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Do YOU Know when You're Fertile?

by Leigh Ann Woodruff, September 6, 2012

It seems there may be a "fertility awareness gap" among women, according to Australian researchers. A new survey, published in the International Journal of Advanced Nursing, finds that the majority of women don't know when they are fertile and when they are most likely to get pregnant.

Researchers at Monash University surveyed 204 infertile women seeking fertility assistance at two fertility clinics in Melbourne. Only 13 percent could correctly identify which specific days of their menstrual cycle that they were fertile and could become pregnant; however 68 percent of the women believed they had accurately timed intercourse within the fertile days of their menstrual cycle before seeking help from a fertility doctor.

So, the majority of the women seeking fertility treatment had insufficient knowledge of when to time sex to optimize natural conception. The researchers ay that this kind of poor fertility awareness could be a contributing to infertility.

The study did find that 87 percent of the women had tried to improve their fertility knowledge. The first thing is to know your menstrual cycle. The average length of a woman’s menstrual cycle is 28 days; however, a cycle can range from 25 to 36 days. During this time, there are three phases. Day 1 of the first phase of a woman’s menstrual cycle is the first day of her period, also known as menstruation.

    Phase 1 — Follicular Phase: The follicular phase starts the first day of menstruation and lasts until the woman ovulates, which is around Day 13 or 14. During this phase, the small sacs known as ovarian follicles develop, and one becomes dominant.

    Phase 2 — Ovulatory Phase: The ovulatory phase is the shortest phase and only lasts one or two days. An egg is released from the dominant ovarian follicle, and the egg can be fertilized up to 24 hours after ovulation. Ovulation is usually between days 13 and 15 when a woman has a regular 28-day cycle.

    Phase 3 — Luteal Phase: During the luteal phase the ruptured ovarian follicle closes and then forms a structure called the corpus luteum, which produces progesterone, the hormone that prepares the uterus for a fertilized egg. Progesterone is also responsible for a rise in body basil temperature (BBT). If the egg is not fertilized and the woman does not get pregnant, the corpus luteum degenerates. Estrogen and progesterone levels begin to drop, and the lining of the uterus, also known as the endometrium, sheds and bleeds through the cervix and vagina. And a new cycle is begun.

So, when is the best time to have sex to get pregnant? Sperm can stay alive in the body for three to five days, so the best time to have sex is up to three days before ovulation and up to 24 hours after ovulation. If you are consistently having sex two to three times a week, you're likely to hit that fertile window, but if you want to zero in, have daily during the three days leading up to ovulation and during ovulation. So on a regular 28-day cycle, that would be Days 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15.

If you don't know when you ovulate, there are ways to check that, too: changes in cervical mucus, charting BBT and ovulation predictor kits.

So, get educated about your fertility. And if you're accurately timing sex and still not getting pregnant after a year (or six months for a woman 35 or older), get in touch with FertilityAuthority, and we'll help you find the right fertility doctor to help you on your way.

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