FAQ's - General Fertility
Below, we have provided brief answers to the most frequently asked questions pertaining to
fertility. If you have a question that doesn't appear on this page, please do not hesitate to
contact us and we will do our best to answer your query or direct you to appropriate sources.
Fertility & Cycle FAQ's
Q: What percent of a woman's cycle is fertile?
A: Most women are fertile for only a few days per cycle. However, there are several factors to consider:
- The woman's egg can only live up to 24 hours. Two or more eggs may be released over a maximum of 24 hours. A woman is only fertile for about a day or two. But the man's sperm can live up to 5 days, so the combined fertility of the two individuals is about a week.
- For a couple trying to get pregnant, the woman's fertile phase is as long as she has fertile quality cervical fluid, up through ovulation. That might be several days, or as few as one.
- For a couple trying to prevent pregnancy, family planning methods add a buffer zone of a few days to assure that an unplanned pregnancy does not occur. This usually results in about 7-10 days being considered fertile per cycle.
Q: Can you be pregnant and still have your period?
A: It would be unusual to be pregnant and still have a normal period. The drop in progesterone levels is the stimulus for menstruation and this will occur if fertilisation does not happen. If fertilisation does occur progesterone levels would remain high, thus preventing menstruation. Of course, there are times when pregnant women do indeed bleed, but by definition, these bleeding episodes are not true menstrual periods:
- Implantation spotting: This is usually brownish spotting that occurs in some women about a week or two following fertilization. It is due to the egg implanting in the uterine lining, causing a small amount of the lining to be shed.
- Bleeding due to hormonal shifts occurring with pregnancy: In this case, it may be perfectly normal, or it may signal a potential problem requiring a physician's observation.
- Then there are the cases where the opposite occurs, in which a woman actually thinks she is pregnant when she really is not. The most common cause of this is when women have a delayed ovulation, which causes them to menstruate later than usual, often leading them to think that they are pregnant because their period is late.
Q: How does the Pill work?
A: In essence, the Pill works by tricking the body into thinking it's already pregnant. It does this by manipulating the normal hormonal feedback system. The end result is that the body doesn't release the hormones necessary to stimulate the ovary to release an egg. As a back-up, every other facet of the woman's reproductive system is also altered. The uterine lining is prevented from producing a suitable environment for egg implantation, and the cervical fluid doesn't develop the fertile quality necessary for sperm survival.
Q: Do women always ovulate on Day 14 of their cycle?
A: The day of ovulation can vary among women as well as within each individual woman. However, once a woman ovulates the time between ovulation and her menstruation is very consistent, almost always between 12 and 16 days. Within most individual women, this length of time generally doesn't change by more than a day or two. In other words, if there is going to be variation in the cycle, it is the first pre-ovulatory phase that may vary. The second (postovulatory) phase generally remains consistent.
Q: Can you "feel" ovulation happen?
A: The most obvious outward sign of impending ovulation is increasing levels of cervical mucous. If a woman notices this, she should assume that ovulation is about to happen within a day or two. This is what is referred to as a primary fertility sign. Some women are lucky enough to notice other signs on a regular basis, all of which are very helpful in being able to further understand their cycles. These signs are referred to as secondary fertility signs, because they do not necessarily occur in all women, or in every cycle in individual women. Yet they are still very practical for giving women additional information to identify their fertile and infertile phases.
Secondary signs as ovulation approaches may include:
- Mid-cycle spotting
- Pelvic/Abdominal pain or achiness near the ovaries and uterus
- Increased sexual feelings
- Swollen labia
- Abdominal bloating
- Water retention
- Increased energy level
- Heightened sense of vision, smell and taste
- Increased sensitivity in breasts and skin
- Breast tenderness
Q: Do women always ovulate on Day 14 of their cycle?
A: The day of ovulation can vary among women as well as within each individual woman. However, once a woman ovulates, the time between ovulation and her menstruation is very consistent, almost always between 12 and 16 days. Within most individual women, this length of time generally doesn't change by more than a day or two. In other words, if there is going to be variation in the cycle, it is the first pre-ovulatory phase that may vary. The second (postovulatory) phase generally remains constant.
Q: Is it safe to start trying to get pregnant right after stopping The Pill?
A: It used to be that women were encouraged to wait several cycles before trying to conceive following the use of the Pill. But nowadays, many doctors suggest trying shortly after discontinuing it, since some speculate there is a higher chance of conceiving within the first few months after stopping. When a woman comes off the Pill or other hormones, her cycles will usually revert back to the way they were before. However, the length of time it takes varies among women. For some, it is almost immediate. But for most, there is at least a short delay. And for others, it could take many months. This variation is a function of the type and dosage of hormones used, as well as the basic physiology of the woman.
Oral Contraceptives & Fertility Awareness FAQ's
Q: How soon after childbirth will I start ovulating? Can I expect the same cycle as before?
A: Women who don't breastfeed find that their cycles resume very quickly - as early as 4-10 weeks after childbirth. But, if you meet the following three criteria, then your chances of ovulating are only about 2%:
- Your menses have not returned.
- You are fully or nearly fully breastfeeding.
- Your baby is less than six months old.
Q: Do women feel more sexual around ovulation?
A: Many women do. The increase in cervical mucus caused by raised oestrogen levels may feel similar to sexual lubrication, and can therefore be experienced as a sexual feeling.
Q: Can a woman get pregnant during her period?
A: It is essentially impossible for a woman to get pregnant during her period, but on rare occasions it is possible for a woman to get pregnant from intercourse during her period. Since sperm can live for five days, a couple could have sex near the end of the woman's period, and the sperm could then live long enough to fertilize an egg several days later, if the woman had a very early ovulation. (Conception is more likely in these cases if intercourse occurs at the end of a 6- or 7-day menstruation.) It's also possible that women who think they got pregnant from intercourse during their period were actually having sex during ovulatory spotting.
Q: What are your chances of conceiving in any given cycle?
A: It is believed that the average fertile couple has about a 25% chance of conceiving for any given cycle, depending on their age, frequency of intercourse, and numerous other factors. Of course, if couples are taught precisely when to time intercourse based on when the woman is most fertile, those odds can be greatly increased.
Q: Are there sexual positions that can increase chances for conception?
A: There is considerable speculation that the best position for intercourse is the traditional missionary position. This allows for deepest penetration, and will thus deposit the sperm closest to the cervix, where the sperm need to pass through.
Q: Will lying still after making love improve your chance of conception?
A: Some clinicians also believe that if the man's sperm count is marginal, or the woman's cervical fluid is not that fertile (i.e. if her cervical fluid is not very slippery or wet), it may be advantageous to remain horizontal for up to half an hour after intercourse. The theory is that this will help assure the sperm time to travel up through the cervix to the fallopian tubes, where conception occurs.
Q: What does implantation bleeding look like?
A: Not all women experience implantation bleeding, but if they do, it is usually light spotting that is typically brownish, and appears about 7-10 days after conception. It is caused by the egg burrowing into the uterine lining.
Q: What is secondary infertility?
A: Secondary infertility simply means problems getting pregnant or sustaining pregnancy in a woman who has had a child previously. One of the most important factors to remember for those who can't understand why they are unable to achieve a pregnancy as easily as their first child is that, by definition, they are older now, and fertility diminishes with age. Furthermore, they may have always been of lower fertility, but had a lucky break the first time they had a child.
Q: Can excessively low weight prevent you from getting pregnant, even if you have regular 28-day cycles?
A: Low weight is typically only a problem if it is preventing you from ovulating. The average woman should have a minimum of about 20% body fat to maintain normal ovulatory cycles. The main purpose of the fat is to store enough oestrogen to allow your body to pass over a threshold necessary to release an egg. Experiencing regular "periods" doesn't guarantee that you are ovulating, but it usually does imply it.
Q: Can douching affect your ability to conceive?
A: Women should not douche when trying to get pregnant since it alters the normal acidity of the vagina and can ironically lead to vaginal infections and Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID.) In addition, douching alters the vaginal environment to such an extent that sperm usually can't survive. It may cause inflammations or allergic reactions which can kill sperm or impair sperm survival. And finally, it may wash away the very cervical fluid that sperm need to get through the cervix to the egg. Other than those little details, douching's no problem!