For many women, knowing when conception is possible can aid in achieving or avoiding pregnancy. Fertility varies on a regular cycle for most women, while most men are fertile continuously. If you have never been diagnosed by a medical professional as infertile, there are many options for determining fertility, and understanding when and how to measure fertility can help you be aware and active in your attempt to conceive or avoid conception. The following steps for determining fertility will primarily be targeted at women who wish to figure out when they are ovulating.
Determine Fertility Step 1
Understand the biology of your body. Most women are only fertile for a few days out of every menstrual cycle.
During ovulation, when the ovaries release an egg, your body has a short window during which the egg can be fertilized. For this period of time, you are considered fertile, and conception is possible.
Sperm can survive in a woman’s reproductive tract for up to five days, meaning you could potentially become pregnant from intercourse that took place prior to ovulation if the mucus conditions in your body are receptive.
If you track your menstrual cycle with the sympto-thermal or basal body temperature methods, you will notice your morning body temperature dips slightly during ovulation and spikes directly afterward. In addition, your cervix will be high, soft, moist, and open. You may notice breast tenderness and other physical signs, such as slight spotting, cramping, or abdominal bloating.
Your body will secrete a clear, stretchy, slippery mucus when you are most fertile and you will notice greater natural lubrication during intercourse. Many women also experience a greater desire for sexual intercourse during ovulation.
Determine Fertility Step 2
Track your fertility with an ovulation kit or fertility awareness method. Natural family planning, the sympto-thermal method, basal body temperature tracking, the Billings Method, and other fertility awareness processes involve regular tracking of your monthly cycle and can help you determine your most fertile days every month.
Fertility awareness methods are hormone-free ways of managing fertility. Although many methods require several months of regular charting and coaching before you become confident or familiar with tracking your symptoms, they can be highly effective at pinpointing ovulation to help you achieve or avoid pregnancy. When used consistently and correctly, they can predict fertility with as much as 99% accuracy.
Natural fertility awareness methods are often taught at hospitals, health clinics, churches, fertility centers, and gynecologist offices. They are significantly more precise and detailed than the “rhythm method,” and are typically free or low-cost methods for determining fertility. In addition, they are accepted by many religions that otherwise reject contraception. The methods typically require multiple training sessions, a thermometer, and a paper calendar or chart for tracking your symptoms.
Fertility awareness tracking has no associated risks, but it cannot protect you from sexually transmitted infections. Similarly, if you are trying to avoid pregnancy you must abstain during your most fertile period or use an alternate method of birth control to prevent conception when you perceive symptoms of fertility.
If you do not wish to chart your physical symptoms to determine ovulation, you can use commercial ovulation calculators or test kits to attempt to determine your fertility. These over-the-counter tests can predict ovulation very accurately when used correctly, but can become expensive if used on a regular basis for determining fertility.
Determine Fertility Step 3
Discuss your wish to determine your fertility with a health professional.
If you are trying to conceive and have used a fertility awareness method for over 6 months without luck, discuss your situation with a fertility specialist or your primary care provider. There may be simple changes you can make – such as having intercourse once per day on each of your fertile days – that may help you achieve pregnancy.
In some cases, occupational, dietary, or physical conditions may make determination of fertility difficult, even if you are using a fertility awareness method or ovulation kit correctly and regularly. Your physician may have advice for limiting your exposure to some medications, certain chemicals, physically demanding exercises, or unique dietary items to aid in determining your fertility. In some cases, simple changes in nutrition, physical activity, sleep or medication habits, or sexual activity can make it easier to determine fertility.
If you are correctly tracking your fertility and you are unable to conceive, your physician may discuss the possibility of changing some of your partner’s habits. In some cases, constrictive clothing or regular heat exposure in the groin area may make men temporarily less fertile. Simple changes may be all that is necessary to help you both reach your fertility potential.
Determine Fertility Step 4
Consider more rigorous fertility testing methods. Be aware that not all medical fertility tests are conclusive, and many can be invasive. The tests may last several months and do not always help determine fertility or specific causes of infertility.
Fertility testing can be expensive and stressful. Discuss the pros and cons of fertility testing with your health care provider and make sure you are ready for extensive tests. In some cases, your doctor may recommend additional time tracking your fertility and targeting intercourse, as well as making dietary and lifestyle changes, before suggesting formal fertility testing.
Ask your insurance provider if fertility testing is covered under your plan. Many insurance agencies do not pay for fertility testing or fertility enhancement, so be sure you are emotionally and financially prepared for large potential out-of-pocket expenses and that your partner is equally eager to determine fertility for the purpose of conceiving.
Consult an experienced fertility specialist and request a fertility counseling session before beginning tests. This will help you and your partner know what to expect from the tests and what will be required of you both.
Adhere to the specialist’s instructions precisely when attempting to determine fertility through additional tests. Also, be prepared to discuss your sexual, dietary, and physical activity habits with your fertility specialist on a regular basis. Tests range from simple blood draws and sperm samples to ultrasounds and invasive extraction of eggs.
- As many as 10 percent of women have fertility problems that may make them unable to determine fertility, conceive, or keep a pregnancy. In some cases, changing certain habits or improving general health of one or both partners will help you determine fertility. In others, fertility treatments may be necessary to achieve pregnancy.
- For many women, determining fertility is especially useful when trying to get pregnant. It is often advisable to begin with the simplest and natural ways of determining fertility, and work up to formal fertility testing only when absolutely necessary.
- If you find yourself experiencing worrisome signs of infertility or if you become depressed or obsessive about fertility concerns, consult a health professional. In some cases, counseling can help you work through this difficult emotional situation and even achieve pregnancy after you have addressed your mental health or other health concerns.
- Not every couple is able to conceive. In many cases, doctors may not be able to determine the cause of fertility problems. Remember that this does not mean you have failed or that you cannot become a parent; in some cases fertility treatments can be successful, and other couples may find rewards in parenting foster or adopted children.