Can You Get Pregnant After Ovulation?

Marie-Claire De Villiers
By Marie-Claire De Villiers
Joel Taylor
Edited by Joel Taylor

Published July 3, 2022.

A woman  in her bathroom looking at a pregnancy test

The normal and natural way to conceive is to track ovulation through your menstrual cycle, noting basal body temperature and cervical mucus as markers of the short ovulation period. However, you can also choose to induce ovulation, which requires taking hormones, and is the last resort if your fertility and ovulation pattern is not reliable.

Tracking Your Fertile Period

If you don't know when your fertile period is, start observing your vaginal mucus pattern from the last day of your period. It's helpful to get to understand the four phases of the normal menstrual cycle:

The period comes first and can last from 2-7 days of menstrual bleeding.

Then ovulation occurs around days 8-14 (it varies in each individual but you may find your own pattern to be consistent). You will notice how the watery and sparse vaginal mucus changes and becomes clear, transparent, and jelly-like towards the middle of your cycle.

You are only fertile for about 36 hours after an ovum is released, and this jelly-like mucus helps sperm swim up to the uterus to fertilize an ovum. If you have sex a few days before you ovulate, you can still conceive since sperm may live for up to five days. You could also try increasing your fertility with a lubricant.

This is technically the best time to conceive, but you can still get pregnant after ovulation, within the window period of 36 hours afterward. Alternatively, you can still try to conceive by inducing ovulation.

Can Ovulation Be Induced?

A modern technique to help couples conceive is to bring on ovulation artificially, using hormones to boost the release of an ovum. In this way, it is possible to make yourself ovulate with assistance from a medical professional. But if you have struggled to conceive, it's essential to get tested before inducing ovulation to check your overall reproductive health.

There may be a hormonal or physical capacity that is not working well, and in that case, inducing ovulation may also not be successful. Using Conceive Plus tablets or injections to stimulate ovulation does carry side effects, and the injections are expensive, so be informed about what to expect when inducing ovulation.

Ovulation induction is only recommended for women who have a pattern of low ovulation or who are anovulatory (don't ovulate). The current success rate is low (up to 25%) and multiple pregnancies may result (for example, twins).

When to Take an Ovulation Test

It can be helpful to use an ovulation test to judge when exactly you are ovulating. Use the home kit from the end of your period, until you notice the fertile, jelly-like mucus. When this thick mucus changes to a drier. cream-colored mucus, this suggests that the fertile phase has passed. The other additional symptoms of ovulation should guide you too, namely breast tenderness, increased libido, and possibly pain in the abdomen.

Take the ovulation test first thing in the morning, so that your urine is not diluted by drinking anything (drinking fluids may lead to a false-negative result). Take the test at the same time every day.

When to Take a Pregnancy Test

If you have tracked your ovulation and used the window period of fertility to have sex in order to conceive, you probably want to know as soon as possible whether you're pregnant or not. If you want to know when to take a pregnancy test, be aware that there is an issue of timing in getting a reliable result.

The most reliable method of confirming pregnancy is with a blood test administered by a health professional after you have missed your period. You may prefer to use a home pregnancy test before your period, but this can give a false-negative result. The result will be more accurate if you wait for a week or two after missing your period. At that point, the level of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) will show up clearly in your urine.

Can You Take an Ovulation Test if You’re Pregnant?

The purpose of taking an ovulation test is to tell when you are ovulating. However, the test is not completely reliable. If you take it when you are pregnant, it may give a false positive. 

Here's what to expect from an ovulation test when you are pregnant:

  • The test will show low levels of LH; but it may instead show high levels of hCG, indicating pregnancy. (The test cannot tell the difference between LH and hCG.)
  • If you have a positive ovulation test result for five days in a row, take a pregnancy test to be safe.