How to Track Ovulation When Trying to Conceive

How to Monitor Ovulation to Determine Fertility

After a miscarriage, it's normal if you want to get pregnant again as quickly as possible. You may simply want to move forward with starting a family, or you might feel a new pregnancy is the best way to cope or the only way to get yourself to stop tracking where you should have been in the pregnancy you lost. In any case, if a fast pregnancy is your goal, it helps to track ovulation to make sure you're targeting the most most fertile window in your cycle. Here are some tips and methods to help you know when you are ovulating.

Counting Backwards

Day 14 Ovulation
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If your menstrual cycle tends to be the same number of days from month to month, it's a good bet that you ovulate around two weeks (14 days) before you expect your period. Note that this won't always be exactly two weeks after you start your period—if you have 35-day cycles, chances are you are ovulating around the 21st day of your cycle.

This method is inexact, however, and if you have irregular periods that vary from one month to the next, counting backwards probably won't be reliable for you.

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Basal Body Temperature Charting

Temperature Charting
Image © A.D.A.M.

Basal body temperature charting (BBT charting) involves taking your temperature first thing in the morning before you even rise from bed, noting it in a chart over the duration of your cycle, and watching for a sustained temperature increase to indicate that you have ovulated.

Because your temperature rises immediately after ovulation, this method can't predict ovulation in advance for a particular month, but it can confirm that you have ovulated and can give you a better understanding of your cycle—sometimes even providing a hint of whether you have conceived or not (the "implantation dip.") In a few cases, BBT charts can help doctors diagnose problems in couples facing infertility.

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Ovulation Predictor Kits

Urine Tests
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Ovulation predictor kits are urine tests, similar to home pregnancy tests, that should show a particular color pattern when your luteinizing hormone (LH) levels surge. An LH surge usually indicates that you will ovulate within 12 to 36 hours. Once the test predicts ovulation, it's recommended that you have "conception sex" daily for the next several days.

You will probably need to take the ovulation tests over a period of days in order to detect the surge, and figuring out when to start the tests can be difficult if you have irregular menstrual cycles. Overall, if you test for five days you have an 80 percent chance of predicting ovulation, and if you test for 10 days, you have a 95 percent chance of predicting ovulation.

Saliva Ferning Tests

Saliva testing can also be used to detect ovulation, and relative to ovulation test kits, this method can be much less expensive.

In many women, the saliva will dry to show fern-shaped crystals during the most fertile period of the menstrual cycle, so this method involves examining dried saliva under a microscope throughout the month to watch for the characteristic fern pattern. The kits come with instructions for use as well as a visual guide to help understand the appearance of saliva during ovulation.

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Computerized Fertility Monitors

Computerized fertility monitors usually work similarly to ovulation predictor kits (analyzing LH levels in urine sticks) but they offer more precision and advance warning of ovulation. Fertility monitors are usually quite accurate in detecting ovulation, but the downside is that the monitors and the necessary test sticks can be pricey.

As a less expensive but still technical alternative, there are now several iPhone apps for tracking fertility. Unfortunately, a recent study in Obstetrics and Gynecology found that these apps are still fairly inaccurate as of 2016.

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Tracking Cervical Mucus Changes

Uterus Illustration
Female Reproductive System. Image © A.D.A.M.

Charting cervical mucus  isn't for everyone, but sometimes you can get an idea of whether you're ovulating. The fluid (from the inside of your vagina) should look clear and similar to raw egg whites around the time of ovulation, but it might be creamy and stickier at other times of your cycle. Women sometimes use this method in combination with BBT charting—they use the mucus to get an advance idea of when ovulation might occur and then the temperature chart to confirm that it has indeed occurred.

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Not Tracking Ovulation

Regular Intercourse
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Tracking ovulation isn't necessary and may not even be beneficial if you would rather just have sex about 2-3 times a week (roughly every 2 to 3 days). Sex every few days means that sperm will most likely be present to meet the egg when ovulation does occur, and some couples may prefer not to worry about temperature charts and urine sticks.

Monitoring ovulation to time intercourse can certainly be helpful for couples with scheduling challenges or who have fertility problems, but for others, tracking ovulation may not affect your odds of getting pregnant compared to simply having regular sex.

Take a moment to check out this guide on how to have baby making sex.

Sources:

Moglia, M., Nguyen, H., Chyjek, K., Chen, K., and P. Castano. Evaluation of Smartphone Menstrual Cycle Tracking Applications Using an Adapted APPLICATIONS Scoring System. Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2016. 127(6):1153-60.

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