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Ovulation

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If you're trying to get pregnant, timing intercourse every day around the time of ovulation provides the highest likelihood of pregnancy.

Ovulation the process in which eggs are released by your ovaries. If you're trying to get pregnant, it is important for couples to understand how ovulation works and when their most fertile days are.

The menstrual cycle begins with your period - it lasts about three weeks on average (21-35 days), but the range of time between periods can vary from woman to woman, and monthly cycles can also vary in length throughout a person's reproductive years. The first day of your period is counted as day one; then typically you will begin producing an egg that will mature in one of your two ovaries approximately halfway through your cycle (on average day 14). At the end of this 35-day cycle, if there has been no pregnancy, levels  of the hormone progesterone will drop, causing the lining of your uterus to become unstable and prompting menstruation.

The egg then travels from your ovary through one of your fallopian tubes toward your uterus (this is known as the follicular phase). It takes about a month for an egg to travel down a fallopian tube. If pregnancy does not occur, the egg degenerates in the days before or during your period. The number of eggs that you have in each ovary decreases with age, but most women are born with approximately two million immature eggs in their ovaries. By puberty, only about 400,000 remain- and only 350-400 will mature enough to be released during a woman's lifetime.

Ovulation occurs about midway through your menstrual cycle. The number of days that you are fertile depends on the length of your menstrual cycle—the average menstrual cycle is 28 days, but it can range anywhere from 24 to 32 days. Your most fertile period is within a day or two before and after ovulation, but sperm can live in a woman's body for up to five days. So if you have sex during the right time of the month, there's still a chance that you could get pregnant even if you don't have sex on the exact day of ovulation.

After an egg has been released from an ovary (this is known as ovulation), it begins its journey toward the uterus. This process takes about one-half of a month. If the egg is not fertilized by sperm on its way down the fallopian tube, it degenerates and leaves your body during your period.

Ovulation typically occurs about two weeks before your next menstrual cycle begins- this is part of the reason that tracking your menstrual cycle can help you track ovulation. However, variations are common, so if you have shorter or longer cycles this may not be an exact indicator of when you ovulate (the only way to know for sure is to monitor basal body temperature with an accurate basal thermometer).

If you're trying to get pregnant, timing intercourse every day around the time of ovulation provides the highest likelihood of pregnancy. It takes an average of six days for sperm to  travel to the egg and fertilize it once ovulation has occurred, so intercourse one to two days before and on the day of ovulation can increase your chances.

Frustration with trying-to-conceive efforts often occurs when menstrual cycles are irregular (when they're shorter or longer than the average 28-day cycle). Because it's not always possible to pinpoint exactly when ovulation will occur, you may miss your fertile window by a few days if your menstrual cycle is less than 29 days long.

Although many women assume that their infertile period is during their period, it's actually between one and three weeks after menstruation - which means that an egg could be fertilized for up to three weeks. So don't assume you  can't get pregnant just because you have your period.

It's possible to get pregnant if you have sex during menstruation, but it may decrease your chances of conceiving, especially if this is not an isolated incident. If you're trying to get pregnant, avoid sex or use a barrier method of contraception when you have your period. You can also track ovulation by taking your basal body temperature every morning with an accurate basal thermometer- this will help ensure that you don't miss the window of opportunity for conceiving.

If sperm are present in the days leading up to and after ovulation, pregnancy is still possible (even more likely) on some occasions when intercourse occurs around the time of menstruation. This is why it's best  to avoid having sex during menstruation if you're trying to get pregnant. If pregnancy does occur during this time, it may not be viable and will most likely result in a miscarriage—in fact, miscarriages are more common in the first trimester of pregnancies that were conceived around the time of ovulation or menstruation.

Here's a breakdown of how long sperm live after sex: Sperm can live for up to seven days inside a woman's body (if they're smart, they hang out around the cervix waiting for an egg). Sperm found outside the body only have a lifespan of 24-48 hours. In comparison with other animals, humans have relatively short sperm lifespans - for example, chimpanzee sperm can survive up  to 10 days!

If you're planning on using natural family planning (NFP) to avoid getting pregnant, it's important to know that sperm can live for up to five days in the fallopian tubes, which means unprotected sex during your fertile days can still result in pregnancy. This is why abstinence is recommended during this time. It's also best not to rely only on cervical mucus observations when practicing NFP- basal body temperature measurements are an excellent indicator of ovulation too.

How does ovulation affect female odor?
Some women notice a change in vaginal odor right around the time of ovulation. Since sperm can live for up to five days, you can still get pregnant if you have unprotected sex close to ovulation even if your cervical mucus is dry and infertile.

What does my menstrual cycle have to do with my risk for breast cancer?

For decades we've been told that avoiding pregnancy as an adult woman will decrease our chances of developing breast cancer later on in life - and it's true. Having a child actually reduces a woman's lifetime exposure to estrogen levels ( which can be beneficial because too much estrogen has been linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer). This is one reason why early menarche and late menopause both increase risk of breast cancer.

More recently, research has indicated that using oral contraceptives (the pill) can also decrease a woman's chances of developing breast cancer - another reason why doctors recommend that women take the pill if they're sexually active and don't plan on getting pregnant in the near future. This decrease in risk is because hormonal contraceptives keep estrogen levels fairly constant -estrogen peaks right around ovulation and then declines to low levels during menstruation and after menopause.

If your menstrual cycle doesn't resemble an average 28-day cycle, you should talk to your doctor about whether or not it could interfere with fertility treatments such as those used for IVF - if your menstrual cycles are too short or too long.

 

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

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