If you’re trying to get pregnant, timing is everything. For conception to occur, sperm needs to meet an egg. And that can only happen if you have sex near ovulation.
But what are your chances of getting pregnant on ovulation day? Is it really the holy grail of conception?
Or does having sex in the days leading up to ovulation offer better odds of pregnancy?
Read on to learn your chances of getting pregnant on ovulation day – and every other day in your fertile window.
But first, let’s cover some basics.
Understanding Your Menstrual Cycle
Your menstrual cycle starts the first day of bleeding and lasts until your next period begins.
The first half of your cycle is called the follicular phase. During this phase, estrogen rises, causing the uterine lining to thicken.
As estrogen climbs, it prompts your body to produce more luteinizing hormone (LH). Around 24-36 hours before you ovulate, LH surges, triggering the release of an egg.
After ovulation, your body ramps up the production of progesterone. This thickens the lining of the uterus, making the womb ready for a possible pregnancy.
If a sperm and egg meet in the fallopian tube, fertilization occurs. The egg then travels to the uterus to gear up for implantation.
But if fertilization doesn’t occur, estrogen and progesterone drop. This causes your uterine lining to shed, and your period arrives.
So when does ovulation occur exactly?
Ovulation happens roughly 12-14 days before your next expected period. That is if you have “normal” menstrual cycles.
The average cycle length is 28 days. Yet only around 16% of women have 28-day cycles.
‘Normal’ menstrual cycles can range anywhere from 21 to 35 days.
To make matters more confusing, not all women’s periods arrive like clockwork each month.
One study found that 69% of women have menstrual cycles that vary by up to 6 days. This means 31% of women have cycles that vary by 6 or more days!
If you’re someone with irregular cycles, predicting when ovulation occurs is tricky.
Cycle tracking apps and ‘chances of getting pregnant calculators’ may help with conception… if you have regular cycles.
But if your cycles are erratic and you rely on these tools, you may miss your fertile window – and your chance of getting pregnant that month.
What is the Fertile Window?
Your fertile window is the time during your menstrual cycle when you have the best chance of pregnancy.
It lasts for six days: the four days leading up to ovulation, your ovulation day, and the day after.
Sperm can remain alive in the reproductive tract for up to 4-5 days. But an egg only survives for around 12-24 hours after it’s released.
So the more sperm on hand when an egg drops, the better your chances of conception.
That’s why it’s important to nail the timing of intercourse when you’re trying to conceive.
What is Conception?
Conception is the first stage of pregnancy when a sperm fertilizes an egg. However, that’s just step one.
For conception to be a success, the fertilized egg must travel to the uterine wall to prepare for implantation.
This usually occurs around 6 to 10 days after fertilization. Once a fertilized egg implants, your pregnancy officially begins.
What Are My Chances of Conceiving During the Fertile Window?
To get pregnant, you need to have sex during your fertile window. It’s that simple. Yet certain days during your fertile window offer a better chance of conceiving.
One study from Fertility and Sterility tracked the cycles of over 98,000 women over five years.
Here’s what they found:
As you can see, the day before ovulation offers the best chance of conceiving – NOT ovulation day.
In fact, even having sex three days before ovulation offers a better chance of getting pregnant than sex on ovulation day.
As the data shows, 27% of couples that had sex three days before ovulation got pregnant. Compare that to 20% who had sex on ovulation day.
Clearly, the timing of intercourse is critical for conception. Which brings up another question…
If you ovulate in the morning, can you get pregnant that night?
Maybe. As mentioned, an egg survives around 12-24 hours after it’s released. So while it’s possible, the chances are only 8-20%. That’s why your best bet is to have sex every day or every other day during your fertile window.
Different Factors That Affect Conception
Around 75% of couples will conceive within a year of trying. There are a few factors that influence your chances of conception.
Fertility peaks in your twenties and declines with age. One 2020 scientific review found that women under 30 have an 85% chance of conceiving within a year.
By age 30, your chances of conceiving within a year drop to 75%. That number falls to 66% at age 35, and 55% by age 40.
Learn More: Chances of Getting Pregnant by Age? Check Out Our Chart
Certain health conditions can make it challenging to get pregnant, including:
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): This hormonal condition causes the ovaries to produce high levels of androgens, such as testosterone. Many women with PCOS have irregular cycles and problems with ovulation. In fact, around 80% of anovulation infertility cases (meaning ovulation doesn’t occur) are due to PCOS.
Learn More: Anovulation: Everything you need to know about the #1 cause of infertility
Endometriosis: This is when tissue similar to your uterine lining goes rogue and grows outside your uterus. It can cause pelvic pain, abnormal cycles, and infertility. Roughly 6-8% of women have endometriosis. Yet around 20-25% of people with endometriosis have no symptoms. Meaning you could have it, without knowing!
Thyroid problems: When your thyroid hormones get imbalanced, it can throw off your reproductive hormones. This can disrupt your menstrual cycle and make it more difficult to get pregnant.
Frequency of sexual intercourse
No surprise here, but couples who have sex more frequently near ovulation are more likely to conceive. Most fertility experts recommend sex every day or every other day during the fertile window.
But remember, the three days before ovulation offer better chances of conception than ovulation day. So, getting a clear picture of your fertile window is crucial when you’re trying to conceive.
How Can You Increase Your Chances of Conception?
Your age is out of your hands. But there are things you can do to up your chances of getting pregnant. Here are a few:
Keep a healthy lifestyle
The better you and your partner take care of your health, the better your chances of conception. Eating a nutritious diet, getting regular exercise, managing stress, and maintaining a healthy BMI are good places to start.
Smoking and drinking can also harm fertility. So, if you smoke or drink, consider quitting, or cutting back at the very least.
Avoid sex during your luteal phase
Research shows that having sex during the peri-implantation window may disrupt implantation. So, if you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s best to take a break during your luteal phase (around 5 to 9 days after ovulation).
Track and confirm ovulation
Tracking your ovulation can be invaluable when you’re trying to conceive. That’s where ovulation tests come in. Ovulation predictor kits (OPKs) measure LH to detect the surge and predict when ovulation will occur.
The problem is, by the time LH surges, a good chunk of your fertile window has passed. And while OPKs predict ovulation, they don’t confirm it actually happened.
But, progesterone metabolite PdG does. After an egg is released, progesterone metabolite PdG rises. So to confirm ovulation, choose a fertility monitor like Inito that tests progesterone metabolite PdG.
Inito also measures Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), LH, and estrogen. Estrogen peaks around 3 days before ovulation, so including it gives you a better gauge of your entire fertile window. Plus, unlike many ovulation tests that base results on thresholds, Inito measures your actual hormone values.
- Your chances of conceiving are highest in the three days leading up to ovulation.
- Having sex on the day of ovulation yields a 20% chance of conception.
- Around 31% of women have irregular menstrual cycles, which makes predicting ovulation tricky.
- Most couples will get pregnant within a year of trying to conceive. Your chances of conception depend on your age, health conditions, and how often you have sex during your fertile window.
- Using a fertility monitor like Inito that measures estrogen, LH, FSH, and progesterone metabolite PdG helps pinpoint your fertile days, so you know the best days to have sex.
- You can boost your chances of getting pregnant by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, avoiding sex during your luteal phase, and tracking and confirming ovulation.