Ovulation: How to know IF and WHEN you ovulate
Ovulation is vital for getting pregnant. Yet many woman come to me saying “I don’t THINK I’m ovulating’. Nine times out of ten they are actually ovulating they just don’t know how to tell WHEN they ovulate.
Ovulation doesn’t need to be a mysterious unicorn or a lucky four leaf clover you only stumble across once in a while. Being able to tell WHEN and IF you ovulate every cycle is super easy, the problem is we as woman were just never taught how to do it. But I’ve got your back! Below are the best ways to identify WHEN you ovulate and I’ve even listed them in order of the most accurate down to the least.
But first, let’s bust some myths about ovulation and make it really easy to tell IF and WHEN you are ovulating.
Ovulation describes the process whereby the mature egg is released from the ovary into the Fallopian tube. Only after ovulation can fertilisation of the egg take place and only after ovulation will a woman produce progesterone. In a ‘typical’ menstrual cycle woman usually ovulate between days 12-16 of their cycle which equates to 14 days before their period. Although this is what is considered normal not every woman will ovulate between days 12-16 and definitely not every woman ovulates 14 days before their period, so disregard those apps that say they can predict when you are ovulating or when you are fertile. Some woman may ovulate a lot earlier say day 8 while others may ovulate a lot later and a period doesn’t always come 14 days after ovulation if you have low progesterone (luteal phase defect) you may get your period 8 days after you ovulate for example. Ovulation timing can also vary between cycles so knowing how to tell when you are ovulating each cycle is crucial for getting pregnant.
So how can you tell IF and WHEN you ovulate? Keep reading to find out.
But first a few interesting facts about ovulation:
Ovulation occurs primarily in the morning during spring
While in the autumn and winter women primarily ovulate at night
Ovulation occurs more frequently from the right ovary
Eggs from the right ovary have a higher potential for pregnancy (55%)
Young women predominantly ovulate from alternating sides each month but after the age of 30 women ovulate predominately from the same ovary
Ibuprofen (Neurofem, Advil etc.) and other anti-inflammatory drugs can prevent ovulation
Doesn’t matter when your Luteinizing Hormones (LH) surge occurs ovulation will only occur if the egg is mature enough for ovulation.
How to Test Ovulation
Basal Body Temperature
Is the process of taking your body temperature at the same time every morning as soon as you wake up. This can be done simply by putting a thermometer in your mouth and recording the temperature in an app like Kindara. About 12 hours before you ovulate your temperature will dip and then it will rise. You can confirm you have ovulated once you have 3 temperatures higher than the last 6. The rise in body temperature after ovulation is caused by the rise in progesterone. Taking your body temperature can tell you not only when you ovulate but also about your hormonal balance. I use this method with all my fertility clients.
Pros: The most accurate and simplest way to identify ovulation. Cheap, non invasive and you can do it at home cycle after cycle all through your menstrual life. It can tell you more than just when you ovulate but also about your hormones throughout your cycle.
Cons: Only tells you once ovulation has occurred, cannot tell you when you are becoming fertile and is why you combine it with cervical mucous tracking (see below).
Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPK)
Luteinizing hormone (LH) is considered the trigger hormone for ovulation and it peaks 12 hours before ovulation. OPK pick up this LH surge and therefore identifies to the user that ovulation is near.
Pros: Simple to use, can tell you when ovulation is near.
Cons: Need to know roughly when ovulation is as the kits are very expensive and it is not practical to do an OPK test every day of your cycle just to try and identify ovulation. You can have a LH surge without ovulation following.
There are a number of ways to track ovulation through blood. The most common way is to measure progesterone on day 21 of a cycle. However this is has many flaws. Progesterone peaks 7 days after ovulation so measuring progesterone on day 21 is based on the idea that women ovulate on day 14. If you don’t ovulate on day 14, which many women don’t then a day 21 progesterone blood test is going to be no use for you! You really need to know when you ovulate to then do a 7 day post ovulation progesterone test.
Cycle tracking, which is commonly used by fertility clinics, whereby a woman will have blood tests every 2 to 3 days of their cycle to track what their hormones are doing. They will be using the LH surge to identify when ovulation is near and the progesterone levels to confirm ovulation has occurred.
Pros: Get a very detailed overview of exactly what the hormones are doing throughout the cycle.
Cons: It is very expensive, invasive in that you have to have blood drawn every few days. Only shows one cycle and cycles vary month to month. Cannot be done long term.
Cervical mucous also changes throughout the menstrual cycle from infertile mucous (thick, white, sticky) to fertile mucous (thin, watery, clear). Oestrogen causes the change in cervical mucous so when oestrogen peaks just prior to ovulation you will see a peak in fertile mucous.
Pros: Can tell you when ovulation is near so you can start having having sex for conception. Can help identify hormonal imbalances.
Cons: Doesn’t tell you if ovulation has occurred as you can get fertile mucous and not ovulate.
Ovulation Pain or Other Symptoms
Some women experience very specific symptoms at ovulation like pain or cramping on one side, spotting or even skin breakouts.
Pros: It’s important to note and in regards to spotting, pain or acne it can be a sign that there may be a hormonal imbalance at play.
Cons: It’s not very specific and these signs and symptoms can occur at any time of the cycle, not just with ovulation. Best to note these signs and symptoms in relation to basal body temperature and cervical mucous in an app like Kindara.
Basal Body Temperature testing is the cheapest and easiest way to identify when and if you are ovulating. Once you know when you are ovulating then let the baby making begin! Recently I had a client get pregnant when she ovulated on day 32 of her cycle. It’s a LONG way from the day 14 that we are told we ovulate on but she was able to conceive because she tracked her temperature and cervical mucous and so could tell when she was becoming fertile and then when she ovulated. Knowledge is power so don’t be confused about IF and WHEN you are ovulating start tracking and you will soon know.
For more tips on getting pregnant read 7 Tips to Optimizing Conception and Getting Pregnant.