Everyone knows that it takes a sperm and an egg joining to get pregnant. Most people know that women release just one egg a month and that men release millions of sperm with each ejaculation. What people can’t seem to agree on is the best time for that one egg to be fertilized by a man’s sperm.
Here’s what we know. During each menstrual cycle, women have about 6 days in which they can get pregnant. This is known as the fertile window. A woman’s fertile window includes the five days before ovulation and the day of ovulation. These six days are the only days in a woman’s cycle when she can conceivably get pregnant.
When Is the Best Day to Get Pregnant?
The fertile window explained: A man’s sperm can live for up to five days inside a woman’s reproductive tract. A woman’s egg only lives for about 12 hours after it is released. This means that a woman’s egg needs to be fertilized within this 12-hour time frame. Furthermore, freshly ejaculated sperm are not able to fertilize a woman’s egg. It takes time for a process known as capacitation to occur. Capacitation is a series of changes that sperm go through once they are inside a woman’s reproductive tract that make sperm more mobile and allow them to penetrate the egg. It can take up to 10 hours for a man’s sperm to complete the capacitation process and be able to fertilize a woman’s egg. This is why the five days before ovulation are so important. Once ovulation takes place, sperm have a very brief window of time to fertilize the egg. Having mature sperm (sperm that have gone through the capacitation process already) ready for the waiting egg is the key to successful conception.
The day of ovulation: You might have heard or might believe that the best day to get pregnant is the day that a woman ovulates. It is important to know when you ovulate and to try to time intercourse close to ovulation, but the day of ovulation is not the best day to get pregnant. Researchers have studied the timing of sexual intercourse in relationship to ovulation in order to determine which days are the most likely to result in pregnancy. Surprisingly, according to research published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, what they found was that the day of ovulation was not the best day of a woman’s cycle to conceive.
The day before ovulation: Interestingly, the day before ovulation is actually a better day to conceive on than the day of. This may be because sperm that is ejaculated the day before ovulation has had time to mature and reach the egg.
Two days before ovulation: Even more interesting, researchers have found that a woman’s chance of conceiving two days before ovulation is just as likely, if not more likely, as the day before ovulation. What this means for couples trying to conceive is that timing intercourse to occur a couple days before ovulation and the day before ovulation will give them the greatest chance of conceiving.
Three to four days before ovulation: You may have thought that timing intercourse 3 to 4 days before ovulation would cut your chances of getting pregnant, but actually having sex on either of these two days will give you a better chance of conceiving than having intercourse on the day of ovulation.
Five days before ovulation: The first day of a woman’s fertile window may also result in conception but realistically the chances of conception are best starting at 4 days before ovulation through the day just before ovulation.
When Is the Best Time to Get Pregnant?
There’s more to trying to conceive than knowing what dates to have sex on. Calculating ovulation can be tricky. There is more than one method for predicting ovulation and not all of them are accurate. If you miscalculate when your fertile window is you could completely miss the boat on timing intercourse during the right time frame. Not only that, but researchers have found that the most important factor in conception is not what day you have sex on, but what’s going on with your cervical mucus on the day you have sex.
Mucus, mucus, mucus! Cervical mucus is designed to help transport sperm through the vaginal environment. It is slippery and lubricative which help sperm to glide through the vagina, but it also contains nutrients that help the sperm to survive. Elements in fertile cervical mucus increase sperm motility, helping it to reach the egg more easily.
Scientists have found that timing intercourse when there is fertile cervical mucus is the best way to get pregnant. Researchers at the University of North Carolina studied couples intercourse patterns and found that mucus observations were more important than what day (in relationship to ovulation) a couple had intercourse on. If a woman had sex on a day when she observed fertile cervical mucus she was more likely to conceive, regardless of what day the mucus occurred on.