Menstrual cycles have long been tracked to determine your period. But what is the best way to detect when you ovulate?
These days, many prefer the convenience of an application over the traditional calendar, but it’s the same idea: Knowing about when your ovary releases an egg can be very helpful.
Whether you’re trying to increase your chances of getting pregnant or lowering it, let’s break it down egg active how to determine when you are ovulating.
Ovulation occurs when one of your ovaries releases a lil-egg that moves from your fallopian tube to your uterus.
Around days 6 to 14 of your menstrual cycle, follicles begin to mature in one of your ovaries. On day 10 or 14, an egg develops from one of your follicles. The egg then continues its mission around day 14.
Ovulation usually occurs once a month if you have a uterus and are fertile – usually around day 14 to 16 of a 28-day menstrual cycle (AKA, about 2 weeks after your period). In rare cases, some people may release several eggs within 24 hours at a time.
Once an egg is released, your mature egg (oh, so big!) Is ready to be fertilized. If sperm fertilizes your egg, surprise, next comes fertilization and pregnancy.
Otherwise, your egg will dissolve within 12 to 24 hours. When fertilization does not take place, Aunt Flo comes to march: Your ovum and uterine lining will collapse within about 2 weeks.
Then, just like Groundhog Day, the whole thing starts all over again. And over.
The pill typically prevents ovulation. For example, combination birth control pills contain estrogen and progesterone, which stop your egg formation process. These hormones also thicken your cervical mucus, making it harder for sperm to coil in your uterus.
The progesterone-only pill, AKA the mini-pill, also thickens your cervical mucus, dilutes your uterine lining and suppresses ovulation. For maximum effectiveness, the pill should be taken at the same time every day.
According to the National Health Service, approximately 9 out of 100 women who use one of the pills have an accidental pregnancy each year. The effectiveness of the pill may vary depending on the time you take it, other medications or supplements and certain medical conditions.
If you are worried about an unplanned pregnancy, talk to your OB-GYN about how to play it as safe as possible.
In general, it is best to use a back-up form of birth control (condoms FTW!) For at least the first week on the pill. Ovulation can still occur until your body acclimatizes to hormones.
Ovulation only lasts for about 12 to 24 hours, but peak fertility lasts quite a bit longer.
According to the University of California, San Francisco, sperm can survive for up to 5 days in the female reproductive tract. So, there is a pretty big window for fertilization to take place. This means that there is about a period of 5 to 6 days that you can get pregnant (and you do not even have to do the act during ovulation).
Not everyone experiences symptoms of ovulation. Sometimes, however, people may notice some or all of the following signs:
1. Ovulation bleeding
Bleeding does not occur exclusively during your period – it can also occur during ovulation. However, unlike most periods, ovulation bleeding is typically very mild. Basically, some people notice a few dull spots that may require at most an underwear lining.
The spots are usually light pink or red in color, which is a sign that the blood is mixed with cervical fluid. It should only last for 1 or 2 days or about 11 to 21 days after the first day of your last period.
However, only about 3 percent of people have middle cycle spotting. So it is not a very reliable way to look at ovulation.
2. Ovulation cramps
Chances are good that you know a thing or two about menstrual cramps. Although much less discussed, ovulation pain can also be something. In fact, German speakers even have a name for it: medium painwhich translates to “middle pain.”
Some describe these sensations as a “twinge” or a “pop” in either ovary, a slight burning sensation, or a feeling of heaviness in the lower abdomen. The discomfort is often quite subtle and of short duration.
3. Basal body temperature
Checking your temperature every morning when you wake up can give clues as to when you ovulate.
Your basal body temperature (BBT) is the temperature you have when you first wake up – before you even check your email or go to the French press. During ovulation, your BBT rises by about 1 ° F or less and stays that way until menstruation.
This slight increase occurs due to the hormone progesterone, which helps your uterus to become thick and spongy to prepare for implantation.
4. Increased sex drive
If you are more than ready to get down and dirty, you can ovulate. No one is sure exactly why some people get horny before their period, but it could be due to an increase in estrogen and testosterone levels during ovulation.
5. Soft cervix
Your cervix (essentially the lower part of your uterus) becomes a little softer than usual, sits a little higher and becomes more moist during ovulation.
Earlier in your cycle, your cervix is firmer and closed. When you watch your cervix, you will start to notice the changes.
6. Egg white secretion
Wait, what’s that stuff in your underwear now? If you have an influx of secretions that look different, ovulation may be the culprit.
Cervical mucus usually consists of water. When estrogen levels rise during ovulation, this fluid becomes more voluminous, stretchy and clear – almost like egg whites. Basically, it is the wave that drives sperm to the ovum.
During peak fertility, you may notice much more than usual. When it looks stringy and sticky, it may be an idea that you are ovulating or close to it.
1. Follow on an application or calendar
Since ovulation usually begins about 10 to 16 days before your period, an application can be a helpful way to detect when it happens. If you prefer the old-fashioned way, a calendar also works perfectly.
Here’s how to locate it with plain old pen and paper:
- Record the start date and duration of your period for 8 to 12 months.
- Take note of your longest and shortest cycle.
- Subtract 18 days from your shortest cycle – this is the first day of your fertile window.
- Subtract 11 days for the duration of your longest cycle.
- Your fertile window = the time between the 2 days you wrote down.
For best results, your menstrual cycle should be more or less regular every month. You can also improve your estimates by linking it with other methods such as checking your temperature and cervical mucus.
2. Check your temp
Check your basal body temperature in the morning only when you wake up. Remember to check this while you are still in bed, before moving around to ensure that the reading is as accurate as possible. If it is about a degree higher than normal for a few days, you can ovulate.
You should use a thermometer specifically designed to measure BBT. These thermometers have additional features, such as temperature recall and accuracy of up to 1/100ste of a degree.
This method may not be completely reliable, and a research review even concluded that the method is only 22 percent accurate at detecting ovulation. Make sure you combine your BBT with other methods for best results.
And, note: A late night of drinking, travel or illness can also drive your BAT out of your pocket.
3. Examine your cervical fluid
Keep your eyes on your cervical fluid for clues about ovulation. If it looks thick and bright like egg whites, you can ovulate.
To check your fluid, simply look at the residue in your underwear or use a clean finger to examine the fluid. A filamentous texture is a decent indication that ovulation is underway.
4. Scope from your cervix
To see if you are ovulating, you can use clean fingers to get into your vagina and feel your cervix. If it feels firm (kind of like your nasal cartilage), you probably are not ovulating. If it feels soft and moist (more like your lips), then you can ovulate.
This is obviously not an objective test, but it can give a useful hint.
5. Use an ovulation predictor test
During ovulation, your body begins to make more luteinizing hormone (LH), which causes the egg to be released. An ovulation predictor test can help detect the levels of LH in your body, which can help predict when ovulation decreases.
Also known as a luteinizing hormone (LH) test, the peel strip or digital test measures the amount of LH in your urine. You can pick one up at any drug store.
According to the American Society of Clinical Chemistry, these tests have different levels of accuracy and should not be used to definitively predict when ovulation will occur. Again, using a few methods can help you determine ovulation with more accuracy.
Not on birth control, but want to prevent pregnancy during ovulation? Natural birth control methods such as Fertility Awareness Methods (FAMs) can help you monitor your menstrual cycle so you can predict ovulation and avoid pregnancy.
According to Planned Parenthood, when used correctly, FAMs are approximately 76 to 88 percent effective when used as a birth control, meaning that approximately 12 to 24 out of 100 couples who rely on FAMs will become pregnant each year.
Using FAMs to predict ovulation is what to do for best results:
- Combine several FAM methods. According to Planned Parenthood, you can track ovulation with the temperature method, the cervical mucus method and the calendar method for the best results. A fertility program and regular LH tests can also help you monitor ovulation.
- Use a barrier method or remember during ovulation. During your estimated ovulation window + 3 days before and after, abstain from sex or use a birth control barrier (such as a condom) to prevent pregnancy.
- Talk to a nurse, doctor or counselor. Finding your fertility requires a lot of time, patience and expertise. If you are committed to this method, you can also talk to a nurse, doctor or counselor who is familiar with FAMs to help guide you through the process.
Detecting ovulation is a tool to increase the chance of pregnancy. If you are hoping to have a baby, these tips may help:
- Use various methods to detect ovulation. The combination of several predictive methods, such as the calendar method, LH test and BBT method, will help increase the accuracy of your ovulation window prediction. Being consistent definitely helps too.
- Have sex before and after ovulation. You will probably get pregnant 2 or 3 days before your ovary releases an egg, so make sure you hit the bag by this estimated period.
- Talk to a professional. Watching your fertility can be exciting – it can also be overwhelming. For best results, talk to a doctor who specializes in fertility. They can give you the guidance you need.
Detecting when ovulation is occurring is difficult and notoriously unreliable, but you can take steps to improve accuracy. The combination of various methods (such as the calendar, temperature and cervical mucus methods) and talking to a medical professional can improve results.