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Use your Menstrual Cycle to Help your Doctor Determine Your Fertility

November 23, 2018
Nicolette Kier

Your most fertile time of the month is not a mystery--conception does not have to come through luck alone. Your menstrual cycle carries with it more than just cramps and bloating: it carries information that can be useful to you and your doctor. By taking measures to monitor your menstrual cycle, you can better understand when to “get busy’, so to speak.

In this article, we’ll take you through:

  • The facts about fertility
  • What time of the month you are most fertile
  • How to track your menstrual cycle
  • When to see a fertility specialist

The Facts About Fertility

More women are having children than 10 years ago, and more women are delaying having children, according to the Pew Research Center. A record 86% of women aged 40 to 44 are mothers, compared to 80% in 2006.

The average age of conception has also increased, according to the study. And as age is a key factor in the inability to conceive, more and more women are looking at ways to increase their chances of getting pregnant.

Reproduction 101

Behold, that magical time of discovery, growth and babymaking: that’s right, age 21 to 24! At this age, 90% of eggs are chromosomally normal, making this the optimal time for childbearing. From 25 to 34, there is an 86% chance of conception, with a 10% chance of miscarriage, only slightly higher than in the early 20s.

By 35, chances of fertility start to decline, the most common reason being less frequent ovulation, according to the American Pregnancy Association. There is also an increased chance of miscarriage, abnormal pregnancy and down syndrome pregnancy.

By the time a woman hits her 40’s, egg quality and quantity are drastically declining. 90% of her eggs are chromosomally abnormal. Women approaching menopause may also see their cycles start to shorten, changing the time of ovulation.

As more women are waiting these days, they are running headfirst into these challenges. Tracking ovulation becomes increasingly important as the windows of conception move around.

Young women should also be tracking their cycles. If they do not conceive within a certain time frame of actively trying, it could indicate a problem.

Test positive, even later in life, by trying at peak ovulation periods (Image courtesy of Medical News Today)

Your Time of the Month

Making a baby comes down to plain old ovulation. This is the time in the menstrual cycle in which a mature egg is released from the ovary, setting the stage for fertilization. During ovulation, the egg travels down the fallopian tube, where it meets up with a sperm and become fertilized.

Ovulation usually lasts about two days--the day of ovulation itself (when the egg is released), and the 24 hours before it. This is when you’re most fertile. To increase chances of pregnancy, couples should be intimate every day during the ovulation phase, and every other day leading up to it.

Obviously, you have to know when you’re ovulating to increase your chances of conception. How do you determine this? Your menstrual cycle will tell you, and tracking it is the best way to learn when it’s time to get busy.

Your menstrual cycle holds the secret of your fertility. (Image courtesy of C-K12)

Tracking your Menstrual Cycle

While the average menstrual cycle is 28 days, every woman is different, and can vary from 26 days to 32. As there is only a short window of prime fertility, you’re going to want to be as in the know about your cycle as possible.

Begin by tracking the length of your own menstrual cycle, then take note of when you get your period. About 12 to 14 days before you get your next period is usually when you would be ovulating.

Mother Nature Calling

Mother Nature has a way of keeping the human species alive, and the same is true when it comes to ovulation. Your body gives off signs that you’re ovulating; learn to listen to them and you can increase your chances of “hitting your ovulation mark”.

Typical ovulation symptoms include clear cervical discharge, increased basal temperature (temperature of your body while at rest), cramping, breast tenderness, fluid retention, appetite, mood and libido changes. For more indicators of ovulation, check out signs and symptoms of ovulation.

Tracking in the 21st Century

We’ve evolved from pen and paper when it comes to tracking data, and this is true for tracking your menstrual cycle too. There are many software services  to help you manage your cycle, as well as ovulation kits and trackers.

A fertility app could help you track your menstrual cycle, as you (pretty much) always have it on you. You can log symptoms as they happen and even set reminders (and text alerts to your partner) that it’s time to start trying.

A urine ovulation kit could also help you determine when you’re ovulating. The kit measures when the body is flushed with luteinizing hormone (LH) that signals ovulation. You can choose between digital tests and daily test strips, which work just as well.

Be sure to tell your doctor about any tests or trackers you use when trying to conceive, as the data you collect could be useful in determining normal ovulation and timing in conception counseling. Tracking your menstrual cycle could be super useful in helping your doctor determine if there is something wrong faster than if you were to go at conception blindly, and as you can see, timing is everything in the baby game.

Fertility apps are a convenient way to bring you one step closer to conception. (Image courtesy of HelloGiggles)

When to See a Specialist

If there is something wrong, it’s better to see a specialist sooner rather than later.

Women under 25 have a 96% chance of conception if they’re trying every month. Most fertility issues in younger couples are on the male’s side and are easily treatable. However, if conception is taking longer than a year, it’s time to see a specialist.

From age 25 to 34, there is an 86%, and the same rule of thumb goes: if you’ve been actively trying for more than a year, seek the help of a fertility specialist.

During your early 30’s, there is still a high chance of conception, but there is a 20% chance of miscarriage. Some doctors recommend seeking help if you’ve been trying with no luck for 9 months, that way a specialist can pinpoint any problems before your fertility starts to decline more rapidly.

In your late 30’s, don’t wait more than 6 months before talking to your PCP or ob-gyn, as egg quality and quantity is declining. This is the point where your doctor may start talking about intrauterine insemination or in vitro fertilization (IVF) as treatment options.

During your early 40’s, see your doctor if you’re having trouble conceiving at 3 months. For women who have low ovarian reserve and produce only a few embryos, or for women over the age of 43, egg donation is usually the best option.

For women 45 and over, the chance of getting pregnant are only 3-4%. At this point, reproductive assistance is almost always necessary, so if you’re looking to conceive at this age, talk to your doctor immediately about your options. Most clinics recommend using donor eggs from a younger woman if a woman between 46 and 50 wants to have a biological pregnancy.

The Takeaway

No matter what age you are, tracking your menstrual cycle is only going to help your chances of conception. It will help you determine when exactly you are ovulating, as well as clue your doctor into any fertility issues you may have and the options that are available to you.

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