Are you really having fertility problems—or is your baby-making math just a little off? According to a new study from Australia, the vast majority of women who seek help from fertility specialists don't know when they're most likely to conceive naturally—which sets up the possibility that the trouble they've had getting pregnant could just be a case of bad timing.
What's the count on how many miscount their cycles? Researchers in Melbourne, Australia polled 204 women who had made appointments at local fertility clinics and found that a whopping 87 percent could not correctly identify peak fertility days in their menstrual cycle, even though 68 percent said they believed they had accurately timed sex in their attempts to get pregnant. Curiously, more than 80 percent of women indicated they had tried to learn more about fertility when they started trying to conceive.
If you're worried your math might be a little fuzzy, we can help! Here's a primer: A woman is most fertile during the few days just before and including ovulation, which typically occurs 14 days before the start of her period (for women with regular 28-day cycles). Ovulation can be better pinpointed by monitoring changes in your cervical mucus that indicate fertile vs. not-so fertile days and tracking of basal body temperature, another indicator that ovulation is taking place.
Once you have a clear picture of when you're ovulating, it's time to get down to business! Though sperm can live as long as three to five days inside a woman's body, an egg's life span is only about 12 to 24 hours. By having sex before you ovulate, as well as on the day of and the day after ovulation, you maximize your chances of getting pregnant.
Most doctors advise having intercourse every day or every other day beginning about five days before ovulation, and continuing through the day after ovulation.
Is math just not your strong suit? Some couples still prefer the spontaneous approach to getting pregnant.
"We just had sex every day for a month. It worked for us!" says mom Stefani Watkins of Gainesville, Florida.