The first step to getting pregnant is to make sure the egg and sperm are able to meet. This can be trickier than it sounds. Your body usually releases one egg each month in a process called ovulation. It needs to be fertilized soon after. To boost your chances, it helps to know when you're ovulating. Then you'll know when you and your partner should be getting busy.
There are many ways you can tell if the time is right.
Mark Your Calendar
Doctors say it's best to have sex at least every other day, especially during the 5 days before you ovulate. They call this your "fertile window." Sperm can survive for a few days inside your body, so it's ideal to have them already there waiting for your egg.
If your menstrual cycle lasts 28 days and your period arrives like clockwork, it's likely that you'll ovulate on day 14. That's halfway through your cycle. Your fertile window begins on day 10. You're more likely to get pregnant if you have sex at least every other day between days 10 and 14 of a 28-day cycle.
Watch for Body Changes
Your hormone levels change throughout your menstrual cycle. During the first half, your ovaries give off the hormone estrogen. When your estrogen levels get high enough, your ovary releases an egg. Then your body starts to make progesterone, another hormone. It makes your body temperature rise slightly.
Track your temperature every day before you get out of bed. This reading is known as your basal body temperature. If you keep tabs over a few months, you may notice a pattern that shows when you ovulate. That will help you plot your fertile window.
Your hormones also change the texture of your cervical mucus, the sticky fluid that comes from your cervix, the bottom of your uterus. As your body gets ready to ovulate, you have more of it, and it feels more stretchy and slippery, like raw egg whites. The texture helps sperm swim inside your body. When your mucus feels like this, you should be in your fertile window.
Ovulation Predictor Kits
These tests, which you can buy at drugstores, give you a more precise idea of when to expect your fertile window. They test your urine to measure your levels of luteinizing hormone (LH), which go up in the 24 to 36 hours before you ovulate.
The kits have enough test strips to let you check your LH levels several times during your menstrual cycle. Start testing a few days before you think you might ovulate, then repeat a few times over the next few days to pinpoint the exact day. When your LH levels are highest, you're in the fertile window.
A Twinge of Pain
It's possible to feel yourself ovulate, but many women don't notice it. You might notice a slight pain in your side about halfway through your menstrual cycle. But if you're trying to get pregnant, don't wait for the twinge. That means your fertile window is soon closing.
Ask Your Doctor
Some women don't ovulate on a set schedule. If you can't figure out when it happens or if your menstrual cycle isn't regular, ask your doctor for help.