So you decided to take the plunge into motherhood.
You quit the birth control.
You officially started trying to get pregnant.
A few months go by.
Your teenage cousin gets pregnant.
Your college roommate gets pregnant with child #4.
A few more months go by.
Your family pesters you about when you are going to get your own bump.
A few more months go by.
If you had known that you wouldn’t get pregnant even off birth control, you wouldn’t have wasted your time and money on remembering all those pills day in and day out.
So what are you doing wrong?
First, let’s look at your cycle.
In order to get pregnant, you must be ovulating.
What is ovulation?
Ovulation is when your body releases one of your eggs into your fallopian tubes so it is available for sperm to fertilize it.
If you don’t ovulate, there is no egg for the sperm to get introduced to…
No egg for the sperm? You will not get pregnant.
The kicker is that even if you are ovulating, you may not get pregnant. There are just a handful of days in each cycle right around ovulation that you can get pregnant.
So, in order to figure out when your most fertile days are in your cycle, we must first figure out when you would most likely be ovulating.
When is ovulation in a normal cycle?
The normal menstrual cycle is anywhere from 28-35 days in length. Ovulation typically occurs two weeks before your NEXT period.
For example, if your menstrual cycle is 28 days, you would most likely ovulate around day 14 of your cycle. If your menstrual cycle is 35 days, you would most likely ovulate around day 21 of your cycle.
How to figure out when YOU are ovulating
For the next 3 months, track the first day of your period and the last day of your cycle (the day BEFORE you start bleeding again). Write down the number of days of each of the 3 cycles. Add the 3 numbers together and then divide by 3 to get your average cycle length. Now, count 14 back from that number to determine which day you are most likely ovulating.
Next, let’s figure out your fertile window.
There are only a few days before you ovulate that are considered your fertile window. Typically, it is 3 days before and the day of ovulation.
When you are trying to get pregnant, we healthcare providers recommend starting the “baby dance” (sex) 5 days before you ovulate and 2 days afterward to make sure we catch your fertile window.
Side note: doing the baby dance every other day is best during the fertile window. Doing it every day will not necessarily increase your chances.
How to figure out YOUR fertile window
Take the average length of your cycle and the day you are most likely ovulating. To get the first day of your fertile window, subtract 5 days from your ovulation day. To get the last day of your fertile window, add 2 days to your ovulation day.
If you have a 28 day cycle, your fertile window starts at day 9 and goes through day 16. The days 12, 13, and 14 are most likely the days having sex will give you the best chance of getting pregnant.
If you have a 35 day cycle, your fertile window starts at day 16 and goes through day 23. The days 19, 20, and 21 are most likely the days having sex will give you the best chance of getting pregnant.
Once you have determined your fertile window, feel free to do the baby dance every other day starting with the first day of your fertile window through the last day of your fertile window.
Sounds simple enough.
But…then you add PCOS to the puzzle…
What about Tracking Basal Temps when you have PCOS?
This is one of my pet peeves when I hear cysters trying to track their basal temps to look for ovulation in their irregular cycles.
Most often if your cycles are consistently irregular, you are NOT ovulating. Tracking your basal temps is tedious and not a reliable indicator because our temps don’t usually follow the same trajectory.
What about Ovulation Kits when you have PCOS?
There are ovulation kits you can buy at any drug store. Don’t buy into that trap.
Ovulation kits are tempting but we typically have higher than normal LH levels so they tend to produce unreliable results. If you are irregular, you could spend a LOT of money trying to figure out when you are ovulating.
Let me say this again: if your cycles are irregular, you are most likely not ovulating so no kit is going to show you something that isn’t happening!
Now that is out of the way…
When should you see your doctor for help?
Because women with PCOS are prone to irregular cycles, I recommend trying to keep track of your cycles for 3-6 months to see if you can somehow catch your fertile window. If after 6 months, you don’t see any consistency or your periods stay very irregular, it may be time to see a doctor for some additional help.
Having the record of your cycles over the past 6 months will help your doctor see what’s going on with your cycle lengths and could give them an idea of how to best help you boost your chances of conceiving.
The general advice for a non-cyster is to wait 1-2 years of trying to conceive before seeking help with infertility.
If you have PCOS…
See a doctor if you are under 35 and…
- Have irregular periods greater than 35 days apart for over 6 months. (note: Even if they are typically 40 days apart instead of 28, but occur at roughly 40 days each cycle, that is considered regular.)
- Long periods with no periods followed by them coming quickly or lasting for a few weeks at a time.
- Have no periods (Amenorrhea) for 6 months.
- Have been trying to conceive for longer than 1-2 years with no success.
- See a doctor if you are over 35 and have been trying to conceive for 6 months. After age 35 definitely seek help earlier rather than waiting because your fertility declines the longer you wait after age 35.
When you decide it is time for you to enjoy motherhood, start by tracking your cycles for 3-6 months. Pay attention to your fertile window and do the baby dance at least every other day during this time. If you haven’t conceived after 1 year of trying or your cycles are very irregular, seek help from a doctor you trust sooner rather than later.
Print off my Fertile Window Calculator
Today, your first step to boosting your chances of getting pregnant is to get the printable download to calculate your fertile window.
Use it to calculate when you are fertile during your cycle. I walk you through how to figure this out step-by-step so you know the few days you can get pregnant each month.