Ways to Track Ovulation when You’re Trying to Conceive
We’ve all been there – anxiously checking for cervical secretions, counting days, and trying to keep track of the menstrual cycle. Also known as being in your “fertile window,” this process is often fraught with confusion and frustration. That said, it’s a pretty common experience for women of reproductive age, so it pays to know how your body works and what you should be doing to prepare for pregnancy.
That’s why I’ve written this handy guide on ovulation! In this guide I will cover the different methods you can use to track ovulation which will increase your chances of falling pregnant.
What is Ovulation?…
Ovulation is the biological process that happens every month in which egg cells are released from an ovary. At some point during your cycle, these eggs are released into the fallopian tubes where they wait for sperm to enter them. If it happens while you’re fertile (luteal phase), one or more of these fertilized eggs can become implanted into your womb (womb) and become what’s known as a fertilized egg (also known as embryo). If it’s implanted in the fallopian tube, however, it usually dissolves and exits your body as a menstrual period.
Ovulation begins a few days before you actually release an egg cell, and it usually happens around day 14 at the end of your menstrual cycle. However, it’s important to know that some women may experience early or late ovulation.
Some women have ovulation occur regularly every month, but others may find that their cycle is irregular. An irregular cycle could mean that you are not ovulating each month, or that your body releases more than one egg each month. It’s important to consult with your doctor in order to get the facts on when you ovulate. Since ovulation is a key part of fertility, it’s important to know that it varies from woman to woman and can be significantly affected by various factors including age, health, stress levels, use of oral contraceptives or other medications, tobacco use and more.
What Are The Physical Signs Of Ovulation?…
One of the main difficulties is that there are no definite physical signs of ovulation. There are only a few indicators such as cervical secretions and changes in basal body temperature, which tend to be unreliable because they can vary between women. The only way to accurately know when you’re ovulating is by tracking your menstrual cycle on an app or using a calendar and paying attention to the following:
- Any type of pain (back pain, abdominal pain, etc) could indicate that you’re about to ovulate following a burst of estrogen
- Changes in cervical secretions (no wetness or increase in discharge) could mean that you’re about to ovulate
- A change in nipple shape/tautness could mean that you’re ovulating
- Feeling moody (hormone fluctuations causing you to be more emotional or have a sharper temper) can be a sign of ovulation
- Your basal body temperature (your lowest body temperature) may increase just a few days before ovulation
- You may begin to notice a tightening sensation in your lower abdomen, which usually goes away after ovulation.
How Can You Determine If You Are Truly Ovulating?…
So how do you know when you’re ovulating? There are actually several ways that can help you determine this, including through tracking your basal temperature or by using an ovulation predictor kit.
One of the easiest ways to find out if you’re fertile is to pay attention to your cervical mucus. When you’re ovulating, you’ll produce cervical secretions that look like egg whites. This means that they are thin, transparent and stretchy. On the other hand, right after ovulation these secretions are sticky and creamy. In general though, if your cycle is 28 days or longer your best chances for getting pregnant will come between 7-12 days before your next period (luteal phase). If you have a 26 day cycle, you’ll need to ovulate on day 11 or 12, and if your cycle is 24 days long then your peak fertile time will be between days 8-10.
The BBT Method…
If you struggle to determine your fertile window, there are other ways to check. One is known as the “Basal Body Temperature” (BBT) technique. On the day of ovulation, women experience a spike in their BBT (temperature). It’s not uncommon to see an increase of at least half a degree that will remain for up to three days after ovulation has occurred. When this happens, it usually means that you’re ready to get pregnant since it signals the release of an egg from the follicle.
That said, a few things can throw off your BBT. These include illness, the use of medications and tobacco use. In fact, if you don’t use a digital thermometer (or similar) to measure your temperature, then you’ll want to avoid taking temperatures orally as they can be affected by what you drink or eat before taking them. In most cases though, if you are fertile it’s pretty easy to tell that you’re ovulating- especially if you track your cervical secretions in addition to using another method of ovulation detection such as the BBT method listed above.
The Cervical Mucus Method…
If tracking your temperature seems like too much work for you, then there are other at-home techniques that will help with determining ovulation. One is known as the “Cervical Mucus Method” and it is performed by observing changes in your cervical secretions. As mentioned, these will change from thick and sticky (after ovulation) to thin, transparent and stretchy. You’ll also note that they will appear after you’ve undergone a change in your BBT.
Following the Cervical Mucus Method, you’ll want to use your finger or an ovulation test strip to check for cervical mucus every day until you are able to see these changes. For those who aren’t willing to check daily or would like a more convenient way of checking, there are several different ovulation predictor kits that can help with detecting when you’re fertile. These usually work by detecting changes in the colour, texture or pH of cervical mucus. The downside to using them is that they are usually more expensive than at-home methods.
The BAP Test…
Finally, the last method for detecting ovulation – and the most precise method – is through a urine test called “bioamperometry” or “BAP”. In order to take a BAP test, you’ll need a device known as an “ovulation predictor monitor” or OPK. As it sounds, this device will detect changes in how your body reacts to specific chemicals in the urine. When you’re ovulating, hormones begin to rise which can cause you to have a positive BAP reaction, and an OPK will be able to detect those changes.
The biggest benefit to using an OPK is that it’s the most accurate of all the ovulation test kits. It can also be done in a doctor’s office or at home and has a success rate that is higher than ovulation predictor kits. An OPK can also still be affordable, as you’ll only have to purchase one kit every few months. That said, because it takes time for your hormones to rise, an OPK may not be able to detect when you are fertile until several days after you’ve begun ovulating. You will also find that the monitor itself can be somewhat expensive- though some brands do cost more than others depending on how many times they are used per month.
It’s really important to not stress out over trying to determine when you’re ovulating. If you do suspect that you have a fertility problem, it’s always best to talk to a doctor as soon as possible. If your family medical history has led you to believe that you could have a fertility problem, bring it up as early on in the conversation with your doctor as possible. As we’ve already mentioned, they may test for other things before they test for fertility problems but having thorough information about yourself will help them better diagnose any issues that affect your ability to conceive.