Ever wondered how to know you are ovulating? And how might you be able to track it? We take a look at fertile days and monitoring the best ways to track it.
There are typically only around six days in your cycle when you are most fertile. The hormones in your menstrual cycle prepare your body to give you the best environment to get pregnant.
It is only during the most fertile days of your menstrual cycle that the optimal conditions for getting pregnant are satisfied. The egg released during ovulation only has a lifespan of up to 24 hours and the sperm survives in the vaginal environment for an average of 5 days, so you are fertile for longer before ovulation than after.
The peak fertile days of the menstrual cycle usually include the day of ovulation and the couple of days preceding ovulation.
During your fertile period, the vaginal environment becomes more welcoming and friendly to sperm. Cervical mucus becomes less acidic and more elastic and the cervix moves from a low, firm, dry and closed position to being soft, high and open. All these changes facilitate the passage of sperm to the uterus and the Fallopian tubes, where fertilization of the released egg usually occurs.
Given that the day of ovulation is so important to understanding your fertility, it is crucial to track this in order to find the best time to try.
How to monitor ovulation
Monitoring your ovulation will help you to identify your most fertile days. This will allow you to time when to try around ovulation, thereby increasing your chances of getting pregnant. Monitoring your fertility levels relies on the accurate identification of ovulation. Most methods rely on women being willing to make their own daily observations routinely and accurately. Using a combination of the observations below can help you to track when you ovulate more efficiently.
Cervical mucus changes
Cervical mucus changes throughout your cycle due to the change in hormone levels. When you are approaching your day of ovulation, your cervical mucus adjusts the environment of your vagina to make it more welcoming to sperm. This is when you are most likely to notice an increased volume in mucus and a change in consistency. These secretions aid the migration of sperm and help to nourish them on their journey to the egg, which is very important for when you are trying to get pregnant.
After ovulation, the primary role of your cervical mucus is to protect the uterus and egg from infections and to form a plug at the opening of the cervix. This type of cervical mucus is less welcoming for sperm and helps to form a barrier for when you are not fertile.
Hormone based urine test kits
These methods (often called Ovulation Prediction kits or OPKs) measure the surge in the hormone LH (lutenising hormone) or sometimes a combination of oestrogen and LH levels in the urine. This method typically consists of test strips that must be dipped in your urine. These tests can be used to estimate the possible date of ovulation, but cannot confirm that ovulation has occurred.
Basal body temperature (BBT)
This method detects the small increase in body temperature that occurs around ovulation and can confirm that ovulation has occurred. Traditional methods of measuring BBT required early morning oral temperature measurements.
Ovulation pain is also known as mittelschmerz, which means “middle pain” in German and affects around 20% of women.
Ovulation pain is usually felt as a sharp twinge that then becomes a dull ache and can last from anything between a few hours, up to 24 and even 48 hours. Some women feel nothing at all, whereas for others ovulation pain can be very painful. The cause of ovulation pain is believed to be due to a leakage of blood from the ovary when the egg is released and can irritate the abdominal wall, causing pain.
Ovulation can also cause mid-cycle spotting where you may see a few spots of blood or a red/pink tinge to your cervical mucus. This is completely normal and can be used to help identify your day of ovulation.
Some women experience breast tenderness around ovulation, or sometimes during the whole luteal phase (after ovulation). This is very normal and is simply your due to changing hormone levels.
Your libido may vary during your menstrual cycle and for most women, it is highest when you are most fertile although some women also experience a peak in libido just before their period. Libido in women is generally influenced by oestrogen, which peaks around your day of ovulation. You may find that you have a heightened sense of smell and better vision around this time too.
Like libido, your mood is also likely to fluctuate throughout your menstrual cycle. Many women feel irritable and anxious before their period and suffer from mood swings, which are alleviated when they get their period.