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Early in life, before my reality became tainted by infertility, I had a half-baked impression about how easy it is for women to get pregnant. Honestly, I had no idea what my chances of getting pregnant on ovulation day were.
I mean, I wasn’t completely ignorant about the topic. I understood the birds and the bees and had sat through health class like everyone else, but there were still certain things I just didn’t get.
Like how easy it is, or is not, to conceive at any time during the month.
I was under the naive impression (thank you to the fire and brimstone lectures about birth control and condoms) that anytime a person had unprotected sex, it pretty much meant a baby was probably going to show up nine months later.
Thankfully, I’ve become a bit more educated since then.
If you’ve been wondering what your chances of getting pregnant on ovulation day might be, we’ve done the research and are here to provide you with all the information you desperately need to know.
What are the Chances of Getting Pregnant Without Protection?
I’ve now come to understand that it’s not quite as simple and easy as our sex ed instructors would have us believe.
In fact, a healthy woman in her 20s or early 30s only has approximately a 20-25% chance of pregnancy each month without using protection. And that’s assuming neither she nor her partner has any unknown underlying fertility issues.
Why, you might be wondering, is it so hard to get pregnant? Well, it’s because your sexual activities and lack of birth control need to align perfectly with a little something called ovulation.
What is Ovulation?
Whatever your family planning goals, understanding ovulation is key to keeping you on track.
Approximately once a month, a woman’s ovaries will release a mature egg. This is called ovulation. From there, the egg will travel down through a fallopian tube and into the uterus. If there is sperm waiting for the egg during its journey through the fallopian tubes, the egg can become fertilized.
The entire process typically takes around 12 to 24 hours, and many people refer to this whole event as the ovulation process.
Once the egg arrives in the woman’s uterus, if it has not been fertilized, it will shed along with her uterine wall during her menstrual cycle. Then, the monthly process will begin again, with the egg growing, maturing, releasing, and traveling into the uterus.
Common Signs You’re Ovulating
Most of us understand the telltale signs that our periods are on their way. Did you know, however, that many women’s bodies also give hints that ovulation is happening?
If you’re trying to decide whether it’s a good time to have sex on your quest to get pregnant (or cross your legs up tight if you’re not), be on the lookout for indicators such as these:
- Light spotting
- Changes in cervical mucus, i.e., discharge has an “egg-like” consistency (nice visual, I know!)
- Spikes in basal body temperature
- Slight cramping on one side of your pelvis
- Tender breasts
- Increased sex drive
If you want to stay up-to-date on your ovulation cycle, it’s also a good idea to consult a trusted ovulation tracker app or purchase a reliable fertility monitor. Learn the best ways to track ovulation here!
What Happens After Ovulation?
Have you ever heard of the “two week wait?” Well, this is where that process comes into play.
Once an egg has been released into a woman’s uterus, her body will enter what’s called the luteal phase. During this period, reproductive hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, prevent her body from shedding the uterine lining and releasing the egg.
If the egg was not fertilized during ovulation, you will have your period like normal. If it was, you should receive a positive pregnancy test around the time of your missed period.
Can You Get Pregnant On Your Ovulation Day?
Not only can you get pregnant on ovulation day; it’s one of the most fertile days in a woman’s reproductive cycle.
In fact, you have a 30% chance of getting pregnant on your ovulation day, or the two days before ovulation. These chances depend on your age, so be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about your ovulation cycle and your age if you have concerns.
What does that mean for you? If you’re looking for TTC tips, it means you should learn when you ovulate and try to have sex in the few days leading up to ovulation day!
What Are the Chances of Getting Pregnant the Day Before Ovulation?
Something that might surprise you about the conception process is that you’re also likely to conceive in the day or two leading up to ovulation.
One study found that there’s approximately a 28% chance of conceiving two days before ovulation and a 24% chance of conceiving one day before. These are the highest percentages during a monthly reproductive cycle.
Here’s why. A woman’s egg can only live for 12-24 hours without fertilization, while a man’s sperm can live inside a woman’s body for up to five days.
So if you have sex or otherwise inseminate in the days leading up to ovulation, the sperm will still be alive and “in position” when a woman’s egg is released from her ovaries. Whereas, sex after ovulation day usually means that the sperm won’t make it to the egg in time.
How Many Days After Ovulation Can You Get Pregnant?
According to the American Pregnancy Organization, “getting pregnant after ovulation is possible, but is limited to the 12-24 hours after your egg has been released.”
No matter how in tune with your body you may be or how good your ovulation tracker might seem, the only way to be 100% certain you have or have not ovulated is to monitor your cycle with a doctor, which isn’t an option for most of us.
While most women ovulate somewhere between days 11 and 21 of their cycle, there’s no guarantee. If you think you might be having irregular cycles, talk to your doctor about how to boost your chances of conceiving.
And if you believe ovulation is about to occur or has already happened, there’s no harm in spending a little extra time in the bedroom, just in case.
If it’s already too late, you might not get pregnant, but hey, at least you had some fun!
Can You Get Pregnant During Your Period?
Besides confusion about the chances of getting pregnant on ovulation day, one of the other common questions in mommy communities is whether it’s possible to get pregnant while you’re on your period.
While we’ve already covered what happens after ovulation, it’s worth mentioning a woman’s period, too.
The answer is yes, it IS possible to get pregnant during your period – but it’s not very likely.
Under certain circumstances, it’s possible a woman could conceive while she’s on her period. Some of these situations include:
- When ovulation happens a few days after a woman’s period and there’s still live sperm in her body
- When a woman thinks she’s on her period, but it’s actually light spotting from ovulation
- When ovulation occurs before a woman has stopped bleeding during her period
So many studies have been done regarding the chances of getting pregnant on ovulation day or the chances of getting pregnant the day before ovulation occurs.
Remember that the numbers quoted in this article won’t necessarily apply to each individual’s body, but they do give us an approximate idea of when you can conceive.
While understanding the statistics surrounding ovulation and pregnancy are important, it’s critical to realize your body might follow a different pattern.
Learn about the ways to track ovulation, decide which are best for your situation, and do the best you can to take control of your own reproductive calendar.
More than anything else, though, try to relax as much as you can. We know that isn’t easy, but be sure to work in some self care for moms. After all, you’re embarking on a journey to motherhood, which already makes you a mom in our eyes.
Don’t let this world of numbers and percentages put more stress on the already grueling process of trying to get pregnant.
Have you ever tried to track your chances of getting pregnant on ovulation day?
Kristen Bergeron is a freelance writer from Florida. In addition to writing, she is a wife, mother of two beautiful girls, Hadley and Scarlett, and a part-time photographer. After overcoming infertility and having two successful IVF cycles, she’s made it a personal goal to help educate men and women on the realities of fertility struggles. She is passionate about supporting fellow women who are trying to navigate the complicated world of conception, pregnancy, and learning to be the best mothers we can be.