Trying to conceive
If you are trying to conceive you know how frustrating it can be. Women spend the majority of their child bearing years trying not to get pregnant. Especially in the age and time we are currently in. Many women are focusing on their education and careers first, and creating a family second. You would think that after all the years we spend trying not to conceive, that all one would have to do is stop using protection, whether it be birth control pills, shot, condoms or the like. Unfortunately it does not seem to work that way. This is especially in the later years of life. The older we get the less fertile we are. As matter of fact, most health insurance companies will not even consider paying for fertility treatments until you have been trying to get pregnant for at least 12 months.
One of the things you can do to help increase the chances of getting pregnant, when you are ready, is to know the science behind your cycle of ovulation. The ovulation cycle is unique to each woman, by understanding your individual cyle you can better understand the best time to try and conceive.
The Ovlation Cycle
There is only a short window of time during the ovulation cycle to actually conceive. Although it happens every month, ovulation can occur at different times. Very few women can actually predict on their own when they are going to ovulate. As I typed that sentence I heard 10 women say "but I know exactly when I am ovulating", but hear me out. Your cycle can be influenced by what is happening in your daily life. Life changes, stress, and nutrition can change your ovulation cycle. Not to mention, if you feel that ovulation has occurred, it is probably to late. I know when I have ovulated "released an egg" by a mild pain in my back. That usually mean the egg was released, but by then your window of conception is closing. It takes several days for a sperm to make it to an egg and fertilization to occur. The idea is to try an conceive a day or two prior to actually ovulating. This gives "the little guys" time to get there.
Ovulation occurs in two phases, the follicular phase and the luteal phase. The follicular phase occurs from the first day of the menstrual period and continues until you actually ovulate. Depending on what your age, lifestyle and biological cycle this phase can last 7-40 days. The follicular phase is highly influenced by factors such as stress, travel, illness and age.
The luteal phase and begins the day of ovulation and ends on the day you begin to menstruate. The luteal phase lasts 12-16 days from the time you ovulated and is less effected by external factors. That is why the most important time to minimize controllable influences in your life is during the follicular phase.
Tracking your cycle
There are a couple of way to know when you ovulating. One way to keep is to track cervical mucus. Cervical mucus has three stages. Dry, immediately after your period, cloudy and tacky, and finally clear and slippery. This is called the "egg white" phase. This is because the mucus is stretchy and similar in texture to a raw egg white. The best time to try and conceive is during the egg-white phase.
The second pattern you can monitor every month is your basal temperature. Your body temperature will rise before ovulation but only by a small amount, so you will need a basal thermometer. These thermometers only go from 96-100 so you will be able to track up to 1/10th of a degree. The best time to take your temperature is first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. It should be taken before ANY activity. Keep a chart and you will soon see the temperature patterns indicating when you are about to ovulate.
The last pattern you can monitor is the cervical height. This makes a lot of women uncomfortable but it is a good indicator of ovulation. To do this you stand with one foot on the toilet and use your finger to feel for your cervix. Your cervix will be low and reachable during the beginning of your cycle, and after ovulation. Just before and during ovulation, your cervix raises. During this time, when your cervix is or almost is unreachable, you are the most fertile.
If you don't mind spending the money, there are now much easier ways to monitor fertility. Similar to a pregnancy test, there are ovulation prediction tests. They work by measuring the amount of hormone in your urine. They are very accurate in predicting ovulation, however because you must start "peeing on the stick" starting the last day of your period until you ovulate, it can quickly become expensive.
A little bit of luck
Once you know your ovulation cycle, you can greatly increase your chances of conceiving. However, don't get discouraged if you do not get pregnant the first month. Even under the most ideal circumstances your chances of conceiving are only 20 - 25% each month. Sometimes you just need a little bit of luck.