The ‘fertile window’ is the time of when fertilisation can happen between a woman’s mature egg leaving the ovary and travelling along the fallopian tube to meet the man’s sperm. This is day 12-16 (approximately depending on a woman’s cycle) after the last menstruation or period and during the time of ovulation. This is the likely time of when a woman can become pregnant.
If your cycle is average at around 28 days then ovulation typically happens on day 14, and the most fertile days are days 12, 13, and 14.
If you typically have longer cycles, say 35 days between periods, ovulation occurs on day 21 and the most fertile days are days 19, 20, and 21.
If you have a shorter cycle of 21 days between menstruating, ovulation is on day 7 and the most fertile days are days 5, 6, and 7.
The best thing to do is monitor your periods for a few months. Record the first day of your cycle (day 1 of period starting) and the last day (day before the next period starts). Ovulation starts around two weeks before the next period begins, so this is when the women should try for a baby or avoid sexual intercourse if they don’t wish to become pregnant. Sperm can survive around 5 days in the woman and her egg around 24 hours.
Week one: The period
If you are trying for a baby it’s best to start thinking about the nutrients you need to aid your new addition and prepare for your fertile window. Key things like a balanced diet, keeping your body in good shape or your ideal weight, taking zinc and folic acid. Try to have less caffeine and shake off the naughty habits of smoking and drinking alcohol. Your body will shed the lining of the womb over 2-7 days usually. You could find yourself an app or ask your sexual health clinic/GP for a fertile chart to help.
Week two: Almost fertile
This is the time your partner needs to take care of his sperm by avoiding hot showers, baths and warm electronics on his crotch such as a laptop. This can decrease sperm function and numbers. Check for foods that could potentially boost yours and his fertility. Make sure that you are getting enough vitamins and nutrients.
Week three: Fertile window
Your body will increase its hormone levels and start to produce an egg which will begin its travel through the fallopian tube to embed itself in the woman’s thickened lining in the uterus. It takes several days to travel, so you need to think about intercourse if you are planning a baby together. Its around 10 hours from the vagina to the fallopian tubes for one in 250 million sperm to fertilise and egg. Unless its twins! Some women check their basal temperature and vaginal discharge to see any changes.
Week four: Out of the fertile timeframe
You may see changes in discharge or basal temperature now. Carry on with keeping yourself fit and healthy. It could mean you have conceived if you have had sex at the right time. Your fertilised egg will be travelling down to your uterus to gain nourishment from your ever-thickening lining of the womb. Your hormone levels will begin to increase, and you may not have a period due. If this is the case, you may need to do a pregnancy test a few days into or after your missed period. Some women may have spotting or a light period but could still be pregnant so do seek advice. Usually if your period arrives at its usual time or day then this more than likely a sign that you are not pregnant.
Do remember that your menstrual cycle/ fertility window may need time if you have just stopped taking contraception of any form or experienced a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, surgeries, birth, c- section, illness and certain medical treatments. Men may experience problems with sperm count or sperm production if you are having trouble conceiving, its not necessary a ‘woman only’ problem. Do seek advice from your local GP, sexual health or family planning clinic should you have any concerns.
Written by Justine Gibbs