Getting Pregnant: What to Know About Ovulation, Fertilization, and Implantation

January 31st, 2019
Pregnant Belly

It’s a common misconception that getting pregnant is easy.

Many couples decide to have a baby, throw out their birth control, and expect to conceive within a month or two. While this certainly isn’t an impossibility, it’s also not very likely.

What many men and women don’t realize is there’s only a 15-25% chance of getting pregnant without intervention each month – that’s pretty minimal in the grand scheme of things. Additional factors, such as the following, can decrease those numbers even further.

·         Age

·         Medical conditions

·         Frequency of sex

·         Irregular periods

When it comes to getting pregnant, understanding what’s actually taking place in your body can be beneficial to your success.

When Does Ovulation Usually Occur?

Conceiving would be so much simpler if women ovulated on a clear-cut date each month.

Unfortunately, this isn’t typically the case.

Most women experience ovulation approximately 14 days after the first day of their last menstrual period. In a normal 28-day cycle, this means she’d ovulate two weeks before the start of her next period.

Women with a relatively regular cycle ovulate within a few days of these markers. Ovulation occurs as a result of rising estrogen levels after your period. Once your estrogen has reached a certain point, a luteinizing hormone is released to encourage your ovaries to release an egg.

However, if you have an irregular menstrual cycle it can be much more difficult to track ovulation based solely on calendar dates and this information.

How Do I Know if I’m About to Ovulate?

There are several symptoms women may show prior to ovulation. Here are a few of the most common and identifiable:

1. Changes in Vaginal Discharge/Cervical Mucus

With heightened estrogen levels, you may notice an increase in your cervical mucus. As you approach ovulation, your discharge will have a higher water content resulting in a more slippery looking appearance. This amount will often continue to rise until ovulation actually occurs.

If you notice you suddenly have a decreased amount - or absence - of cervical discharge, ovulation may have already occurred.

2. Breast or Nipple Sensitivity

Just as it’s a common sign that a woman’s period is imminent, heightened hormones can often cause sore breasts and nipples in the days before ovulation.

3. Pelvic Pain

While many women don’t feel any pain prior to ovulating, approximately 20% have a minimal amount of pelvic pain as the egg prepares to be released from their ovaries. This pain is usually felt on the left or right side of their lower abdomen, depending on which ovary releases the egg. Some women describe the pain as a dull ache, while others experience more of a sharp, jabbing sensation.

Regardless, any discomfort generally fades within a few hours.

4. Changes in Basal Body Temperature

Many women use their basal body temperature as a method of tracking their ovulation cycle. Basal temperatures generally fall and then spike in the days surrounding the release of your egg.

5. Spotting

Spotting when your body’s preparing to ovulate is also quite normal.

It’s believed this happens because the uterine lining has grown due to increased estrogen, but not yet thickened as there’s an absence of progesterone leading up to ovulation.

Other Side Effects of Ovulation

While the aforementioned symptoms are among the most commonly noticed by women around the time they ovulate, they’re not the only signs that can occur. Some note other changes, such as:

·         Increased sex drive

·         Swollen lymph nodes near the groin

·         Heightened resting pulse rate

Some women don’t experience any symptoms at all, which is completely fine. They may not be as sensitive to changes in their body, or may just be lucky – either way, just because they don’t feel the side effects of ovulation, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

When is an Egg Fertilized?

If you’re trying to conceive, you need to understand what your fertility window is and how it works.

While it’s true ovulation only lasts slightly more than a 24-hour period, science has proven a woman is most fertile five to six days each month.

Upon ovulation, a mature egg is released from your left or right ovary. From there, it’ll travel down your fallopian tubes until it reaches its final destination – your uterus. The egg can only be fertilized for approximately 30 hours after release.

However, sperm can survive in a woman’s body for up to five days - making it possible to get pregnant, even if you had unprotected intercourse almost a week before ovulation.

If fertilization occurs, the embryo moves into the uterus and implants itself into the uterine lining where it continues to develop for the remainder of the woman’s pregnancy.

How Long Does Implantation Take?

After fertilization takes place, the cellular structure of the embryo continues to change as it finishes its journey through the fallopian tube. It often takes around three days for the embryo to make its way to the uterus.

Once it’s in the uterus, implantation doesn’t necessarily happen right away. Studies have shown implantation can occur three to twelve days post-ovulation.

It’s quite normal not to experience any symptoms of implantation. Some women do notice mild pain or light bleeding when the embryo tunnels into the wall of the uterus.

Is Implantation Bleeding Normal?

When a couple is hoping to conceive, any bleeding can be distressing.

Understanding what implantation bleeding looks like can alleviate some concerns.

If a woman is experiencing an implantation bleed, it usually occurs about two weeks after conception or with the initial absence of your regular period.

Implantation blood can range in color from bright red to brown, but it should never be much more than mild spotting. For some women, the bleeding lasts no longer than a few hours, while others may have spotting for a few days.

Some women have a hard time distinguishing implantation bleeding from the normal pre-menstrual spotting that comes with the luteal phase of each cycle. This stage of your cycle revolves around a spike in estrogen which can cause a decrease in progesterone levels, resulting in regular spotting.

Unfortunately, there’s no clear way to tell whether you’re pregnant or just experiencing a normal cycle until you take a pregnancy test two weeks after ovulation.

If your bleeding seems heavy and lasts longer then the previously mentioned amount of time, you may be experiencing an early miscarriage and you should get in contact with your doctor for testing.

What is an Ectopic Pregnancy?

Approximately one in fifty couples will experience what’s known as an ectopic pregnancy.

This occurs when the developing embryo implants itself in any other location than the uterus, though it most often takes place within the fallopian tubes – hence, the term ‘tubal pregnancy.’

Some of the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy are as follows:

·         Gastrointestinal distress

·         Sharp, stabbing pains commonly in the pelvis or abdomen, though occasionally in the shoulder and neck

·         Weakness or dizziness

·         Vaginal bleeding

If you believe you’ve had an ectopic pregnancy, or if you’re experiencing the above symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor right away for treatment. Tubal pregnancies are diagnosed through the use of ultrasound technology and/or bloodwork.

Treatment for an ectopic pregnancy often involves surgery.

Understanding Your Cycle Could Make All the Difference

It’s easy to disregard what’s happening in our bodies, and many women don’t understand exactly what their cycles entail.

By educating yourself on what’s happening beneath your skin, you’ll have a better understanding of what to expect, or what you’ll need to do, during your quest to become pregnant. For most women ovulation comes and goes, month after month, without a single ounce of discomfort or pain. Yet, now that you’re aware of what should be happening, you may suddenly realize you’ve been feeling the slight achiness that can come with the release of an egg.

If you decide you want to get pregnant, remaining passive in the process might not work. Take action and remain aware of what your body is capable of.

Learning to do things like taking your basal temperature correctly and figuring out what’s normal and abnormal for your body can be invaluable in an effort to conceive.

If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for several months with no success, proactive measures can make a difference. While simply paying closer attention to your body isn’t a guarantee you won’t need fertility assistance, it’ll certainly provide you with a better grasp of your ability to conceive.

For so many men and women, learning they’re pregnant is one of the most significant moments in their life. If a baby is your dream, fully understanding what it takes to have one can make all the difference.

 

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