Fertility Tracking: Predicting Ovulation
Did you know that ovulation and menstrual cycles vary from woman to woman? In this article we teach you how to identify and predict exactly when you ovulate - whether you are trying to get pregnant or not.
Track your ovulation cycles
Your menstrual cycle may be about 28 days long, with ovulation taking place on or around day 14. If this sounds familiar, you are in the majority. However, many women ovulate anywhere between days 11 and 21! All women vary.
If you trying to figure out exactly when you ovulate and how to get pregnant fast, here are three easy ways to find out.
Step 1: Keep an ovulation calendar
There are so many ways to track your cycles. You may choose to keep a fertility calendar on paper, online via a fertility website or on your mobile device.
Online and mobile calendars help you track your menstrual bleeding, cervical mucus changes, and basal body temperature (BBT) changes along with other factors that affect fertility like illness, travel, stress, and days that you have intercourse.
Many women get pregnant by estimating when ovulation occurs on a calendar, while others like to be more precise. Physical symptoms like rises in body temperature and changes to your vaginal discharge can also tell you when ovulation occurs.
Step 2: Check your cervical mucus secretions (trust us, it really works)
You are most fertile when your body releases clear, slippery cervical mucus. This technique may not be for the squeamish, but tracking this vaginal discharge is very effective at helping you predict ovulation. Here is how it works:
- Each day after your menstrual bleeding ends, examine the secretions that come out of your vagina. Write down these qualities on your calendar.
- You will probably feel pretty dry at the vaginal opening for a few days after menstruation. As ovulation gets closer, you may notice that you have more vaginal wetness, and your cervical mucus thickens or becomes creamy or sticky.
- Several days before ovulation or in some cases on ovulation day, your cervical mucus takes on a different appearance and has the consistency of raw egg whites. This is the most fertile type of mucus. When the egg white mucus appears, try to have sex with your partner daily or every other day.
- Write down the days you have intercourse on your calendar, especially when you have sex during your fertile window. This might help you identify exactly when conception occurred. This can give you an accurate due date if you do become pregnant.
- Once ovulation takes place, vaginal wetness and cervical mucus will start to dry up. This means that ovulation has occurred, and you have passed your fertile window.
A warning! Make sure that you are not confusing semen with your own secretions. Semen dries quickly upon contact, whereas fertile egg white mucus stays slippery.
Step 3: Check your temperature every day
During the first few weeks of your menstrual cycle, your body temperature stays pretty consistent. But during ovulation, as luteinizing hormones surge, your temperature (BBT) usually increases slightly (less than one degree). The increase in your BBT tells you that ovulation is occurring.
Here is how to observe this temperature change:
- Purchase a basal thermometer. Keep it next to your bed and take your temperature at the same time each day. Write down your temperature in your fertility-tracking calendar or log it online. In order for this reading to be accurate you must have at least three hours of uninterrupted sleep.
- After several months, you should see a pattern emerging in your cycles. Usually, your BBT will be lowest during the two weeks of your cycle. Then, it will spike noticeably on ovulation day, and stay high for the rest of the cycle.
- The BBT drops on the first day of your period, starting your next menstrual cycle.
As you track your cervical mucus changes and your BBT, you may notice that they coincide with each other. The most wet and slippery mucus may often occur on the same day as the BBT spike.
Know when to have sex for pregnancy
If you are trying to get pregnant, start having sex as soon as your cervical mucus becomes more slippery and wet. The best time for pregnancy to occur is when sex takes place four days before you ovulate and up to one day after ovulation occurs.
Note: Any changes to your health such as illness, drinking, stress, and travel can affect ovulation and your BBT.
Be aware of other signs of ovulation
If you are sensitive, you may notice other predictable, telltale signs of ovulation. Here is an overview of other changes you might notice:
- Mittelschmerz is a slight pain or cramping felt on one side of the lower abdomen around the time of ovulation.
- Some women notice an increase in libido as ovulation day approaches or changes in breast tenderness.
- Along with these signs, changes in the cervix or vagina may also become noticeable near ovulation.
You can track all of these signs on your fertility calendar, increasing your awareness of your cycles, and hopefully helping you conceive.
What to do when cycles are irregular
Keep in mind that women's cycles vary drastically, and some of you may never experience some of the symptoms presented here. If you spend several months tracking your cycles, and do not see any patterns emerging, discuss this with your doctor. You should also visit your doctor if you are consistent with fertility tracking, yet do not become pregnant within six to twelve months. You may also want to read more about how ovulation works.
There are many different methods that teach fertility tracking, including the Family Awareness Method, Natural Family Planning, the Ovulation Method, the Billings Method, and the Sympto-Thermal Method, among others. Take your fertility tracking charts and calendars to your doctor visits. These charts may provide valuable diagnostic information so your doctor can understand more about your specific ovulation and menstrual cycles.
- American Pregnancy Association: Fertility Awareness: Natural Family Planning (NFP)
- American Society for Reproductive Medicine: Age and Fertility: A Guide for Patients
- American Society of Reproductive Medicine: Optimizing Natural Fertility
- Mayo Clinic: Basal body temperature method for natural family planning