When you’re trying to get pregnant, timing is everything – especially when it comes to ovulation. But life is busy and maybe until now you weren’t laser focused on ovulation cycles, fertile windows, and other trying-to-conceive buzzwords. So kudos to you for taking the time to get informed, it’s the first step to taking control of your fertility.
Trying to narrow in on those prime fertile days [for the average woman, it is the 10th-17th day of her 28 day cycle] can be challenging given variability in a woman’s cycle. The exact time when a woman ovulates depends on the length and regularity of her menstrual cycle. Women with a 28-day cycle generally ovulate between days 13 and 15, but average cycle length can vary by 5 days in either direction. If your cycle varies month to month, the below resources can provide valuable insight.
1. Period-tracking apps.
Period tracking apps are a great way to follow the progression of your cycle throughout the month and can even keep track of your symptoms and emotions so you know when and why you’re feeling that way. Apps like Flo, Period Tracker, and Glow, allow the user to track all kinds of things, like sleep, water consumption, and physical activity. Many even provide downloadable charts and statistics to reference at doctors appointments, especially important for women trying to conceive.
Questions you can answer with period trackers: Is my cycle regular or do the cycle days vary? Did we align intercourse with ovulation this month? Are the symptoms I’m feeling related to ovulation or PMS?
2. Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPK)
These at-home tests allow you to predict when you will ovulate, also known as the baby-making window! The test works by detecting the amount of luteinizing hormone (LH), the hormone that triggers ovulation, in your urine. When the test indicates that LH has risen sharply, ovulation should occur in the next 12 to 48 hours. The best time for intercourse when using an OPK is the day of the LH surge and put up to two days later. If you’re having trouble becoming pregnant, your doctor will probably test your LH levels. When measured along with FSH and estradiol, your LH gives your fertility doctor information about your ovarian reserve.
Questions you can answer with OPKs: Is ovulation happening in the next 2 days? Did I ovulate this month?
3. Physical signs of ovulation
Most physical signs of ovulation are easy to detect once you know what to look for. Tender breasts and increased libido aren’t just symptoms of menstruation, they are also symptoms of ovulation! Your cervix also goes through changes as you ovulate. A fertile cervix is high, soft and open. It is possible to track these changes to maximize your ovulation prediction date, but don’t expect to know exactly what you’re looking for on the first, or even fifth, try. Writing down your cervical position will also make it easier for you to track and understand the changes better. While checking the position, it is also helpful to pay attention to your cervical mucus. An egg-white like texture is a sign of ovulation.
Questions you can answer by tracking physical signs of ovulation: Am I nearing, at, or past my ovulation window? Are the symptoms I’m feeling related to ovulation or PMS?
4. Basal Body Temperature (BBT)
Your basal body temperature, or BBT, is your body temperature when you are fully at rest. When you ovulate, your progesterone levels cause your body temperature to rise. This makes it quite easy to track and monitor your menstrual cycle and fertility window. Although this method cannot predict ovulation, it can tell the approximate day it occurred after the fact.
Ideally, you should start charting on the first day of your period and continue taking your BBT throughout your entire cycle. There are thermometers made specifically for tracking your BBT, but any medical thermometer will do. Try and find one that is accurate to 1/10 (98.6) degree if you measure in Fahrenheit, or 1/1000 (37.0) degree celsius. It is very important that you stay consistent with taking your temperature at the same time every morning, any type of movement such as going to the bathroom first will throw off your results. To ensure consistency, you should try and keep a thermometer within arm’s length of your bed, and get at least 3-4 hours of sleep.
Questions you can answer with BBT: What cycle day did I ovulate this month? What cycle day do I typically ovulate?
Taking the time to inform yourself of the ins and outs of your cycle is the first step to taking control of your fertility. Whatever method(s) you may choose, if you continue to experience difficulty conceiving, it may be time to consult a reproductive endocrinologist. Fertility specialists will be able to pinpoint your fertility window and help guide you through your journey to pregnancy. While it is important to inform yourself of the methods of tracking your cycle, try not to let science ruin all your fun in this process. An informed person is an empowered person!
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