People with shorter menstrual cycles may ovulate closer to their period than people with longer cycles. The wide variation in menstrual cycle length and the timing of ovulation makes it difficult to tell when a person is in their fertile period. On top of this, sperm can live for 3—5 days inside a female's body, which means that a person can get pregnant even if they have sexual intercourse 5 days before they ovulate. Some researchers suggest that having sexual intercourse on the day before ovulation will carry the same chances of getting pregnant as having sexual intercourse multiple random times throughout the menstrual cycle.
During the period, a person's body discharges blood, an unfertilized egg, and tissue from the lining of the uterus. The average female will bleed for around 5 days, although it is very common to bleed for shorter or longer periods of time. Doctors generally agree that people are not likely to get pregnant in the days leading up to their period. This is especially true if their periods are regular and they have a day menstrual cycle.
However, given the fluid nature of the fertile window, people who do not want to become pregnant should still use contraception at this time. Sperm cells can only fertilize an egg within a hour window after ovulation. If a person knows when they have ovulated and counts w days from ovulation, they should no longer be able to get pregnant before their next period. It is, however, possible for a person to get pregnant immediately after their period.
This is because sperm can still fertilize eggs for 3—5 days after sexual intercourse. If a person with a short cycle has sexual intercourse right after their period and happens to ovulate early, they may ovulate quickly enough for the egg to connect with sperm cells. The fertile window usually occurs in the middle of a person's cycle.
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This window lasts a few days before ovulation and ends a day after ovulation. During this time, it is easiest for a person to become pregnant. However, even though most people ovulate regularly from the time they start their period until menopause , ovulation does not always occur on the same day of the week every month, or even at the same point in the menstrual cycle every month. The chances of becoming pregnant on or just after the period ends depends on when a person has sexual intercourse, the length of their menstrual cycle, and the exact day they ovulate during that menstrual cycle.
This, and the fact that sperm can remain viable for up to 5 days, makes it easy to see why experts recommend that people who do not wish to conceive always use contraception. People who do wish to conceive can monitor their fertility and track their ovulation to increase the chances. Regardless of whether a person is more interested in starting or preventing a pregnancy, it is helpful for them to know how long their menstrual cycles are and when they typically ovulate. Although it is possible for any person to get pregnant on their period, it is less likely for those with longer cycles.
Article last reviewed by Fri 29 March All references are available in the References tab. Bae, J. Factors associated with menstrual cycle irregularity and menopause. Capps, S. Biomarkers of ovulation and the fertile window: A research summary.
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How pregnancy happens. Stanford, J. Revisiting the fertile window. Trying to conceive. MLA Dresden, Danielle.
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