How many times have you heard that you’re supposed to ovulate on day 14 and if you’re trying to get pregnant that’s when you should be having the sex? This tip may seem helpful but it feeds into one of the most common myths about fertility! What you probably don’t know is that if you’re making sure you have sex on day 14 of your cycle you could be lowering your chances of getting pregnant.
The 5 fertility myths you should know when you’re trying to conceive:
1. You ovulate on day 14 of your cycle
If you happen to have a 28 day cycle you might ovulate on day 14, but there’s a huge problem with this line of thinking. Most women don’t have 28 day cycles every single month without fail. Furthermore, most women don’t ovulate on day 14, and even if your cycles are fairly “regular” I guarantee you that you don’t ovulate exactly on day 14 every time. It just doesn’t work that way. Believe it or not, you’re actually a human being, not a machine, and with that comes variation and fluctuations both on a monthly basis and also throughout your reproductive life.
Let’s put this into perspective: if your cycle lasts 32 days (day 1 is the first day of your period), you probably ovulated on day 17 or 18, but even if you’re able to point out what day you ovulated that month it doesn’t mean you’ll always ovulate on the same day of your cycle every single month.
Even if you do ovulate on day 14, waiting to have sex on that day could be too late because once you ovulate, the egg only survives for 12-24 hours. Your body knows this, and that’s why you make cervical mucus on the days leading up to ovulation. Cervical mucus nourishes sperm, keeps them alive, and helps them to make their way up to your fallopian tubes where they meet the egg. This ensures that by the time you ovulate the sperm are already there to fertilize the egg. What that means is that the best time to have sex when you’re trying to conceive is before ovulation on the days you see cervical mucus! This brings me to the 2nd myth.
2. The best time to have sex when you’re trying to conceive is on ovulation day
Figuring out the date you ovulate is important, but for different reasons than you might think. When you’re using fertility awareness either to get pregnant or as birth control, the most important fertility sign for you to pay attention to is cervical mucus. There is only a short window, about 5-7 days in your cycle when you can actually get pregnant, and it’s your mucus that makes your vagina sperm friendly and keeps sperm alive for up to 5 days. Without mucus your vagina actually kills off sperm left and right. When you’re trying to get pregnant the best time to have sex is on the days you see mucus, and especially on the days when you see clear, stretchy mucus, not on “ovulation day”!
3. You can ovulate more than once, and it can happen on any day of your menstrual cycle
Ovulation doesn’t just randomly happen for no reason, it is an event that happens at the end of a series of hormonal and physiological changes. Ask any woman who has PCOS or Hypothalamic Amenorrhea if ovulation “just happens” and you’ll find that this whole ovulation thing isn’t as simple as you thought it was.
In order for you to ovulate a series of hormonal events have to happen to trigger your body to release an egg. As your your follicles (eggs) develop in the first half of your cycle your estrogen level rises and eventually rises high enough to trigger your pituitary gland to release Luteinizing Hormone (LH). The surge of LH is what triggers your ovaries to burst open and release an egg. Once the egg is released your ovaries start pumping out loads of progesterone, and progesterone shuts down ovulation for the rest of your cycle. Kind of a mouthful isn’t it?
The point of that description is to demonstrate to you that your body is amazing, intelligent, and complicated. You only ovulate on one day each cycle, and it happens over one 12-24 hour period of time. Obviously you can release more than one egg during ovulation or no one would ever have fraternal twins, but if you’re going to ovulate “more than once” it’s going to happen on ovulation day: 2 eggs, 1 day. Both released within the same 12-24 hour span of time. So you can’t ovulate on Tuesday and then again on Friday. After you ovulate your body closes shop as far as ovulation is concerned!
4. Taking your temperature can help you predict ovulation
Basal Body temperature is a measure of your metabolic rate. After you ovulate your metabolism goes up (as a result of a surge in progesterone), and you can measure this shift when you take your temperature every morning. The thing is that the rise in temperature confirms that ovulation has already happened. It doesn’t predict anything. You might see a dip in your temperature the day before ovulation, but not every woman will see “the dip”. Since we already know that the most important fertility sign to pay attention to when trying to conceive is cervical mucus, although your temperature shift is extremely useful in telling you when you ovulated (past tense), you’ll want to pay close attention to your mucus and time sex based on when you have mucus instead of waiting for your temp shift.
5. You can get pregnant on any day of your cycle
I remember being taught that I could get pregnant at anytime in my cycle. I learned that every single day was a fertile day. It felt like a threat because it was never “safe” to have sex without having to worry about pregnancy. That is until I learned about fertility awareness.
There are only about 5-6 days in your cycle when it’s possible for you to get pregnant. What fertility awareness boils down to is your ability to identify which days are fertile and which days aren’t, and you do this by observing your cervical mucus patterns, changes in your cervical position, and changes in your basal body temperature.
If you consider that you can only get pregnant from unprotected sex on about 5-6 days of your cycle, then doesn’t it seem excessive to use birth control pills that prevent pregnancy 24 hours a day 7 days a week? If you think about it, you’re actually infertile most of the time. If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for awhile now you’ll recognize the irony here since it’s not always as easy to conceive. It turns out that you actually can’t get pregnant on every day of your cycle.
Now I want to hear from you! Did you still believe some of these myths? Which ones are hardest for you to let go of? Were you trying to conceive on the wrong day of your cycle? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!