You've probably come across or heard of women planning their pregnancy by tracking their cycle. They commit to their fertile window and stalk their ovulation period. Does that mean that you can only get pregnant when you’re ovulating? Is it possible for women to get pregnant when they’re not ovulating? We consulted a board-certified OB-GYN to get the latest information.
You can get pregnant at any time during the cycle, even when you have sex on your period. The reason women specifically plan to have sex when they’re ovulating is because there’s a higher chance of getting pregnant during that time.
When you ovulate during your menstrual cycle (which starts on the first day of your period and ends on the first day of your next period), your ovary releases an egg that waits for a sperm to fertilize it (for 12-24 hours) and makes you pregnant. When it doesn’t get a viable sperm, your uterine wall sheds and secretes blood and tissue, your period.
Fun fact: Did you know that your pituitary gland secretes Luteinizing hormone (LH) that stimulates ovulation?
Ovulation typically happens on the 14th day of your menstrual cycle. However, your ovulation timing may differ every month because factors such as lifestyle, stress, diet, etc., can alter your menstrual cycle. Some months, your cycle may be shorter than the average of 28 days and other times, longer than 30 days.
There are chances of getting pregnant when you’re not ovulating because sperm can live up to 5 days in a woman’s body.
So, if you’re trying to conceive or avoid a pregnancy, tracking the timing of ovulation is essential in both cases.
Dr. Tiffany Pham, D.O., board-certified OB-GYN and medical advisor at Flo Health states, “The week when you are on your period is the least likely time you will get pregnant. This is assuming that you have regular monthly periods. If you have irregular bleeding or spotting throughout the month, this is a less reliable method.”
As your body lets go of blood, cervical mucus, and tissue, you’re days away from ovulation. So the chances of conceiving are also low. But a possibility still exists.
You must know two things: your menstrual cycle along with fertile days every month and whether your bleeding is a period and not a sign of hormonal imbalance.
If your cycle is shorter, you can start ovulating right after your period. You can get pregnant, especially if you have unprotected sex during your period.
“Because there is variation in the cycle length from month to month, the timing of the fertile window can also vary, but typically, it can occur anywhere between cycle days 7-21. If your cycle length is around 24-25 days, your fertile window can be cycle days 6-11. If your cycle length is on the longer end of normal, around 35 days, then your fertile window may be around cycle days 16-21”, explains Dr. Pham.
The chances increase when you have sex toward the end of your period. Simply put, the closer you are to ovulation and your ovary releasing a mature egg, the higher your chance of getting pregnant.
Generally, getting pregnant right after your period is less likely. For women with irregular cycles, fertility tracking apps offer more accurate insights.
While your chances of getting pregnant are higher during ovulation, you can conceive when you have sex any time of the month.
Keep up with your baby's development, get the latest parenting content and receive special offers from our partners