when you are anticipating ovulation, so you can identify the days during your cycle when intercourse is most likely to result in conception (your fertile window). Tracking discharge after suspected ovulation may help you understand when your fertile window has closed.
What are the chances of pregnancy after ovulation?
Your chances of getting pregnant are much higher during the days leading up to and including the day of ovulation, also known as your fertile window. Once your fertile window has closed (after ovulation), the chances of pregnancy drop significantly.
What is the implantation window and why is it important?
The implantation window refers to the period of time when a fertilized egg can implant itself into the uterine lining, in the spot where it will grow and thrive during pregnancy. When trying to conceive, it’s important to track your progesterone levels during the implantation window, since progesterone makes the uterine lining “sticky” enough to welcome an embryo.