Trying To Conceive, Part 1 (starting off)
When TTC I felt like there is a weird high school lunch room situation, there are three groups.
1. The first group who got pregnant so easily (they just looked at each other and pop),
2. The second group who has been trying and trying and have this growing knowledge about infertility…
3. And finally there are new kids who just entered the lunch room and have no clue where to sit and what it all means.
I’m a member of the second group- my husband and I have struggled with infertility for over half of our marriage, and I wish that someone would have told me some fertility 101 tips.
So I hope that I can be that person for you… the person I wish I had.
Overview: the 5 days before and the day of ovulation are considered your “fertile window”. In general, you should try to have sex multiple times in this window if you want to get pregnant. These methods below are different ways you can try to determine your “fertile window”.
#1- Track your cycle
It doesn’t matter how you do it, but start tracking your menstural cycle. I recommend using an app that helps predict your fertility window based on your cycle. Approximately 12-14 days prior to your next period, is when ovulation usually occurs (when you are most fertile). So in tracking your cycle over time, you will be able to start to pinpoint and anticipate these days.
#2- Track your temperature…your basal body temperature
Your basal body temperature is your temperature when you're fully at rest. I feel like there is a lot of confusion around what this exactly is and how to measure it. If you are using a traditional thermometer, your temperature is detected ORALLY- it does not go in your bum or vajayjay. This misconception is why I feel a lot of women do not start tracking their basal body temperature.
So what does temperature have to do with fertility? The LH hormone surge that triggers ovulation may also cause your basal body temperature to increase. If you track your BBT and notice a peak, it may mean you ovulated. Your most fertile days will still be 2-5 days beforehand. In recent years, more research has come out to say this may be an unreliable method to predict ovulation. My biggest take-away is that you shouldn't use any of these methods alone. If your BBT peaks when your ovulation strips also show you're ovulating, maybe this is a good method for you!
Here are a couple different tools you can use:
These thermometers can accurately detect your temperature two decimal points and are used like a standard thermometer (orally and under the tongue).
Pros: low cost, I recommend the bluetooth enabled ones so it can sync to your app
Cons: can be difficult to get accurate measurement because your temp needs to taken everyday at the same time and at resting (the moment you wake up, ie no getting up and going pee first or letting the dog out, etc)
These thermometers can also accurately detect your temperature but are worn either on your arm or wrist. These are worn at night time while sleeping.
Pros: middle of the road on cost; accurate readings because this is their sole purpose (detecting your basal body temperature)
Cons: only single functionality
These wearables might already be in your wardrobe or on your wishlist for your next birthday or Christmas.
Pros: has multiple uses and is most likely integrated into other health metrics that you are tracking (steps, exercise, etc)
Cons: can be expensive
#3- Ovulation Strips
Want to make sure your partner is not shooting in the dark? In combination with the data from your app and your basal body temperature, you will have determined your fertile window. During the few days leading up to it and during that window, you can use ovulation strips to confirm you are indeed fertile. This is the most accurate of all 3 of these methods, but also more expensive. You could try these for a cycle or two to help confirm when you are ovulating.
Easy@Home Ovulation Strips
Other tips: Avoid lube and douching during your fertile window! Make sure you’ve started your prenatal vitamins with folic acid.
Depending on several factors (your age, how long you have been trying), you may want to simultaneously start more in depth at home fertility tests or tests with your OBGYN. Specifically, if you have been trying for 12 months (or 6 months if you are 35 or older), make an appointment with your doctor so they can start to evaluate both you and your partner for possible infertility.
At home overall fertility tests:
Most importantly, try to relax and have fun! There are so many pressures around conceiving and pregnancy. The stress definitely doesn’t help. Try to use this time to make sure you and your partner are as healthy as possible.
This article is my opinion. I am not a medical professional. This article was reviewed by a licensed MD for accuracy.
Medically reviewed by Katherine Estopinal, M.D. on December 3, 2022.
Am Fam Physician. 2015;91(5):308-314