You may have heard that you can only get pregnant on certain days of your menstrual cycle. In fact, you can fall pregnant on any day of your cycle, but some days are more fertile than others.
Read on to find out when you’re most likely to get pregnant and how to increase your chances.
Understanding your cycle and finding your ‘fertility window’
The length of the menstrual cycle differs from person to person – 21 to 40 days is considered normal, but often around 28 days is seen as more usual, even though the latest research is suggesting fewer than 20% of women tend to experience this. So you need to get to know your own body to be aware of what’s normal for you. Your cycle starts on the first day of your period and ends the day before your next period starts.
You’ll ovulate around 10 to 16 days before the first day of your period (the start of your next menstrual cycle), no matter how long your cycle is. This is when you’re at your most fertile and your chances of getting pregnant are at their highest. These few days are often known as your ‘fertility window’.
If you’re trying to conceive (get pregnant) it’s advised that you have unprotected sex (sex without using contraception) around this window. Although your chances of getting pregnant are higher on these days, it’s still possible to become pregnant on any day of your cycle, including when you have your period (although this is quite unlikely).
How to increase your chances of getting pregnant
As well as trying for a baby at the right time in your cycle, there are a number of things you can do that may help to increase your chances of conceiving, such as:
- having sex every 2 to 3 days without using contraception
- maintaining a healthy weight
- cutting down or stopping drinking alcohol
- stopping smoking (it helps if your partner quits too)
When to see a doctor
You should speak to your doctor if you’re trying to have a baby and:
- have a long-term condition such as diabetes
- there’s a risk of passing a condition onto your baby such as sickle cell disease
- you regularly take medication
- you’re 36 or older
- you feel stressed or anxious
You should also speak to a doctor if you’ve been trying for over a year with no success or have any worries about your fertility.
If you don’t want to become pregnant, a doctor or pharmacist can give advice on the best form of contraception for you. You should also talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you need emergency contraception.
If you’re trying for a baby and have abdominal pain and bleeding, do a pregnancy test. If the results come back positive you should go to the hospital, as this can be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy (when the fertilised egg implants somewhere other than the uterus).
There’s a lot of information available on fertility and getting pregnant, which can be confusing.
Your health questions answered
How soon after implant removal will I ovulate?Answered by: Dr Roger Henderson
This can happen much more quickly than you might think. In clinical trials with implants, pregnancies have happened as early as 7 to 14 days after their removal, and almost all people will ovulate again within 6 weeks. It won’t harm the baby if you want to start trying as soon as you come off the implant. So, you should re-start contraception immediately after removal of your implant if you want to continue to protect against becoming pregnant.
Can I still be pregnant if I had my period?
If you’re pregnant you’ll no longer have a period. However, there are some other things that can cause some bleeding during pregnancy. Sometimes there can be a small amount of bleeding when a fertilised egg implants in the uterus. This is called implantation bleeding and will usually happen at the time you would normally have your period.
Bleeding can also be caused by a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. If you think or know you’re pregnant and you have pain or bleeding, go to hospital immediately.
When can a woman not get pregnant?
You can fall pregnant on any day of your cycle. This is important to know if you don’t want to become pregnant as it means there’s no “safe” time to have unprotected sex without the risk of becoming pregnant.
How many days after my period can I get pregnant?
You’re at your most fertile 10 to 16 days before your next period starts. How long this is after your period starts depends on the length of your cycle.
- it’s possible to become pregnant on any day of your cycle, including when you have your period
- your most fertile days are 10 to 16 days before the start of your next menstrual cycle
- having sex within your ‘fertility window’ and maintaining a healthy lifestyle increases your chances of conceiving
- there are a number of myths around fertility and getting pregnant
- to avoid becoming pregnant you should always use an effective form of contraception
- emergency contraception is available if your contraception has failed or if you’ve had unprotected sex
- you should talk to your doctor if you are finding it hard to conceive or have any concerns about getting pregnant
- your doctor can also give you advice on long-term contraception and emergency contraception