Ovulation facts

How much do you know about ovulation? We answer the most frequently asked questions from women trying to conceive.

Q. Can you ovulate twice in one month?
A. Yes. But this is fairly rare, and is what happens in the case of non-identical twins. If ovulation happens twice it is always within 24 hours. So your fertile time will still be over the same few days of your cycle.

Q. How long can the sperm survive?
A. Sperm can live for 2-3 days inside a woman’s body. However, during the optimum conditions which accompany the ovulation time it can survive for up to a week.

Q. How long am I fertile for each month?
A. The vast majority of pregnancies occur due to intercourse in the six day period before ovulation occurs. This fertile window will generally occur earlier in shorter cycles and later in longer cycles.

Q. I have regular periods. Does this prove my ovulation is normal?
A. Regular periods can occur even if ovulation has not occurred, so are not necessarily a sign you have ovulated during your cycle.

Q. How can be certain I have ovulated?
A. With great difficulty! Currently there are only three ways to confirm that ovulation is occurring: being pregnant; an ultrasound scan showing a collapsed follicle or a blood test showing a raised progesterone level.

Q. What is a progesterone test and should I have one?
A. A progesterone test can show ovulation has occurred, but needs to be taken on day 21 of a 28 day cycle. At this time raised progesterone levels will show that ovulation has occurred. Whilst the absence of raised levels will show if no ovulation has taken place.

Q. How accurate is temperature at indicating ovulation?
A. An accurately taken waking temperature can give some idea of the possible presence or absence of ovulation and any ovulatory problems, but temperature recordings are not conclusive and can be stressful so are not generally recommended.

Q. Should I use a predictor kit?
A. Some women find these useful, but they should be used alongside understanding of how your cervical secretions chance during fertiles times. An ovulation predictor kit tests for a surge in luteinising hormone. Ovulation normally follows within 36 hours of the LH surge, but a positive LH test does not always indicate that ovulation will follow.

Q. What should I be looking for in my cervical secretions?
A. During fertile times oestrogen changes cervical secretions to allow sperm to live longer in the woman’s body, and enter the womb more easily. Typically fertile secretions are wetter, slippery and more stretchy. To maximise the chance of conception, sex should occur on days with optimal mucus quality, regardless of the exact timing relative to ovulation.

Q. I’ve noticed as I get older I have less secretions – is this a problem?
A. Not necessarily. And plenty of water and good quality dietary fats can help. But it is very important to ascertain whether secretions have diminished due to age, or other factors such as hormonal imbalance or poor follicular development – this is where egg growth is not sufficiently stimulated in the ovaries.

Q. The time between ovulation and my period seems to have got shorter. Why is this?
A. As women age, ovulation becomes less frequent and the interval between ovulation and the next period (luteal phase) may be deficient or shortened. This may be a normal part of the ageing process or may have other causes. However, if there are less than 10 days from ovulation to the next period, there is not enough time for a fertilised egg to implant in the endometrium (womb lining).

Q. Which lifestyle factors most impact on ovulation?
A. Stress can have a large impact because it disrupts hormones associated with fertility. Weight fluctuations can also have an impact, and being underweight can be more detrimental to fertility than being slightly overweight. Other health issues such as anaemia and medications can have an impact. As can smoking, excess alcohol and poor diet.

Q. I think I might have a problem with my thyroid. Can that affect fertility?
A. The thyroid gland is like the body’s thermostat, releasing hormones to speed up your metabolism and burn more fuel, or slow down and conserve energy. Issues like stress and illness can affect the thyroid, disrupting its natural processes. And since your hormones are interrelated this can affect fertility.

Q. I’ve just come off the pill. How long will it take for my cycles to return?
A. This varies from person to person. The first month after you stop taking the pill is usually a particularly fertile cycle. After this ovulation can be disrupted for a few months in most women. For others it may take longer for ovulation to return to a normal pattern, despite regular periods.

Q. I’m breastfeeding. What affect does this have on my fertility?
A. Breast-feeding suppresses ovulation and it may take a while after stopping breast-feeding for a normal ovulatory pattern to return, despite seemingly normal periods.

Q. Can I time intercourse to affect the sex of the baby?
A. No. When you have sex makes no difference to the gender of the baby.

Q. How often should we be having sex?
A. Three to four times a week is ideal. This will ensure a healthy amount of active sperm is always present to fertilise the egg. Sex should also happen in enough time prior to ovulation for the sperm to ready themselves in the fallopian tubes.

For more information on ovulation, timing sex to conceive, investigations into ovulation problems or unusual patterns of cervical secretions, you may like to arrange a fertility awareness consultation with Jane Knight, fertility nurse specialist.

Contact our clinic to arrange a personal or, if preferred, Skype consultation.

Woman Thinking

Can you think yourself pregnant?

We all know that there’s more to getting pregnant than just thinking positively. On the other hand, it’s not all about having sex at the ‘right’ time. Scientists are continuing to learn more and more about the powerful connection between mind and body and how this can affect a person’s fertility.

Bad thoughts can feed every cell in the body, leading to psychological blocks that stand in the way of conception. When it comes to having a baby, most people understand the importance of looking after themselves physically. They make an effort to eat the right foods, exercise regularly and take appropriate vitamins. But far fewer pay attention to the health of their minds and the bearing this can have on fertility.

Negative emotions and behaviours can lead to increased anxiety, depression and stress, all of which are pervasive elements that affect our reproductive health. When a woman finds herself faced with another negative pregnancy test month after month, it’s understandable that she begins to feel less in control of her body and life. Anxiety sets in, stress levels increase, and the problem gets worse.

A woman’s relationship with her partner is also crucial when managing mental health. If she feels anger and resentment towards her partner, they are probably not connecting on an emotional level and not enjoying sex – hardly a conducive environment to making a baby together.

Negative moods like stress, anxiety and depression cause hormonal imbalances in the body that can suppress ovulation, sexual activity and sperm count. We need to become masters of our brains by dedicating time, energy and focus to calm the mind and positively influence our bodies’ hormones that affect reproduction.

Our top five tips to start using your mind to help your body conceive

1 ‘Relaxacise’
Just like we exercise our bodies to improve circulation, reduce stress and increase energy, we can do the same for our brains. Exercise for the mind is a new kind of meditation that restores and calms the mind. It’s about deep relaxation and is ideally suited for women trying to conceive.
Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed and put on some peaceful music. You may want to sit, recline or lie down, just make sure you get in the same position each time so your body becomes conditioned to relax. Close your eyes and breathe deeply by expanding your abdomen as far as it will go. Hold it for a few seconds, then slowly exhale. Concentrate on the sound of your breath to help quieten your thoughts. Now, with your eyes stills closed, think carefully about each body part, starting with your head, while saying the words ‘relax’ or ‘heal’ or ‘become quiet and heavy’. Whatever words work for you. Above all, make sure that this time is enjoyable and just for you.

2 Acupuncture
Don’t be put off by the use of needles. This is a painless procedure that works on the theory that some illnesses are derived from an imbalance in the body’s natural energies or ‘chi’. The insertion of needles aims to adjust this imbalance. It is particularly affective at reducing stress, which as we know is a key factor in the fertility of both men and women. When people are under stress, the hormone cortisol is released in the brain. Acupuncture counters the effects of this by releasing endorphins that exert a calming effect that relieves symptoms of stress. Studies have also shown that acupuncture raises progesterone levels – one of the hormones needed for conception – in ovulating women by increasing blood flow and balancing the endocrine system. More information on acupuncture and reproduction can be found on our Acupuncture for Fertility page

3 Visualisation
The mind is a powerful tool and visualisation has shown in studies to cause physical changes in a person’s body. It can quickly shift your thoughts and beliefs from a negative to a positive state and is particularly affective when enhancing fertility. Start by relaxing your body and quietening your thoughts. Then just let an image of fertility come to mind. It can be anything: an opening flower, a running stream, a beautiful pregnant woman. It may take the form of a colour, shape or word. Every time you picture this image, imagine yourself feeling confident, peaceful, feminine and fertile. Your mind cannot tell the difference between imaginary and reality so the emotions you begin to feel as you repeat this exercise gradually become the real thing. Practice and repetition is key.

4 Fertility Massage
Fertility massage can include a combination of abdominal sacral massage, pulsing, trigger point therapy and reflexology. A woman’s body will often hold on to a lot of stress and emotion in her abdomen. These techniques are designed to ease tension and clear the mind, as well as physical benefits such as increasing circulation to the uterus, ovaries and eggs, in addition to bringing fresh oxygenated blood to the reproductive system. A skilled practitioner can perform this technique, or you and your partner can learn how to do it yourselves through various books and DVDs available. Both can be incredibly affective if done correctly and regularly.

5 Hypnotherapy
The mind can affect a person’s ability to get pregnant on many levels. Hypnotherapy is an extremely effective way of accessing the mental state, giving you the power to reduce stress, boost positivity, release deep-seated fears and re-programme unhelpful habits. It works by making suggestions to the subconscious part of the mind and has a cumulative impact. A typical session will usually begin with an informal chat with your practitioner, who will ask more about your goals and objectives for the session. Find out about Hypnotherapy at the Zita West Clinic on our Hypnotherapy for Fertility page

Then begins the process of guiding you from normal waking consciousness into the hypnotic state. Gently, the hypnotherapist will guide you through visualisation exercises and help to reinforce thoughts of conception to make a positive impact on your subconscious mind. It is normal to be given a set of skills and techniques that you can practice on your own, allowing you to access the most positive state of your mind whenever you want.

If you would like to find out more about any of these techniques contact our Clinic for a consultation


Top ten embarrassing sex questions…

We know how awkward it can be discussing embarrassing sex questions with your doctor. So here are ten of the most common queries from couples trying to conceive so you don’t have to…

1 Does a woman need to orgasm to conceive?
No, not at all. An estimated 80 per cent of women struggle to orgasm during sex, but there are plenty of women still getting pregnant. I will say that the odds are slightly in your favour if you do manage to orgasm as the muscles involved help to propel sperm towards the egg so it progresses quicker. But as a whole, do not worry that a lack of orgasm is the reason you’re failing to get pregnant.

2 Can oral sex improve your chances of falling pregnant?
No, it’s important to avoid oral sex during and around ovulation. Saliva contains enzymes and other agents that can damage sperm and hinder their journey towards the egg. If oral sex is something you enjoy as a couple, then by all means keep doing it – but avoid the fertile window.

3 How often do I need to have sex to stand a chance of conceiving?
Three to four times a week is perfect for getting a good supply of sperm during fertile times. When trying to conceive, I ask patients to focus less on when the egg is released, and more on how much sperm is available. Sperm lives for three to four days, so regular sex will ensure there is a constant supply and therefore maximum potential for conception to take place.

4 What is the best sexual position for getting pregnant?
Men in particular worry that they need to be penetrating deeply to improve their chances. Women on the other hand are more interested in whether certain positions will help the sperm stay in side them. The truth is, it doesn’t matter one little bit. Any position is good, providing you’re relaxed, comfortable and enjoying the moment together.

5 Can you have too much sex to get pregnant?
When trying for a baby, you can never have too much sex. A lot of women worry that, by having too much sex, they are reducing the amount of sperm available or affecting its quality. In fact, the opposite is true. If a man stores up his sperm it will come out in greater quantity, but a lot of it will be dead. Sex also releases a lot of fertility friendly hormones in both men and women, so if you’re trying for a family, more is better.

6 Is it OK to use lubricants and gels when trying for a baby?
It’s best to avoid using a lubricant if you can, although for some women who suffer with vaginal dryness, this is not possible. If sex is uncomfortable without a vaginal lubricant it’s important to make sure that you are using a safe one that is not going to affect the sperm’s ability to swim through the cervix to reach the egg.

7 How do I stop fluid running out of my vagina after sex?
To an extent you can’t, but that’s completely normal. Women worry that flow-back means the sperm is coming out of them, and therefore not reaching the egg. Don’t panic. Sperm are generally good swimmers and will pass through cervical secretions very quickly after ejaculation. There will always be some residual seminal fluid containing weaker sperm left in the vagina. This will run out of the woman’s vagina about 10-15 minutes after sex, regardless of what position was adopted. Having said this, it makes sense to lie flat for about 20 minutes and avoid wiping inside the vagina or washing immediately.

8 Do you need passion to conceive?
For men, more testosterone is produced in the morning. It has been proven that sperm is healthier when more testosterone is present, so having sex first thing could improve your chances, despite it conflicting with busy schedules and ideals.

9 What is the best fertility gadget to increase my chances of conception?
I’m going to say none. A lot of women swear by ovulation kits, apps and measuring basal body temperature. That’s fine, although they should be used alongside an understanding of how your cervical secretions change during your fertile time. Fertility gadgets also present the danger of making you more obsessive and conscious of the fertility process, and therefore adding to your stress levels.

10 Is my partner right to worry about how long he lasts?
Men often have a lot of pent up anxieties surrounding their performance in the bedroom and how this will affect their fertility. How long they last, what size they are, how much sperm they produce…. None of this will make a difference in making a healthy baby.