Choosing to start a family is an exciting
time in life. Picking out names, decorating the nursery, registering
for baby equipment, and attending baby showers are the fun parts of
getting ready for a baby. But before you can do all of that you need to
be pregnant and have a baby on the way. The key to making that happen
is to understand your fertility cycle. Getting pregnant is not just
about having sex. Your body has to be ready to release an egg, the egg
has to be ready to be fertilized, and your body has to be ready to
sustain a pregnancy. By now, you know all about your menstrual cycle,
but if you’ve never been pregnant, you may not know much about your
It is called a cycle because it is just that:
a cycle that repeats itself. For most women the cycle is regular and
can be tracked fairly accurately so that each month you know on which
days you are most likely to conceive. Because the cycles are usually a
month long, it is appropriate to look at cycles on a month-by-month
basis. A typical fertility cycle looks like this:
Day 1 – This is the day that menstruation begins. On this day, progesterone and estrogen levels have decreased to low levels.
– Menstruation continues (or stops), as the uterus rids itself of
unneeded tissue and blood because a fertilized egg was not detected.
Estrogen gradually increases.
Days 7-14 – Levels of
estrogen increase to the highest point of the month, at which point the
release of an egg from an ovary is triggered. When the egg is released
there is a window of about 24 hours where the egg is viable for
fertilization. If it is not fertilized in this time period, conception
will not occur.
Days 15-28 – On these days, amounts of
estrogen become less and amounts of progesterone become more. During
these days, the increasing levels of progesterone cause the lining of
the uterus to thicken as the body prepares itself to carry a baby. If a
fertilized egg does not attach itself to the uterus during this time,
the level of progesterone drops and the body knows to begin release of
the unnecessary uterine lining. Then Day 1 of the cycle begins again.
If a fertilized egg does attach itself to the uterus, the progesterone
level will not drop and missed periods will occur for the remainder of
As you can see, for a pregnancy to occur,
intercourse must happen in that period of time during which a woman is
ovulating. An egg only has 24 hours before it “dies”. However, a sperm
can live up to 4 days inside a woman’s body. Therefore, if a couple has
intercourse on day 11 of a woman’s cycle, but she doesn’t ovulate until
day 14, it is possible that a pregnancy can still occur. On the other
hand, if a woman ovulates on day 10 and she doesn’t have intercourse
until day 14, she is not going to get pregnant.
is so important to figuring out your fertility cycle, you can predict
ovulation pretty accurately by charting basal body temperature and
evaluating the consistency of your cervical mucus. Additionally, most
pharmacies now carry ovulation predictor kits that test urine to
predict the dates of ovulation which can be very convenient for those
who lead extremely busy lives. Any of these methods will increase your
chances of more accurately predicting your dates of ovulation and will
help you get pregnant.
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