If the timing of your pregnancy is important to you, or you’ve been trying to conceive without success, then tracking ovulation is a useful tool to predict your most fertile days.
What Is Ovulation?
Ovulation is the release of a mature egg from the ovary into the Fallopian tube. If the egg isn’t fertilized, it’s shed, along with the uterine lining, during menstruation.
When Does Ovulation Occur?
Ovulation happens about once every month, and it may occur on a different day each month. It generally takes place between days 11 and 21 of a menstrual cycle, counting from the first day of the last period. Your most fertile — the period in which you’re most likely to get pregnant — is the two or three days before you ovulate and 12-24 hours after. That’s why it’s important to determine time of ovulation as precisely as possible.
Tracking Ovulation Naturally
Natural methods of tracking ovulation are based on fertility awareness, where you learn to recognize signs of your fertile days by charting your fertility pattern. The benefits of natural methods are that they’re relatively inexpensive, don’t require a clinic visit and have no side effects. On the downside, most women have slightly irregular menstrual cycles, so it’s difficult to be accurate, and measuring and charting take time and commitment.
This method, also called the standard days method, charts your menstrual cycles. You need to chart for at least six months to get usable information. Once you have a good idea of the timing and length of your menstrual cycle, you follow a formula (coming soon) to determine the first and last days you’re most likely to get pregnant.
Your hormones cause changes in cervical mucus color and thickness throughout your menstrual cycle. By tracking and charting its dryness, wetness and stickiness each day, you can determine your fertile days. When cervical mucus is wet and slippery, like raw egg whites, you’re most likely to conceive.
Basal Body Temperature
Basal body temperature (BBT) is the temperature upon waking in the morning. Your BBT rises when you ovulate, so charting your temperature every day helps you recognize when an egg is released. Since the temperature rise is quite small — from 0.4 to 0.8 degrees, you need to use a special basal body thermometer.
None of these methods on its own is ideal, so it’s best to combine two, or even all three, to help you determine ovulation.
Tracking Fertility With Monitors
A number of hormones are important for ovulation. One in particular, luteinizing hormone (LH), causes a mature egg to pass through the ovary wall into the Fallopian tube, which is, of course, ovulation. Since an LH surge means a mature egg is ready for fertilization, over-the-counter ovulation kits and fertility monitors predict fertile days by detecting these LH surges in your urine. Some products also measure estrogen, which helps improve accuracy. These ovulation kits and fertility monitors are highly accurate, although some prescription drugs can affect their results, and they often do not work for women with PCOS.
While both types detect LH surges, the fertility monitors can also determine when in your cycle you need to test. If you use the ovulation kit, it’s a good idea to also track ovulation with another method such as BBT or vaginal mucus.
Application for Tracking
There are many applications on the market for tracking periods and monitoring cycles for fertile days. When looking into downloading an application make sure you choose one that is more advanced. Many women do not have the standard 28 day menstrual cycle. It is important the the application allows you to input your cervical mucus and basil body temperature.
Ovulation Tracking and Fertility Treatment
If you’re going through fertility treatment, your physician will likely use blood work to check for an LH surge and estrogen surge; blood work is the most accurate way of predicting and measuring ovulation.
Modern techniques of tracking ovulation can help you determine your fertile days, making attempts to get pregnant simpler and less stressful.