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Pregnancy and Your Ovulation Cycle
Because every woman is different, paying attention to your particular ovulation cycle can help you prevent or achieve pregnancy. If you have had unprotected sex and are worried you might be pregnant, it can help to know when you ovulate. In general, a woman is less likely to get pregnant if she has sex near the very beginning or very end of her cycle.
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As most women know, your chance of pregnancy from a single act of sexual intercourse can vary, depending on when in your cycle you have sex. You are much more fertile at certain times than others. Having a good understanding of this information is useful, both for women who are trying to avoid pregnancy, as well as for those who are trying to become pregnant.
A perfect, textbook ovulation cycle is 28 days long. Menstruation begins on day 1 (by definition), and ovulation occurs somewhere near the midpoint (around day 14 of a 28-day cycle). This divides the cycle into the following different phases:
- The follicular phase: From day 1 (the start of menstruation) until ovulation (during this phase, the body prepares for ovulation)
- The luteal phase: From after ovulation until the end of the cycle (during this phase, the body prepares for the possibility of pregnancy).
Women are most fertile in the few days before they ovulate. Interestingly, sperm can survive within a woman's reproductive tract for quite a long time in the right conditions, but the egg is receptive to fertilization for a much shorter period. This means that a woman is more likely to conceive if she has sex just before ovulation, rather than after.
However, many women do not have "perfect" cycles. Some have very long cycles, while others have short cycles. Some women ovulate earlier in the cycle; some ovulate later. Even in the same woman, there may be quite a bit of variation from cycle to cycle.
Due to this large variation, it is not safe to assume that you ovulate on day 14. In addition, women taking hormonal contraceptives, such as birth control pills, usually do not ovulate at all. A woman who skips birth control pills could ovulate at any time, not just in the middle of her cycle.