Can You Get Pregnant a Week After Ovulation?
Curious about whether or not you can get pregnant a week after ovulation? Read on to learn just that!
By OBGYN and fertility expert Dr. Kenosha Gleaton
Whether you’re actively trying to conceive or hoping to prevent pregnancy, timing sex around ovulation can be tricky. When does the fertile window begin and end, and can you get pregnant days after you ovulate? The answer may be more complicated than you think.
Understanding the Menstrual Cycle: How Ovulation Occurs
Let’s go over the basics of ovulation first. As you may know, ovulation is the midpoint of the menstrual cycle when an egg is released from an ovary and is able to be fertilized by sperm. This occurs as the result of various hormones rising and falling. The two key hormones that aid in ovulation are follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).  Together, LH and FSH work to grow a mature egg and release it around day 14 of the menstrual cycle. If the egg is fertilized and implants, pregnancy progresses. If no pregnancy occurs, then the uterine lining sheds (menstruation) and the cycle repeats! Here’s more information on the Phases of the Menstrual Cycle.
The Fertile Window: When You Can Get Pregnant
Ovulation itself only lasts for about 12 to 24 hours, however the fertile period or fertile window is defined as a six day window.  More specifically, the six days leading up to ovulation and the day of ovulation, not the days after. A study found that the chance of conceiving begins to rise six days prior to ovulation, peaks about two days before ovulation, and decreases significantly the day of ovulation.  This is because a released egg can only live for about 12 to 24 hours without getting fertilized, whereas sperm can survive for multiple days after ejaculation. 
To get an idea of when you may be ovulating, there are a few ways you can track your cycle and ovulation. If you have regular cycles you may already have a general idea of when ovulation occurs: typically around day 14, but this depends on the length of your cycle. You can use ovulation tests to track the amount of LH in your urine as well, which can tell you when your levels of LH are peaking and when an egg is likely being released. You may also be able to track your basal body temperature, cervical mucus, ovulation symptoms, and more to get an idea of when ovulation is occuring. Read this guide on How to Track Ovulation for more information.
When Does Conception Happen?
If you do have unprotected heterosexual sex during the fertile window, it can take a few days for sperm and egg to meet inside the reproductive tract. When they do meet, it can take even longer for implantation to occur; some research suggests it may take between six to ten days.  Implantation is a very important piece of the puzzle as this is when your body will begin to produce the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). Unfortunately, not all fertilized eggs will make it to this stage, and research shows that nearly two thirds of lost pregnancies are a result of implantation failure. 
We do know that a released egg is unlikely to survive for longer than 24 hours without being fertilized, so if you do become pregnant, you can confidently assume that conception occurred within a day of ovulation. 
Can You Get Pregnant a Week After Ovulation?
To recap—if you have sex a week after you ovulate, your chances of conceiving are going to be very low. If you had sex prior to or during ovulation, it’s possible that implantation may not happen for up to 10 days after ovulation. To know for sure whether or not you’re pregnant, you can use early result pregnancy tests that will be able to measure hCG levels as early as six days before your missed period, which is typically about a week or so after ovulation occurs.
Factors That Affect Fertility: Age, Health, and Lifestyle Habits
If you are struggling to conceive, know that you aren’t alone. It’s estimated that up to 12% of the global population struggles with fertility issues.  In the United States alone, about 9% of men and about 11% of women have experienced problems with fertility.  There are many different factors that may impact someone’s ability to conceive, the major causes of infertility being age, overall health, and lifestyle habits.
While aging can impact fertility in both sexes, the effects of aging are more commonly seen in those assigned female at birth. Egg quality tends to decline, especially after about age 35.
There are also different structural problems or hormonal conditions that may interfere with the ability to conceive, such as fibroids, scarring, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and others. Data also suggests that some lifestyle habits such as smoking, drinking, weight gain, etc. can interfere with fertility.  If you’re concerned about your fertility, speak with a healthcare provider about your family planning goals and history.
Seeking Help: When to See a Fertility Specialist if You're Struggling to Conceive.
It can be frustrating and disappointing to not conceive as quickly or easily as you’d hoped. Luckily, there are a lot of great options available if you do decide to look into a fertility specialist or fertility treatments. It’s recommended that couples under the age of 35 try to conceive for about a year before seeking out a specialist. If you’re above 35, have health conditions such as PCOS, know that you aren’t ovulating normally, or have other specific concerns about your fertility, you may want to consider seeing someone around the six month mark.
- Ovulation is the midpoint of the menstrual cycle when an egg is released from the ovary.
- The fertile window is a period of six days leading up to ovulation when conception is most likely to occur.
- Sperm can live in the reproductive tract for a few days, while an unfertilized egg will only live for up to 24 hours after being released.
- It may take a few days for sperm and egg to meet and can take up to 10 days for implantation to occur.
- If you have sex a week after you ovulate, it’s very unlikely that you will conceive.
- You may not have a positive pregnancy test until a week or longer after ovulation.
- If you’re concerned about your fertility, speak to a healthcare provider about your options.
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