You’ve made the big decision to start a family, and the next logical step seems pretty simple. But getting pregnant is not always as easy as it may appear.
“The fertile period begins one-to-six days before ovulation and lasts until ovulation. It is important to be able to predict this window, because once you ovulate, it’s too late,” said Angela Leung, MD, OB/GYN Chief Resident at Tufts Medical Center. “Ovulation occurs 14 days before your period. Most women have their period every 28-to-30 days, but for some women, that range could stretch anywhere from every 24-to-35 days. Every woman is different and the key is pinpointing the right timing for your body.”
App to help plan ahead
Luckily, like for most things these days, there’s an app for that! If you have a smartphone, chances are you have access to a wide variety of ovulation timing apps that can be downloaded for free and can be a big help in identifying your fertile window every month.
“I recommend the app ‘Glow’ to my patients,” said Dr. Leung. “It’s a useful and easy-to-use tool for people who are trying to get pregnant and even for people who are trying not to get pregnant. The app helps you keep track of the days between periods so you can see how regular and consistent your periods are, and eventually determine your interval.”
Ovulation timing apps can also prove quite useful for people who are undergoing fertility treatment, reminding them to take their medication or go to doctor’s appointments. Patients who are monitoring their basal body temperature or using ovulation predictor kits can input that data into these apps as well. And many apps also have a community feature with chat functions, so patients can communicate with other women who are also trying to get pregnant. But while these apps may prove to be very effective for most people, they are not for everybody.
Success of apps for tracking fertility
“The apps are most useful for the approximately 80 percent of women with regular periods,” said Dr. Leung. “Apps will not be as accurate or effective for people with irregular periods. If you have irregular periods, you should be evaluated by an OB/GYN for a number of potential medical issues that may or may not serious, but may need to be treated.”
Of course, just because you are using an ovulation timing app and have determined your fertile window doesn’t guarantee you’ll get pregnant on the first try or even in the first few tries.
“If you are younger than 35 with regular periods, it’s reasonable to try getting pregnant for a year before exploring options for additional help; if you are 35 or older, give it six months,” said Dr. Leung. “Some women may need to see a fertility specialist to get further treatment, which may include medication or in-vitro fertilization (IVF).”
Dr. Leung also stresses that once you’ve made the decision to try to get pregnant, it’s never too early to make sure you give yourself the best chance at a successful pregnancy.
“I always recommend making an appointment to see your OB/GYN for counseling to optimize the health of your pregnancy - even before you are pregnant,” said Dr. Leung. “You should also start taking a folic acid-rich prenatal vitamin before beginning to try to get pregnant. Folic acid is important in fetal brain development, which happens four weeks after conception - often before the woman even knows she is pregnant. That’s why it’s so important to already be taking this vitamin at the time of conception - by the time you find out you are pregnant, it may be too late.”
Once again, timing is everything!