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Understanding your fertile window
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DUKE MEDICINE
Susannah D Copland, MD, MS posted:
Knowing when you are about to release your egg can help decrease stress and increase the effectiveness of trying to conceive. While sperm can survive for up to 6 days in the female body, eggs survive twelve hours. Therefore, most pregnancies occur when sperm are waiting for the egg. While babies have been conceived with acts of intercourse up to 6 days prior to ovulation, the hightest chance of conception is within the two days prior to ovulation. Learning to interpret your body's signals can help you find your fertility.

Cervical mucus.
As the egg approaches ovulation, increasing amounts of estrogen are produced and cervical mucus becomes sticky, or stringy like egg whites. Consistency changes as the water content of the mucus increases, making penetration by sperm easier. Cervical mucus changes can be identified up to 6 days prior to ovulation. Timing intercourse when you notice your cervical mucus changing can be effective in helping you to conceive.

Ovulation Predictor Kits.
OPKs detect luteinizing hormone (LH) or both LH and estradiol. As the egg moves closer to ovulation, estradiol rises. While estradiol rises, LH is released in increasing quantities then drops creating the LH surge that precedes egg release by 24-48 hours. To use an OPK, you urinate on the wick daily and look at the test kit window. With most kits, one line means urine made it into the kit and two lines means LH is detected. Kits that detect both estradiol and LH, read low peak when estradiol only is detected, and high peak when both estradiol and LH is detected. If you are able to detect the surge on the kit, intercourse the day of the surge, and the day after the surge should provide sperm for the arriving egg.

Basal Body Tempteratures
Once the egg is released, progesterone is produced. Progesterone increases body temperature. Therefore, your temperature goes up after ovulation. The best time to take your temperature is before you get out of bed in the morning. If you chart your temperature daily, you should see at least an 0.3 degree rise in the baseline temperature the day after ovulation. Temperature should stay up until shortly before the period. If you have conceived, your temperature will stay up during pregnancy. Unlike cervical mucus changes, and ovulation predictor kits, basal body temperatures do not let you know that you are about to ovulate. Rather they tell you that you have. So if you want to use them to time intercourse, you need to chart for a month to see when you ovulated and then plan to have intercourse in the cycle days prior to the temperature rise during the next month. Since menstrual cycles can be different from month to month, this method can be frustrating to some. Once you have seen that there is a temperature rise and that your temperature stays up for approximately 2 weeks, you may wish to stop checking daily temperatures to decrease the stress of trying to conceive. If, however, you find the daily temperatures reassuring, feel free to continue.

Don't worry. Not all women can detect all of the signs of ovulation. Follow whichever of the signs works for you.

If you are unable to detect any of the changes discussed here, you may not be ovulating. See your physician to make the final determination with a blood test for progesterone timed one week after the surge on your OPK or rise in temperature, which should be one week before your period. If you are not ovulating, your physician can try to determine the cause and give you medications to help you release your egg.

If the thought of testing for ovulation is frustrating to you, intercourse two to three times a week should cover your fertile window.
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LittleFerg00 responded:
I understand how to detect ovulation, my cycle is very obvious and very predictable. However, I have used BC for 17 years and due to some major side effects, I have chosen to not use hormonal BC at all. This opens a whole new birth control issue for me because I have never had to worry about it. I do not want to get pregnant right now. My husband and I have used condoms religiously, except a few days after my period when I 100% know it is safe not to. My questions is this- I keep reading that the egg only survives for 12 hours, so is it pretty much 100% safe to have unprotected sex during my non-fertile days? I have been tracking my cycle, so I know when to use a condom.... I have also been told a week before my period and a week after is also ok for unprotected sex. So, where is the egg after ovulation? Just hanging out in my uterus? I know these Q's sound silly, but I can't seem to find the answer. Is the egg "dead" after ovulation? I don't want to risk a pregnancy by "testing the waters" myself, please advise with your expert advice. We really don't like condoms, but we will use them when necessary. I'm just trying to figure out when they would not be necessary. Thankyou for your help.
 
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Starla_94 replied to LittleFerg00's response:
I got PG while i was on my cycle so i don't think its ever 100% safe but just less likely :)
 
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Starla_94 replied to LittleFerg00's response:
ps.. have you thought about a Non Pill? Mirena or the Ring one ?
 
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LittleFerg00 replied to Starla_94's response:
Yes, I had Mirena for about 6 months. Implanted at my 6 wk appt. I don't know if my body was still out of whack or what, but I had a constant yeast infection nearly the entire time. I had never had one but once before in my lifetime. The Dr. kept saying that it had nothing to do with the Mirena, but I think it did. As soonas I had it removed, the infections stopped. And, I don't want to do the copper IUD because it makes your period worse. I don't need it any worse. I've never tried the ring, but it sounds like a hassle and it still distributes hormones, which adversely affects my body, which is why I quit the pill to begin with. Thank you for your suggestions & reply. I wish the Dr. would reply.
 
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An_191485 replied to LittleFerg00's response:
As to your question about the egg, it is absorbed by your uterine wall 12 to 14 hours after it is released and expelled when you shed the wall during your menstrual cycle.
 
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An_191486 replied to An_191485's response:
Opps, it should say 12 to 24 hours. The egg can last up to 24 hours.
 
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fiannakyn replied to An_191486's response:
Also about the 12-24 hours thing --it takes about 24 hours for the egg to make its way from the ovary to the uterus anyway. it lives for that time but when it dies as anon said, its absorbed by the lining till your period. (or sometimes is expelled beforehand.)

Sperm on the other hand, can live UP to 1 week, (3-4 days on avrage) inside your uterus and tubes. So defantly do not have unprotected sex within a week of you knowing you are ovulating, and at least 3 days after ovulating. And this includes him pulling out "before finishing". The clear "precum" also has sperms in it too.

To be the most absulutly safe, I would say the week before your period is due is the most safe, and during the week or so after your period. Depends on when you ovulate.
 
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LittleFerg00 replied to fiannakyn's response:
Thank you all for your informative and helpful repsonses! I didn't know the egg was absorbed. Probably learned that in sex ed, but that was VERY VERY long ago. ;o) Again, thank you!


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