Many of us start tracking our periods when we’re young. Maybe your health teacher encouraged you to, or your mom, or you just started keeping track on your own so you had an idea when to expect your period.
What we don’t often learn, though, is how to track ovulation. Our periods may be the most noticeable part of our cycle, but it’s ovulation that holds all the power! Ovulation, or the release of an egg, happens somewhere in the middle of your cycle. Ovulation is the result of a chain reaction of hormones rising and falling, and healthy ovulation is an indicator of healthy hormones.
If you’re trying to conceive, ovulation is especially important, since you need both a sperm and an egg (at the same time) to make a baby! Read on to learn why it’s important to track ovulation, when it occurs, and what your options are for tracking.
If you're trying to conceive, tracking ovulation is especially important!
Why is tracking ovulation important?
Knowing when you’re ovulating is the easiest way to guarantee you’ve found your most fertile days. If you’re trying to conceive, it’s important to keep in mind that you’re fertile for 6 days each cycle.
Tracking ovulation will tell you when your best chance of conceiving is, since your chances are highest right before and on ovulation day. It will also tell you when your chances of conceiving that cycle are over, and it’s time to wait until next cycle (or begin testing for pregnancy).
While it may seem like it isn’t a big deal to know when you’re ovulating, consider that studies have found that mistiming intercourse is actually a significant cause of infertility. Knowing when you’re most fertile can make a big difference.
When does ovulation occur?
Ovulation is on average 14-19 days after the beginning of your period, but this can vary greatly both from person to person and even cycle to cycle. Especially since sperm only live 3-5 days on average, it isn’t always enough to just estimate when you’re ovulating based on your cycle length alone.
Fortunately, we can get many clues about when ovulation is going to occur based on the hormonal activity that triggers it! Several days before ovulation, estrogen begins to rise, increasing your fertility and potentially causing several signs you can look out for.
12-36 hours before ovulation, luteinizing hormone (LH) surges above its normally low levels, and this rise is also detectable. Keep reading to learn more about these hormones and other ways to track ovulation!
Fortunately, we can get many clues about when ovulation is going to occur based on the hormonal activity that triggers it.
How do I track ovulation?
So, the answers you’ve (probably) been waiting for: how DO you track ovulation? There are several potential methods, all based on the hormonal activity that surrounds and kicks off ovulation. We’ll go through a few common ones, and their strengths and potential challenges.
Period tracking apps or ovulation calculators
Since a lot of people use period tracking apps to keep tabs on their cycle even before they start trying to get pregnant, it’s natural to continue using it to track ovulation. This can be a decent estimate if you have really regular cycles, and are looking for a low effort/low commitment option.
However, if you have irregular cycles or are trying to get pregnant, period tracking apps and ovulation calculators aren’t going to provide solid proof that you’re actually ovulating, or when.
Their predictions are just based on your average cycle length and don’t take into account YOUR particular cycle or situation. Studies have also found that different apps and calculators give different predictions! At the very least, you may want to consider confirming ovulation in addition to your period tracker.
A more personalized, reliable way to predict ovulation is to use luteinizing hormone tests, sometimes called ovulation tests or ovulation predictor kits. These tests are usually quick, pretty inexpensive, and easy to use, and tell you when your LH levels are indicating ovulation in the next 12-36 hours.
The day you pick up an LH positive is often called peak day or peak fertility, and your greatest chance of getting pregnant is with intercourse on that day! So LH tests can be a great tool and usually the surest way of picking up on ovulation right before it likely happens.
While LH tests are very accurate, it is still possible to ovulate with a negative test, or have a positive but not ovulate successfully. That’s why it’s important to also confirm successful ovulation!
Some kits, like Proov Complete, go beyond just ovulation testing, and include other hormones like E1G (an estrogen marker) and PdG (a progesterone marker) to help you detect the entire fertile window, not just peak day.
Basal body temperature (BBT) tracking
Basal body temperature is another common way to track ovulation. The idea is that you take your temperature at the same time right upon waking up (before you get out of bed), and your temperature will rise 1-3 days after ovulation when progesterone begins to rise.
You may be thinking, though, does knowing 1-3 days after ovulation really help? And you’d be right to wonder, because the answer is…kind of. While it’s still possible to conceive right after ovulation, your chances drop within 24 hours after ovulation when the egg dies.
Knowing when ovulation occurred after the fact is helpful, and a good way to confirm ovulation initially. It doesn’t tell you when to try though, or give you any warning that ovulation is coming.
Cervical mucus monitoring
Finally, cervical mucus is a good way to track ovulation and your time of high fertility (and it’s free)! When estrogen begins to rise after your period, it stimulates the cervix to begin producing increasingly fluid, slippery mucus that actually helps filter out low quality sperm and transport high quality sperm into the uterus.
Cervical mucus makes its way down to the vulva, where you may notice it especially as it becomes slipperier and resembles raw egg whites. If you see this mucus, it indicates estrogen is at its highest point and ovulation is coming soon!
You can also track cervical mucus with kegg, which analyzes electrolyte levels to help you find your fertile window.
Tracking ovulation can help you reach your fertility goals faster!