Knowing the best time to get pregnant has been made unnecessarily complicated. Aside from IVF and other artificial reproductive technologies (ART) there is a sleuth of products out there from ovulation test strips to calculators, to apps to salvia microscopes. Women intimately understanding their fertility just ain’t a good business model (for economic gains that is). It can’t be patented, commercially scaled or controlled.
I now use fertility awareness as my method of birth control and teach any women who want to know about it (I’ve also written a number of articles on it too). Today I’m going to explore specifically how you can use knowledge of your high fertility window to maximize the chances of you and your partner conceiving. It is a very simple set of principles that has helped many couples conceive, even those with subfertility.
To begin, little biology recap (and homely metaphor)
Conception is a complex chain of events that are truly miraculous. When a woman enters her high fertility window her cervix produces a different type of mucus that is incredibly kind and accommodating to sperm. Think about it like she’s got the door of the home open, she’s baked muffins, there’s a cozy fire for the sperm to make themselves comfortable next to, and when’s she’s ready, will present her egg at the end of a red carpet lined with illuminated arrows so those fellows cannot get lost. In this lovely environment, sperm can survive up to 5 days. At other infertile times in the cycle, that front door is firmly bolted and locked. **So it’s only logical to time sex with the time the front door will be open and muffins waiting right? **
Learning to recognize all the signs that are indicating the high fertility window has begun and timing sex to align can make all the difference. Being in optimal health is the other essential pillar – and it’s important to remember optimal fertility is the byproduct of good health (not the other way around).
The Two Principles for Knowing the Best Time to Get Pregnant with the Fertility Awareness Method
Following these principles not only ensures correct timing, they also help to preserve the quality of the sperm being produced.
1. Have sex (if you want to) on alternate days of your infertile phase leading up to your high fertility window.
Two reasons for this, the first is to allow for clear identification of when the fertility window does begin. Arousal fluid and semen can mask the presence of fertile mucus (for about 12 hours), so having sex every other day allows you to know when your fertility window clearly begins. Just to be clear, in order to conceive you don’t have to have sex during this time. But if you do, make sure it’s every other day.
The second reason is that it helps to preserve the quality of the sperm.
2. Have sex every day of your high fertility window and for 2 days after.
When your cervical mucus begins to become wetter, wait and see for a day (to ensure that this is indeed your high fertility window beginning) then as the mucus becomes slippery and wet this is the sign that you are at your highest level of fertility, ovulation is about to occur and is the best time to get pregnant. So have unprotected sex over the next few days and the two days after the “wettest’ day and your basal body temperature going up two-tenths (0.2) of a degree Celsius (this is called your Peak day). You’ll also notice that the vulva is soft and swollen.
The reason for continuing to have sex for an extra two days is that ovulation can be delayed for as long as 48 hours after the Peak day. Once released, an egg can only survive for up to 24 hours. If your partner’s sperm count or quality is compromised, change this strategy slightly by having sex on every second day during the high fertility window and a day after.
Some women may only get the wet sensation for 1 day, or even just part of a day. In some cases, this is enough for conception. If you do not see any mucus, focus on the vulva sensation changes of dry to wet to slippery. This can be a subtle experience. For women with subfertility who have been trying to conceive for some time, being highly tuned into this sensation can make all the difference in knowing the best time to get pregnant.
If you have recently stopped taking the pill or another hormonal birth control method, don’t be disappointed or discouraged if you don’t conceive straight away. It can take some time for the body to adjust to its own hormones and rhythms again. There is plenty you can do to support your body come back into balance, as use the time to chart your cycle so you’ll know the best time to get pregnant each cycle.
How long will it take to conceive?
Like everything with health, this is going to be very different from couple to couple. There is no one exact answer, but we do have data we can refer to. For couples who are deemed to have a normal levels of fertility, there is a 20% chance of conceiving in any one cycle. If we see this over a 12 month period, at the end of that 12 months 80 – 84% of couples will be pregnant. And over 2 years, 93% will be.
If you would like a simple down to earth preconception plan, make sure you download this checklist that will include other essential factors to concentrate on as you prepare for pregnancy. And if you have any questions, please do not be shy to ask, I’d love to hear from you. You can leave a comment below!
References & Resources:
Billings, E. (2011). Billings Method: Controlling Fertility without Drugs or Devices(New Edition) by Evelyn Billings (Illustrated, 10 Jun 2011) Paperback (16th Revised edition edition). Gracewing.
Billings, E. L., Brown, J. B., Billings, J. J., & Burger, H. G. (1972). SYMPTOMS AND HORMONAL CHANGES ACCOMPANYING OVULATION. The Lancet, 299(7745), 282–284. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140–6736(72)90291–7
Hampton, K., & Mazza, D. (2015). Fertility-awareness knowledge, attitudes and practices of women attending general practice. Australian Family Physician, 44(11), 840–845.
Weschler, T. (2015). Taking charge of your fertility: The definitive guide to natural birth control, pregnancy achievement, and reproductive health ; 20th Anniversary Edition.