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Can you only get pregnant on the day of ovulation?

Ovulation is super important to understand, especially for women! You’ve found Nurse’s Corner at ThriVe+, where you’re safe to ask questions. Ever wondered how exactly ovulation fits into your cycle? You’re not alone in that. Lots of women have questions about ovulation, and that’s why we provide a safe space for your questions. 

We’re all about empowering you to make the best decisions for your health.

How does ovulation work?

Ovulation is when an egg is released from the ovary. The egg is getting ready to meet up with sperm for a chance to make a baby. It usually happens about halfway through a typical menstrual cycle, which is around day 14 (if your cycle is 28 days long). 

Is your cycle shorter or longer? That’s not a problem. Not everyone’s cycle is the same. Some women might ovulate earlier or later. The length can depend on various factors like stress, medications you’re taking, or changes in your lifestyle like weight, exercise, or diet.

Mayo Clinic, Ovulation Signs

Now, why does ovulation matter? 

Well, it’s a big deal if you’re concerned about getting pregnant. Ovulation is the time when you’re most fertile (likely to become pregnant). So, if you’re hoping to conceive, or hoping to avoid pregnancy, knowing when you ovulate can be helpful. The only 100% sure way to avoid getting pregnant is to delay having sex until you and your partner are ready to face that possibility, though.

But how do you know when ovulation is happening?

Well, it can be hard to know for sure, but your body gives you some clues! One sign is changes in your cervical mucus. What’s that? Cervical mucus is the discharge that comes from your vagina throughout your cycle. It comes from your cervix, and its consistency changes. When you’re ovulating, it might become clear, slippery, and stretchy, kind of like egg whites. 

Another sign is a rise in your basal body temperature. That’s your temperature when you’re at rest. These signs happen because your body is getting ready for a potential pregnancy.

Mayo Clinic, Ovulation Signs

Now, let’s talk about the fertile window. 

This is the time when you’re most likely to get pregnant. It usually spans a few days before ovulation and the day of ovulation itself. But remember — each person’s cycle length can be different, and the time between ovulation and the start of your next period can also vary. The only way to make certain you won’t get pregnant is delaying sex (for now). 

Mayo Clinic, Getting Pregnant

Your cycle: your body’s natural process

To help figure out when you’re ovulating, you can chart your cycle. Keep track of things like your period start dates, changes in cervical mucus, and your basal body temperature. There are apps and calendars that can help you do this, or you can go “old school” and jot it down in a notebook.

For most women, our cycles can be broken down into these steps:

1. Menstruation: The cycle begins with menstruation, also known as your period. This is when the lining of the uterus sheds, and you experience bleeding. It typically lasts around 3 to 7 days.

2. Follicular phase: After your period ends, the follicular phase begins. During this phase, hormone levels, including estrogen, begin to rise. This stimulates the ovaries to develop follicles, each containing an immature egg.

3. Ovulation: Around the middle of your cycle, typically between days 12 to 16 (if your cycle is 28 days), one mature egg is released from one of the ovaries. This is called ovulation. It’s the most likely time for getting pregnant.

4. Luteal phase: Following ovulation, the luteal phase begins. The empty follicle transforms into a structure called the corpus luteum, which releases hormones like progesterone to prepare the uterine lining for potential implantation of a fertilized egg.

5. Fertility: Ovulation marks the most fertile time in your cycle, typically lasting around 24 hours. However, sperm can survive in your reproductive tract for up to five days, so the fertile window extends a few days before ovulation.

6. Implantation: If fertilization occurs (when sperm meets egg through sex), the fertilized egg travels down the fallopian tube and implants itself into the thickened uterine lining. This usually happens around 6 to 10 days after ovulation.

7. Pregnancy or menstruation: If the egg isn’t fertilized, the corpus luteum breaks down, hormone levels drop, and the thickened uterine lining is shed during menstruation. This starts the cycle anew.

8. Repeat: The cycle continues in this pattern, typically lasting about 28 days — but it can vary widely from person to person and even from cycle to cycle in the same person.

Mayo Clinic, Menstrual cycle: What’s normal, what’s not

Ovulation myths

There’s a lot of info out there about ovulation and pregnancy. Here are some of the common myths about it.

Myth: You can only get pregnant on the day you ovulate.

Truth: While ovulation is the most likely time to get pregnant, sperm can actually survive in your reproductive system for several days. So, if you have sex in the days leading up to ovulation, the sperm might still be around when the egg shows up, increasing your chances of pregnancy. The only way to completely avoid this is to refrain from having sex.

Myth: Ovulation always happens on day 14 of your menstrual cycle.

Truth: Nope, not necessarily! Every person’s body is different, and cycles can vary in length. Ovulation typically happens around the middle of your cycle, but it can happen earlier or later depending on various factors like stress, hormonal imbalances, or lifestyle changes.

Myth: You can’t get pregnant if you’re on your period.

Truth: While it’s less likely, it’s not impossible. Sperm can survive in the body for several days, so if you have a short menstrual cycle and ovulate shortly after your period ends, there’s a chance you could get pregnant.

Myth: You’ll always feel ovulation happening.

Truth: Some people might experience mild cramping or discomfort around ovulation, but not everyone does. Plus, these sensations can be subtle and easily missed. Pay attention to other signs like changes in cervical mucus and basal body temperature if you want to pinpoint your ovulation.

Myth: Ovulation is the same for everyone.

Truth: Ovulation can be affected by a variety of factors, including age, health conditions like PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), and lifestyle choices. Some women may have irregular cycles or ovulate less frequently than others.

Myth: You can’t get pregnant if you’ve been having sex for a while.

Truth: It’s totally possible for you to get pregnant. Even if you’ve been having unprotected sex for a while. Are you wanting to avoid pregnancy? Please take care of yourself. Avoid sex for now, until you’re ready for the possibility of a baby. Your partner should support you and make you feel safe. You shouldn’t ever feel pressured into having sex. It’s your body. Your future. You have the choice and the power.

Worried you might be pregnant? Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at ThriVe+. We offer no-cost lab-quality pregnancy tests, pre-abortion screenings, and decision consultations. We’re here to support and not to judge.

Healthy • Safe • Strong

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