Fertility and ovulation: where to start if you want to get pregnant
You may wish to get pregnant without thinking too much about it, and simply let it happen by "luck.” But many women want more certainty, and don't want to let everything fall to chance. There are more “scientific” things you should know about your body, so you can get pregnant when you want to.
Steps in pregnancy planning
Now that you’ve made the decision to have a baby, several questions arise. Is there a time for optimal fertility, and how do you assess it? How and when should you stop using the various methods of contraception? Here’s a general overview containing some basic knowledge about how female reproduction works.
Every month, the ovaries produce eggs. When unfertilized by sperm, these are expelled through menstruation. You need to know the length of your menstrual cycle in order to properly determine the ideal ovulation period within which to conceive a baby.
Know the duration of your menstrual cycle
The menstrual cycle is usually 28 to 30 days long. But this can vary. It is established that the first day of the cycle corresponds to the first day of menstruation. The cycle is calculated from the first day of menstruation until the day before the next period. In general, women know the length of their cycle easily and quickly, beginning in adolescence. Often, the cycle may be a little longer or variable in terms of duration (irregular cycle). If so, we must then pay more attention to calculating the cycle and this may take a few months to figure out. Since ovulation is more difficult to spot, a test is preferred.
You should be aware that all women reach their highest level of fertility (peak estrogen) on the 14th day before the beginning of their period, regardless of the length of the cycle. You will therefore be unable to accurately identify the day of your ovulation other than retrospectively, when you have your next cycle’s period, by subtracting 14 days.
Stop using contraception
The contraceptive pill
It is possible to become pregnant very quickly after you stop taking your birth control medication. For some women, however, it may take two to three months for the cycle to return to normal after they stop taking the pill. If you wish to stop using contraception and facilitate normal resumption of the menstrual cycle, it is advisable to complete your entire cycle of contraceptive pills before having unprotected sex. The reason for this is that your cycle may be slightly disturbed if you stop taking your birth control medication in the middle of the month.
Since you need to go to your family doctor or gynecologist to have an IUD removed, it would be a good idea to discuss your decision to get pregnant with them. Your doctor will be able to perform a check-up and advise you to update your vaccines. Know that your menstrual cycle will resume as soon as your IUD is removed.
Calculating ovulation periods
As we’ve seen, fertility is at its highest level for 24 hours, 14 days before the onset of menstruation. But there’s still a favourable period for conception that lasts a few days. This window is referred to as the ovulation period.
Thus, during a regular 28-day cycle, a woman will be fertile between the 10th and 16th day of her cycle. It is therefore essential to have sexual relations during this period to get pregnant. The more intercourse at the peak of ovulation, the greater the chances of fertilization. "If a man and a woman have sex during the fertile period, they have between a one in four chance (at age 20) and one in twenty (at age 40) that fertilization will occur.” 1
There are applications as well as an ovulation test (french only) to determine the best time to get pregnant. The test calculates the most fertile days by measuring fluctuations in LH (the fertility hormone). You will find out when the most optimal 48 hours are during the month to conceive a baby. The ovulation test works much like a pregnancy test, using urine as an indicator. The fertility hormone level is measured by passing urine over a strip of paper. When the result is positive, it’s a sign that ovulation is at its peak. The manual method, called the calendar method with temperature measurement, is also a good means of detection as one of the signs of ovulation is a slight rise in body temperature.
Please note that conception may take longer than expected and could even take several months. This is in no way a sign of infertility.