The reproductive system in our bodies is an amazing combination of cells, hormones, temperatures and timing. It has been well documented that a lot of couples can miss the ‘window of opportunity’ in the ovulation calendar and can reduce their chances of conception.

Timing is everything

Sperm can live for two to three days, but the egg is around for only 12 to 24 hours. To increase the likelihood of conception, it’s important to have intercourse more than once around the time of ovulation.

Of course, exactly when a woman ovulates isn’t altogether clear. It all depends on the length of her menstrual cycle. A woman typically ovulates about 14 days before her next period — not mid-cycle, as is commonly held. If you have a 28-day cycle, which is the average, then you would ovulate halfway through your cycle. But if you have a 35-day cycle, you would ovulate around day 21, not day 17.

How do I know when the time is right?

There are several signs that you can look for to indicate that you are beginning to ovulate. Some women are very aware when they are ovulating. Some women are not. If you are having trouble conceiving, we recommending trying to track your cycle for a couple of months. Some subtle signs of ovulation include:

  • Breast tenderness
  • Slight feelings of discomfort in your middle abdomen
  • Increased vaginal discharge that takes on a wetter, egg-white-type quality
  • A slight increase (about 0.2 to 0.6°C, or 0.4 to 1°F) in basal body temperature, or BBT, which you can detect by taking your temperature each morning before you get out of bed, two days after you ovulate. You can get a good sense of your cycle if you chart your BBT for a few months.

There are ovulation kits available too. These kits can measure surges in Luteinising Hormone in your urine. When your luteinising hormone is increased it is likely that you will ovulate within the next few days (24-40 hours). Be wary of the readings if you have PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome), as it may be misleading.

A brief synopsis of the Hormonal Cycle

  1. Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) is released from the pituitary gland.
  2. FSH stimulates a number of follicles to develop.
  3. During the next few weeks or the follicular phase of the cycle, the eggs grow and mature and oestrogen is produced by the ovary.
  4. With oestrogen on the increase, FSH levels start to drop off. Luteinising Hormone starts to increase. Alkaline mucous that can facilitate the movement and the life of sperm increases.
  5. Luteinising Hormone then begins to reach its peak and usually one egg matures and is released from the follicle to the fallopian tube.
  6. The corpus luteum, the empty follicle, then begins to produce progesterone and the cycle then is known as the Luteul phase.
  7. If the egg is fertilised, the egg then stays in the Fallopian tube for around a week. The fertilised egg then develops into a young embryo. After roughly 21 days, the embryo moves into the womb and tries to implant itself.
  8. Chorionic Villi, that are produced by the embryo to help the implantation process, start producing a hormone. This hormone is called human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG. This hormone encourages the corpus luteum to continue to develop and produce progesterone to maintain the pregnancy.

The bottom line

By getting your timing right, you provide your body the best environment for conceiving.