If you’re trying to become pregnant, tracking your ovulation can be extremely helpful.
Understanding your body and your menstrual cycle can increase your chances of pregnancy. Knowing when you ovulate can make the process easier. Learning the symptoms of ovulation helps you to figure out ideal days for intercourse.
What Happens During Ovulation?
Ovulation usually takes place 14 days before your next period. If you have a 28-day menstrual cycle, it will happen on the 14th day. However, cycle durations vary for each woman and every month as well. The average cycle lasts for 21-35 days.
Ovulation is the third phase in the four-phase menstrual cycle [link for mens cycle]. During the second phase (Follicular phase), the increase in estrogen signals the Pituitary Gland to release Luteinizing Hormone (LH).
Then LH triggers the follicles to release a mature egg (ovum). Ovulation starts when the ovum is released.
The egg will travel to the uterus through the fallopian tube. It will remain active in the fallopian tube for 12-36 hours during which a sperm can fertilize it and cause pregnancy.
The sperm can remain alive for 5 days in the tube so if you have intercourse a few days before and on the ovulation day, it increases your chance of becoming pregnant. The small window of ovulation is your most fertile time.
Three days before and the day of ovulation is the most ideal time for conceiving.
If the egg isn’t fertilized, there will be no period. The thick uterus lining will start shedding and you will start your period two weeks later.
What are the Symptoms of Ovulation?
Basal Body Temperature Increases:
When someone is fully resting, their body has a specific temperature which is known as basal body temperature. For example, the temperature right after we wake up from sleep. During the ovulation period, our basal body temperature increases slightly.
Our hormones are a factor in body temperature. The hormone progesterone is high after LH is released. It increases our body temperature.
If there’s no pregnancy, progesterone will drop and your BBT will decrease during the next period. But, if there’s a pregnancy, progesterone will keep rising and so your BBT will be higher than normal as well.
The usual basal body temperature is under 36.4 degree Celsius. It can increase up to 37 degrees when you’re ovulating. Even half a degree rise indicates incoming ovulation.
Stretchy Cervical Mucus:
Vaginal discharge consists of cervical mucus and other fluids. Cervical mucus is mostly water. The texture and discharge amount change based on your body’s hormonal activities.
During the days leading up to your ovulation, there is an increase in estrogen and progesterone. In your most fertile days, cervical mucus is released more which results in more vaginal discharge.
The texture is similar to egg white. It becomes stretchy, wet, thin, and transparent.
Your body is preparing for fertilization and pregnancy in every cycle. One of the preparation activities is changing cervical mucus texture so it can help to carry sperm near the mature egg. It helps the sperm to remain alive for 5 days maximum.
Mild Cramps and Pelvic Pain:
It’s quite uncommon but some people may face mild cramps or pain in the pelvis when ovulation is approaching. The pain can last until ovulation ends. This is also known as Mittelschmerz and happens in the middle of the menstrual cycle (day 10-20 of the cycle).
When the egg bursts out of the follicle, you can feel slight pain in the pelvis and a small amount of blood may come out. The pain isn’t intense but varies every month.
Usually, you feel pain for a moment or two but for some women, it can last longer.
There can also be a burning feeling when the egg bursts out and fluid comes out with it. This can cause abdominal cramps.
Another not-so-common symptom of ovulation is tender breasts. During the ovulation period, your breasts and nipples can feel sensitive and painful at times. The fluctuating hormone levels, especially the surge of LH, can cause this.
One or both nipples can hurt alongside swelling of breasts. Wearing comfortable bras during this time can decrease the discomfort.
Tender breasts are also a sign of pregnancy. While monitoring your cycle, if you notice sensitivity in the chest area days after the ovulation period, it can indicate pregnancy.
Like all symptoms of ovulation, change in saliva is also caused by hormones. The increasing estrogen and progesterone change the texture of saliva. Usually, our dried saliva is more spotty but saliva during ovulation has a more fern-like pattern.
But, it is not a reliable symptom for tracking ovulation as other factors (eating, drinking, smoking, etc) can cause this change randomly as well.
How To Track Ovulation
Tracking ovulation is quite simple. There are many tried and tested ways including manual and prediction apps. The symptoms of ovulations are great tools for tracking.
Calculate Your Cycle:
Calculating your average cycle time is essential. Knowing your menstrual cycle duration can help you not only predict your next period and ovulation but also help you to notice irregularities.
The average cycle time is 21-35 days. While 28 days may be the standard time, some women have shorter or longer cycles. Since we tend to ovulate two weeks before our next period starts, you can center your conceiving plans around those dates.
Irregular cycle dates indicate irregular ovulation (link for irregular ovulation). It is best to consult a doctor in such cases.
This is a manual cycle counting method that has been used for ages. You need to record the previous six to twelve cycles by noting down the start and end days.
Find the shortest cycle. Remove at least 18 days before the next cycle starts. For example, if your shortest cycle was 32 days, you will get 32-18= 14. You need to mark the 14th day of every upcoming cycle. Your ovulation might occur after a few days.
You are most fertile 3-5 days leading up to your ovulation and during your ovulation. So, those few days in between are the optimal time for intercourse if you want to conceive. However, this doesn’t work for those with irregular cycles.
You can also use predictor apps to chart your dates. Instead of manual calculating, they present you dates based on your data.
Basal Body Temperature Method:
An increase in basal body temperature is a symptom of ovulation. By recording basal body temperature every day, you can see the slight increase and get ready for ovulation.
To check your basal body temperature, you can use a thermometer or a special BBT thermometer. Thermometers that measure 1/1000 of a Celsius degree or 1/10 of Fahrenheit are ideal.
Use it right after waking up and before going to the bathroom. Make sure to record it at the same time every day.
The Luteinizing Hormone (LH) increases at the end of the follicular stage. This triggers the bursting of the mature egg or ovum from the follicle which starts ovulation.
Ovulation kits detect the luteinizing hormone in your urine. The surge usually happens 36 hours before the ovum is released and ovulation starts.
Since the 3-5 days leading up to ovulation is prime time for conceiving, the rising LH level lets you know when to initiate sexual activities.
Cervical Mucus Method:
One of the symptoms of ovulation is a change in cervical mucus. The wet and stretchy vaginal discharge is unlike the texture of other phases in the cycle. You need to examine your mucus every day and record it in a chart. This is also known as the Billings method.
Since the discharge is mixed with period blood during menstruation days, start recording after your period ends. It’s advisable to consult a doctor before you start using this method as it can be hard to get the hang of it.
You can use your fingers to check the consistency of the mucus, use white tissue or toilet paper to wipe your vagina before peeing, and check your underwear or panty liner (if using). If the discharge is clear and wet with a stretchy texture, it means you are near or probably already started ovulating.
Checking your vaginal discharge regularly can be helpful as it’s an ovulation tracking method and also a great indicator of health (link).
Tracking your ovulation can help you immensely in your pregnancy journey. It’s the first step if you’re trying to conceive. Knowing your cycle, symptoms, and ovulation pattern make the difficult road much easier.
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