Pinpointing ovulation is one of the most difficult, but most important aspects of trying to conceive. Your entire cycle evolves around and is categorize based on the one day.
Your follicular phase is the days leading up to ovulation – but you won’t know how long it is until ovulation is confirmed! Your luteal phase it the time between ovulation and the first day of you period. Again, you need to know when you ovulated to calculate it.
In order to become pregnant, you must have sex (or insemination) on or around the day that you ovulated. This is your fertile window… ovulation day and the five days leading up to it. You might even be able to consider the day after ovulation a part of this window, because the egg has a lifespan of about 24 hours after being released in which it can be fertilized. If it is not, POOF!, egg disintegrates.
The five days prior to ovulation are considered fertile days because it is possible, given the right conditions (fertile cervical fluid), for sperm to live inside the female body for up to five days. So sperm that entered the uterus/fallopian tubes on the first day of your fertile window might just still be hanging around on O day. But your best chances of fertilization are the day of and the day prior to ovulation.
So, now that you understand how important ovulation is, how the heck do you know when it happens! On average, based on a 28-day cycle, ovulation would occur on CD (cycle day) 14. However, a good chunk of those TTC don’t have a perfect 28-day cycle. Some of us have short, 24 day cycles, others have 30, 35, or 40 + days (I average between 35-40). It can be estimated that you ovulate approximately 14 days prior to your period, because the average luteal phase is about 14 days long. If you have a 25 day cycle, you likely ovulate right around day 11. If you have a 35 day cycle, O is probably on day 21.
But what good does that do us after the fact? Especially for those of us who have irregular, fluctuating cycles?? Not much that’s for sure. That is why there are a variety of different ways to estimate/pinpoint ovulation that all TTCers should be aware of.
Below are some of the most common methods. Some are pretty accurate, others are just estimates. My recommendation is a combination!
1. Basal Body Temperature (BBT)
Your Basal Body Temperature is your body’s temperature in a state of rest, and is your lowest temperature of the day. It is taken first thing in the morning, upon waking, before you even get out of bad, take a sip of water, or even utter a word. You will need to get a special thermometer for tracking your BBT, one that calculates to two decimal places, because changes in temperature can be that small.
To track your BBT I suggest using a fertility app like Fertility Friend or Glow. You can track by hand and print of charts from the internet, but I think it is way easier to enter the temps into the app. Tack your temperature every morning, at the same time (you can take it orally or vaginally or rectally, just be consistent…I prefer orally) and enter it into the app chart. At the beginning of your cycle, your temperatures are on the lower end, and at the end of your cycle they should be noticeably higher.
Ovulation occurs when there is a noticeable shift of at least .4 degrees Farenheit after ovulation, which helps separate your chart into two phases – follicular (lower temps) and luteal (higher temps after ovulation). A lot of women have a temperature drop right before the increase on the day they ovulate. A couple days of higher temps will confirm ovulation, and most apps will generate what is called a “cover line”. Temperatures usually remain above the cover line during the luteal phase, and will drop back down when your period starts. Temps that stay above the cover line through a missed period are often promising. But it is not an exact science.
BBT charting is the best way to confirm ovulation, short of a vaginal ultrasound. Chart for several months and look for patterns.
The bad thing about BBT charting? It cannot PREDICT ovulation, only confirm it. So it is important to chart your BBT along with other ovulation prediction methods like ovulation tests, checking cervical mucous and position, etc.
2. Ovulation Predictor Kit (OPKs)
These are pee sticks that detect the luteinizing hormone (LH). They work similar to pregnancy tests in HOW you take them, but differ in how you read them. For OPKs with lines, the test line must be as dark OR darker than the control line in order to be positive. Many women have LH in their systems throughout their cycle and may always have a faint line show up on these tests. When you receive a positive test, you can be expected to ovulate within 24 hours.
There are also digital ovulation tests, like Clear Blue, that give you no-nonsence results like smiley-faces and shaking smileys that help you detect your two or four (depending on the product) most fertile days.
Make sure to do the deed on the high fertility days, and then one day after.
I usually use the cheap test strips from Amazon because I like to take them every day and I am not a millionaire. Also, with the cheap sticks I like to tape them to a piece of notebook paper and include the date, time and CD (cycled day) they were taken so I can track progress and compare from month-to-month.
3. Cervical Mucous (CM)
Cervical Mucous (CM), AKA vaginal discharge (both are equally gross words to say aloud), is another way to predict ovulation. Your CM changes often throughout your cycle, and can help indicate when you are and are not fertile. When your cervical mucous resembles egg whites (EWCM!) you are most fertile, ovulation is impending and you should get down!
The best way to test your CM is around the same time each day with CLEAN fingers. Insert into your V and then move the results around between your fingers. Yes, you will probably feel awkward at first, but eventually it will become habit. If you are like me you will check it every time you go to the bathroom.
The various types of CM (different sites/books will have slightly different names and descriptions) are:
Dry/nonexistent – this is infertile CM. Usually found right after your period. This is not a healthy environment for sperm
Sticky – After dry usually comes sticky. Again, this is infertile. It is almost like dry rubber cement! This is usually white in color.
Creamy – Similar to lotion in color and texture. This can be infertile or slightly fertile CM. This change is in response to the increasing estrogen levels in your body. It does not stretch or move much between your fingers.
Watery – Fertile CM!! Woohoo! This is likely to be clear or a little cloudy, and feel slippery between your period. This means ovulation is coming soon!
Eggwhite – The Holy Grail of CM! Eggwhite cervical mucous (aka EWCM) is the most fertile of all. It is clear and STRETCHY. When you pull your fingers apart it will likely stretch and inch or so. And it really looks like raw egg whites. This means ovulation is right around the corner, or occurring now. Some women never get EWCM but still ovulate. Which is why I will again emphasize that all of these methods should be used in tandem.
4. Cervical Position/Texture
The position of your cervix is another way to predict ovulation. Your cervix may be high, medium, or low. Become a cervical position expert and check it often so you know what is “normal” for you. Below are the stages of cervical position:
Low, hard, slightly open – during your period (infertile)
Low, hard, closed – directly after your period (infertile)
Medium, medium texture, slightly open (slightly fertile)
High (you should barely be able to find it!), soft and open (most fertile)
Medium, medium texture, closed – after ovulation (infertile)
High, soft, closed – this is what the cervix apparently feels like when you are pregnant, but everyone is different and I can’t even remember what mine felt like. And it could take a while to get to this position, even well after a positive test.
Hard texture can be compared to the tip of your nose, while soft texture can be compared to your lips (hopefully that helps). I am not very good at explaining the difference between open and closed.
5. Other symptoms
While there is no rhyme or reason to this method, many women experience that same symptoms aroundn ovulation from month-to-month. Some of those symptoms might be:
- Cramping or twinges
- Tender breasts
- Increased sense of smell
- Increased sex drive
Using all of these methods combined can help you to identify your fertile window and ovulation, which can greatly increase your chances of pregnancy. But even if you track everything, and time sex perfectly, there is still a big chance you won’t fall pregnant. SO MANY THINGS have to fall exactly into place at the right time in order for fertilization and pregnancy to occur.
I know trying for months and years can be discouraging. I have been there and I know how painful it is. So if you are under 35 and have been trying for a year, or are 35+ and have been trying for 6 months, it is recommended that you see your doctor (OB or fertility specialist). But that is no rule of thumb. You need to be your OWN advocate. If you think something is wrong, make an appointment. That is what I did after 7 months of perfectly timed intercourse. And I ended up needing two rounds of IVF! Don’t be ashamed, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Infertility affects roughly 1 in 8 couples, and is worth talking about.