Fertility Tracking: Predicting Ovulation
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. In this two part series, we explained how ovulation works in a previous article, and in this article, we will highlight some primary ways to identify and predict your personal signs of ovulation.
Cycles vary from woman to woman
As soon you begin to menstruate, you learn that your periods will come, on average, about 28 days apart. In an average cycle, many women also ovulate on or around day 14. If you have 28-day cycles you may be told to have sex on day 14 to increase your chances of conceiving.
However, did you know that ovulation might actually occur anywhere between days 11 and 21, even in a 28-day cycle? If your cycles are shorter or longer than 28 days, ovulation can come before day 11 or later than day 21. All women vary.
Keep a calendar
While some women do get pregnant by estimating when ovulation occurs on a calendar, other signs may be more helpful in predicting your most fertile days. Physical symptoms like body temperature and vaginal discharge may be more specific indicators of impending ovulation. A woman is most fertile when she starts to expel clear, slippery cervical mucus.
If you want to keep a fertility calendar, you can do so in a notebook, online or by using fertility tracking software program. Using this calendar, you will track your menstrual bleeding, cervical mucus changes, and basal body temperature (BBT), along with other factors like illness, travel, stress, and days that you have intercourse.
Egg white: The egg is on its way
One important fertility sign to track is the quality and consistency of your cervical fluid. 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 mucus 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 is thicker.
- 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, your vaginal wetness and cervical mucus will dry up within a day or two. 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.
Body heat: Another sign of ovulation
During the follicular phase or first few weeks of the menstrual cycle, a woman's body temperature stays pretty consistent. But during ovulation, as luteinizing hormones surge, a woman's basal body temperature (BBT) usually increases slightly (less than one degree). The increase in your BBT tells you that ovulation is occurring.
Here is how to tell when you ovulate:
- To track your own BBT, 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. In order for this reading to be accurate you must had 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 the next cycle. According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), intercourse should take place during a six-day window surrounding ovulation, about four days before you ovulate, and up to one day after ovulation occurs.
As you track your cervical mucus changes and your BBT, you may notice that they coincide with each other. The most noticeable egg white mucus may often occur on the same day as the BBT spike.
Note: Any changes to your health such as illness, drinking, stress, and travel can affect ovulation and your BBT.
Other Fertility Signals
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. For an in-depth education on fertility tracking, you may want to take a class or purchase books on this topic.
What if your signs are inconsistent?
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.
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.Sources
- 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