woman thinking about her chances of getting pregnant before, during, and after ovulation

Chances Of Getting Pregnant Before, During, And After Ovulation

When trying to conceive (TTC), you should be having sex as much as you can to maximise your chances. However, timing is still key to hitting the jackpot (read: becoming pregnant). 

If you’re a fan of steak and eggs, you’re also probably aware that timing is everything to pull off both components of this classic brunch dish. Nobody wants to chew their jaws off an overcooked steak before their morning coffee kicks in. And if the egg yolks aren’t runny? Someone’s mouth will surely be running.

Couples who are TTC face a similar situation. Although they should be engaging in sexual intercourse before, during, and after ovulation (essentially, as much as possible) for the highest chances of success, getting the timing right matters as well. Women typically ovulate just once a month, so you’ll need to make extra hay during that short period of time.

What’s a couple to do, then? What are a lady’s actual chances of getting pregnant outside of this crucial window? It’s time to find out, and the results might surprise you more than you think.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended as medical advice.


What is ovulation?

Before diving into the probabilities of conceiving at various stages of the menstrual cycle, here’s a little recap regarding what ovulation is. This process involves a mature egg being released from the ovary and heading to the fallopian tube. The mature egg then sits there for approximately 12 to 24 hours, and this is the prime time for fertilisation [1].

Assuming an average 28-day menstrual cycle, ovulation occurs approximately 14 days before your next menstrual cycle begins. This is a gauge that you and your partner can use when you’re planning things out. If you would like to be extra sure, do consider the twoplus Ovulation Test Kit. Whether you’re at home or outside, this compact test kit gives you a convenient, quick and accurate forecast of your ovulation cycle.

Additionally, your body does indicate when you’re about to ovulate. This would be vagina secretions, also known as cervical mucus, which become clear and stretchy (egg white-like) around ovulation [2]. After ovulation, your cervical mucus either disappears or becomes thick and cloudy. In addition, your basal body temperature increases ever so slightly during ovulation.

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What are your chances of conceiving before ovulation?

Funnily enough, your chances of conceiving in the days leading up to ovulation are at their highest. To be precise, this would be the second half of the follicular phase. That’s because sperm can survive in your reproductive system for up to 5 days [3]. Having sex during this period of time ensures that there are sperm waiting at the ready once you do ovulate.

A 2018 study performed in the USA with over 98,000 women provided the following figures regarding the probability of conceiving during a woman’s fertile window [4]:

    • 7 days before ovulation: 3%
    • 6 days before ovulation: 6%
    • 5 days before ovulation: 9%
    • 4 days before ovulation: 18%
    • 3 days before ovulation: 27%
    • 2 days before ovulation: 33%
    • 1 day before ovulation: 42%

For women TTC, it’s important that you are aware of your menstrual cycle. According to this particular study, the probability of conceiving before ovulation is a whopping 42%. Leverage this information to make your nightly tussles under the sheets even more efficient.


What are your chances of conceiving during ovulation?

At this point, you must be thinking that your chances of conceiving during ovulation must be even higher right? Unfortunately, that’s not quite the case because in an ideal scenario, live sperm should already be present in the fallopian tubes when ovulation occurs. After all, some time is needed for sperm to make its way from the vagina to the fallopian tubes.

In the same study mentioned above, the probability of conceiving on the day of ovulation is just 20% [4]. That’s about the same as 4 days before ovulation, so the proof is definitely in the pudding. Not only are the chances of conceiving lower on the day of ovulation itself, this exact day can’t be determined with full accuracy every month.

You and your partner might find it easier to just go at it on a regular basis in the week leading up to ovulation. Furthermore, a good number of couples out there don’t have sex just to get pregnant. That’s because it has the potential to lead to several problems, including a lowered libido and performance anxiety.



What are your chances of conceiving after ovulation?

This might appear to be a no-brainer but rest assured that not all hope is lost if you and your partner missed that week-long window to conceive. Remember, after ovulation occurs, the egg will reside in the fallopian tube for 12 to 24 hours before disintegrating. This is also known as the start of the luteal phase.

During this phase, there’s still time for fertilisation, although your chances would’ve plummeted to approximately 8% [4].

In any case, you would still do well to give it a (literal and figurative) shot. There’s a chance for conception and you also wouldn’t want to rule out that you and your partner might’ve made a mistake when pinpointing your ovulation day. Not to mention, there’s also the possibility of your body releasing a second egg, although this isn’t a common occurrence [5].


In closing

a pie chart of the probability of conception before, during, and after ovulation

For couples who are TTC before, during, and after ovulation, it’s a numbers game through and through. Having sex on a regular basis is a great way to boost your chances of getting pregnant, but you and your partner might not have the time or energy for this every month. This is especially true when you’re older or have a packed schedule for the month.

Therefore, having full knowledge of your menstrual cycle every month is half the battle won. You and your partner will have a much easier time planning for when you’ll be doing the devil’s tango the most. Not only will this get the both of you in the mood, you’ll be reassured by the fact that you’re putting in the greatest effort when it’ll count the most.

And if you happen to be really pressed for time every month, just carve out 1 or 2 hours in the final 3 days leading up to ovulation. That’s as much of an express pass that you and your partner will get. Hopefully, this will lead to a positive result on your pregnancy test and what better way to celebrate the morning after than with a plate of steak & eggs?

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[1] Mayo Foundation For Medical Education And Research, What Ovulation Signs Can I Look Out For If I'm Trying To Conceive?, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/getting-pregnant/expert-answers/ovulation-signs/faq-20058000
[2] Healthdirect Australia, Ovulation Signs, https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/ovulation-signs
[3] Mayo Foundation For Medical Education And Research, How Long Do Sperm Live After Ejaculation?, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/getting-pregnant/expert-answers/pregnancy/faq-20058504
[4] Louis Faust et. al., Findings From A Mobile Application – Based Cohort Are Consistent With Established Knowledge Of The Menstrual Cycle, Fertile Window, And Conception, https://www.fertstert.org/action/showPdf?pii=S0015-0282%2819%2930432-7
[5] Dotdash Meredith, Your Chances Of Getting Pregnant, During Every Phase Of Your Cycle, https://www.parents.com/getting-pregnant/trying-to-conceive/ovulation-getting-pregnant/