There are lots of myths about fertility, from folk remedies that can boost it (with questionable effects), to the belief that after you are 35, your fertility drops to near zero. This is one of the most pernicious myths in women’s health – there is no ‘fertility cliff’. If you’re trying to start a family, you need to get at the truth about fertility, and make sure you’re using your insights to give yourself a better chance to conceive.
Fertility Over Time
While your fertility does decline over the course of your life, it also has peaks and troughs across the course of each menstrual cycle. In each cycle there is a six day period, known as your ‘fertile window’ when you stand the maximum chance of success. You should be trying to predict and identify your fertile window so you can focus your attempts to conceive on this key time.
What is the Fertile Window?
Your fertile window is the period of time when sperm stand the best chance of surviving long enough in the body to reach, and fertilise, the egg after it’s ovulated. Sperm can survive as long as five days in a woman’s body after ejaculation, but eggs have a much shorter lifespan – between twelve and twenty-four hours.
This gives you a six day fertile window, comprised of the five days before you ovulate and the day after, during which the life span of both sperm and eggs can overlap.
Identifying the Fertile Window
There are several different methods available to you to help you identify when you ovulate, from which you can identify your fertile window. If you have a very regular cycle, pinpointing when you ovulate once means you’ll know when your fertile days begin next month, simply by using a calendar! If you don’t, you’ll need to keep tracking your ovulation and make sure you’re ready to take advantage of it when it happens.
Ovulation predictor kits check your urine, like a pregnancy test. This is convenient, but comes with a number of drawbacks – the results can be difficult to interpret, if you have unusually high or low levels of the Luteinising Hormone the test looks for, it might not identify ovulation correctly, and if you have PCOS or other hormone based conditions, they become almost useless as predictive tools.
Saliva and Mucus
You can look for changes to your saliva and cervical mucus that can tell you when your body is preparing to ovulate. If you let a sample of saliva dry, and see a ferning pattern – similar to a frosty window – this shows increased oestrogen and electrolytes. Your cervical mucus becomes thinner and clearer as ovulation approaches, to allow sperm to enter further into your body.
Your Basal Body Temperature or BBT could be the answer you need. This changes in response to your menstrual cycle, but it can be difficult and time consuming to take your temperature first thing in the morning and chart the readings across multiple weeks.
An advanced fertility monitor can take out the hard work by automatically logging your readings, and turning them into a prediction of when you will next be at peak fertility!