Ovulation tracking can help you determine when you ovulate, as you’re more likely to get pregnant by performing a home insemination around the time you’re ovulating.
When does ovulation usually occur?
Ovulation is the phase in the menstrual cycle where an egg is released from the ovary. The length of a menstrual cycle can vary month to month and could be affected by stress, weight changes and hormone fluctuations. If your menstrual cycle changes, so can your ovulation. Ovulation usually occurs around 12–16 days before your period starts, so you may be able to determine when you’re likely to ovulate if you have a regular cycle, but tracking can help work this out.
Why ovulation tracking can help
Ovulation tracking will help you determine when you’re fertile so you can have intercourse during this time. Once you ovulate, the egg lives for up to 24 hours. By knowing in advance when you may ovulate, you can plan to have intercourse and give the sperm time to swim up the fallopian tube, where they will meet the egg. If you track your cycles for a few months, you can better calculate your fertile window for future cycles without having to continuously track them every day/month. The fertile window is the day of ovulation and the 3–5 days prior to ovulation (which is the length of time sperm could potentially survive in the female reproductive system).
The different methods to track ovulation
Ovulation tests measure the LH (luteinising hormone) levels in your urine. In a menstrual cycle, LH will rise approximately 36 hours before ovulation. When you have a positive reading on an ovulation test, you can have timed intercourse which will increase the chances of the egg and sperm meeting. The downside is that ovulation tests can be expensive and some are difficult to interpret.
Some women get a brief one-sided pain or discomfort in their abdomen when they are ovulating. This is sometimes referred to as mittelschmerz. This can help understand when ovulation is occurring for future cycles.
Basal Body Temperature (BBT)
Measuring BBT is inexpensive as you only need an accurate thermometer, however, it does require daily readings which can be time consuming. BBT is your body temperature when resting, which can increase when you’re ovulating. It should be measured in the morning before getting out of bed and around the same time every day. It’s important to remember that the rise in BBT would happen after ovulation – so it’s most useful when scheduling intercourse for future cycles. It’s also important to understand the other factors that could have an impact on your BBT fluctuations – like stress, sleep problems, illness and alcohol consumption.
Just before ovulation occurs, oestrogen levels lead to changes in cervical mucus. The consistency becomes wet and stretchy, making it more friendly for sperm to swim through. After ovulation, it changes again and becomes thick or dry, which prevents sperm from swimming. It’s important to note that some medications can interfere with cervical mucus, like cold medications, cough suppressants and allergy medications, so it’s not always a reliable method. Women with PCOS may experience stretchy and wet cervical mucus throughout their cycle, which can make it harder to pinpoint the time of ovulation using this method.
What to do if you’re not ovulating
If you’ve been tracking your cycles but can’t determine if ovulation takes place, you may want to get in touch with your GP. There might not be anything wrong, but it’s a good idea to talk to a healthcare professional that can help assess if there are any tests that should be done to see if there’s an underlying cause.