Tracking ovulation is an easy skill requiring not much time out of your day. There are many ways you can track ovulation, and some ways are even free. Compiled below are 6 ways to be more aware of your fertility.
What is ovulation?
Ovulation is when an egg is released from the ovary. Ovulation is very a complex and natural process which women experience for 35-40 years of life. Knowing when in the cycle this happens helps us prepare for implantation and development of a healthy embryo. In addition, increases the probably of getting pregnant.
Ovulation starts as multiple follicles developing in the ovary. This is due to the presence of folical stimulating hormone (FSH). This hormone is secreted by the pituitary gland.
A dominant follicle then grows due to a complex negative and positive feedback loop. This takes place between the hormones, pituitary gland and hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus releases gonadotropic releasing hormone (GnRh) which in turn increases luteinizing hormone. A sudden surge in the luteinizing hormone (LH) signals the release of an egg from the follicle. Ovulation then occurs.
The egg is usually around 18mm in diameter when released. The follicle then transforms into a corpus luteum. Shortly after, the corpus luteum secretes estrogen, relaxin, inhibin and progesterone. This keeps the uterine lining a favourable environment for a fertilized egg. In the end, if the fertilized hasn’t taken place, it then collapses, and menstruation starts.
How to get pregnant?
In simple terms, to get pregnant have unprotected intercourse that is optimally timed.
Listed below are six methods to determine optimal ovulation timing
1. OPKs for tracking ovulation
OPK stands for ovulation prediction kit. OPks are urine test strips used to determine the presence of a surge of luteinizing hormone (LH) This surge indicates ovulation. The strip is briefly dipped into a urine sample, and then interpreted shortly after.
To determine the results of the OPK, there are two lines on the test strip. A test line and control line. To have a positive OPK, the test line will be a darker shade than the control line.
The luteinizing hormone is in constant flux in the body. Therefore when a surge is detected, it indicates a maturing follicle is releasing an egg. This increase of LH is a small window of time (usually 24-36 hours). Catching the LH surge helps us indicate when ovulation happens.
Notably, OPKs are therefore highly effective at determining ovulation at a specific time and date.
Pros of using OPKs
- OPKs are a highly effective way at tracking ovulation.
- OPKs come in a variety of styles. They range in affordability and design. Comparatively, from digital to dollar store quality.
- The test strips give a clear YES/NO result.
Cons of using OPKs
- Under certain conditions, OPKs can give false positives. These conditions include but are not limited to pregnancy, medications (fertility medications) early menopause, breastfeeding, recent hormonal contraception use, other rare medical disorders.
- Unfortunately, there is a certain margin of human error in the testing process. For example not enough urine on the test strip, diluted urine, using expired strips, and interpreting the strips wrong.
2. Average period length for tracking ovulation
Consequently, this way of tracking ovulation is the least dependable. It is pretty much guess work based on averages.
The most basic way to estimate ovulation date is counting averages. To estimate the day that you ovulate count 14-16 days from the date of your last cycle day. The last cycle day is the day before menstruation starts in the next cycle.
Say for example you have a 28 cycle. You will ovulate on day 14, and your period will end on the 28th.
That being said this method is not the same for every person. In fact every month ovulation occurs, it can happen on a different day depending on the cycle length.
As a result this method is good for a general idea of tracking ovulation, but should not be used exclusively for accuracy sake.
3. Ovulation microscope for fertility tracking
The “ovulation microscope” is a small simple handheld microscope used to show saliva ferning for fertility analysis. Certain levels of the hormone estrogen change fluid characteristics in the body (cervical and saliva for example).
These changes in saliva are then observed by drying a sample on the lens of an ovulation microscope. This sample is then studied and then determined to be one of three different categories. Non-fertile. Transitional. And fertile.
Cons of using an ovulation microscope
- It has a high level of difficulty. This is due to the samples needing to be analyzed for different patterns.
- Results are not reliable for women with fibroids, endometriosis, hypothyroid patients, and older women due to natural estrogen reductions.
Pros of using an ovulation microscope
- After the initial investment there are no additional parts to buy. This in turn makes it an economical choice.
4. Cervical positioning for tracking ovulation
A controversial way to track fertility timing is with cervical positioning.
Cervical position tracking includes feeling the opening of the cervix and observing its qualities. Signs of increased fertility include wetness from cervical fluid, lengthening of the distance, and an open soft cervix.
Additionally, signs that you are not quite fertile include low to touch, closed and firm cervix.
Uniquely the Ovia fertility app has a section for charting cervical position.
5. Basal body temperature for tracking ovulation
Basal body temperature (BBT) is a temperature charting method used to detect ovulation, and the luteal phase of the woman’s monthly cycle.
How to use a basal thermometer to track ovulation
It is important to take the temperature at the same site every day ( for example under the tongue). In addition it is imperative to take it first thing in the morning after waking before any activity. As well, make sure you have at least 6 hours of consecutive sleep for the most accurate results.
Every day of the cycle, basal body temperatures (BBT) taken and charted on a graph. My favourite app to use to record BBT is Fertility Friend.
How to interpret the chart results
Basal body temperature graph results coincide with changes in the bodies reproductive hormones. The corpus luteum is responsible for the positive shift upward in the chart. This shift upwards correlates with the rise of progesterone.
Note a rise of 0.4- 0.5 degrees C or 1 degree F displayed above baseline after ovulation. This rise is sustained throughout pregnancy. The rise will fall abruptly the day before the next period starts if no pregnancy takes place.
Pros of the BBT method
- BBT is a cheap and accurate monitoring system for early pregnancy.
- Sustained high temperatures can be predictive of a positive pregnancy.
Cons of the BBT method
- Temperatures recorded every day, every morning, at the same time. For mothers who are up in the night or shift workers, this may be problematic.
- User error is high. Due to not getting enough consecutive hours of sleep or not having the thermometer properly placed.
- Another point to realize is that results are retrospective. BBT charting is only helpful to indicate if ovulation has occurred.
Note: some women ovulate without any rise in pattern s
6. Cervical fluid for tracking ovulation
Fertile cervical fluids produced 3-5 days prior to ovulation. This is due to the increasing levels of estrogen before the luteinizing hormone (LH) surges.
In the 3-5 days prior you may notice discharge that is “egg white” in colour and consistency. By taking a sample of the discharge and feeling it between your fingers you will notice its unmistakable texture. It should be sticky, wet, stretchy and hold its elasticity.
Fertile cervical fluid is the best substance for sperm survival in the harsh conditions of the cervix through to the fallopian tubes. In fact, in the most ideal of conditions sperm have the ability to survive 5-6 days.
This survivals aided by high quality fertile cervical fluid. This fluid also buffers the pH to provide a hospitable environment for the sperms survival. In addition it provides a medium that aids in the mobility of sperm, as well adds nutrition.
Note: If you believe your lacking in sufficient fertile cervical mucus (CM). Pre-seed is a lubricant that mimics the qualities of fertile CM. It is available for over the counter purchase.
To conclude, its important to be on the lookout of this symptom. As its another clue to the bodies state of fertility.
What is the best app to track ovulation?
Ovia in my opinion is the best app for fertility tacking. Ovia had the best of all features combined. Therefore I highly recommend it for tracking ovulation. However if you are only interested in BBT tracking, then Fertility Friend is the app of choice.
Failure to ovulate
When tracking be aware of abnormal periods (shorter than 21 days and longer than 35). There may something medically wrong causing this abnormality in your cycle.
Anovulation is having a cycle where you don’t ovulate. Keep in mind continuing anovulation can be a cause of infertility.
Factors contributing to the reduction in ovulation and fertility
- High BMI; associated with long menstrual cycles fewer and less quality eggs in women.
- Hashimotos disease
- Graves disease
- Addisons disease
- Underweight BMI