If want to get pregnant — or you definitely want to not get pregnant — then knowing when you're fertile is really important. A lot of us aren't very aware of how our fertility works beyond just understanding that getting our period is shedding our uterine lining. And of course, knowing that if you don't get your period, something could be up. But how can you tell what's going on at other times in your cycle ? And when are you actually fertile?
Well, first of all you need to look at how regular you are. "If you have clockwork periods and you get premenstrual symptoms like breast tenderness, bloating, and cramping, it means that you have ovulatory cycles," NYC-based OBGYN Dr. Adeeti Gupta tells Bustle. Because periods are reflective of our cycles and our fertility, regularity is key. Of course many women with irregular periods can still get pregnant, but it's difficult to predict when you're fertile without regular periods.
The second thing to understand is that being fertile isn't something that only happens spontaneously for a second, despite what you see on TV with couples jumping into bed the moment someone is ovulating. "That's just not true," Dr. Alyssa Dweck M.D., Assistant Clinical Professor Dept. Ob/Gyn, Mount Sinai School Of Medicine. "The fertility window for each cycle is probably a couple of days." So having sex for a few days around ovulation is key.
So When Is It?
Well, like I said — ovulation depends on your cycle. "In an average 28-day menstrual cycle, ovulation typically occurs about 14 days before the start of the next menstrual period," The Mayo Clinic explains. "But in most women, ovulation occurs in the four days before or after the midpoint of the menstrual cycle. If, like many women, you don't have a perfect 28-day menstrual cycle, you can determine the length and midpoint of your cycle by keeping a menstrual calendar."
So it's about two weeks before your period is due to arrive, but you can adjust that depending on your personal cycle.
But You Can Look For The Signs
If you don't want to just rely on the calendar, there are some signs you can look for in your body. For instance, you may notice more clear, wet discharge right before ovulation — whereas after ovulation it tends to be more cloudy or white. If you want to go hardcore, you can also track your temperature. Your basal body temperature (the temperature of your body at rest) is slightly higher when you're ovulating. Track your temperature and, once you get a handle on your pattern, the Mayo Clinic suggests you'll be most fertile in the couple of days before your temperature rises.
If you're really worried about fertility— whether you've had trouble getting pregnant or because you're trying to avoid it — then it's always important to talk to your doctor. But for the curious among us, it's really interesting to get an insight onto what's going on with our bodies. Our cycles may not always be fun, but they don't need to be mysterious.