If you are trying to work out when you ovulate to increase your chances of getting pregnant, there are a number of things you can look at – some are more reliable than others and may differ from woman to woman.
Length of menstrual cycle
If your menstrual cycle is regular and lasts 28 days, it is likely that you will ovulate on day 14 – halfway through your cycle. Your fertile window will begin a few days before this, on around day 10, as sperm can last for several days inside the body, awaiting the moment an egg is released.
Every woman’s cycle is different though so if yours usually lasts for a different number of days or is irregular, it can be more difficult to use the length of your menstrual cycle as an indicator of ovulation.
Throughout your menstrual cycle, you may notice changes in your cervical mucus. Around ovulation, your cervical mucus will become clearer and thinner, with a slippery consistency, similar to egg whites. This is to assist the sperm in their journey through the cervix.
Just before you ovulate, your basal (resting) body temperature falls slightly, then rises again after an egg is released. This is due to hormonal changes occurring in your body around this time. You can use a special Basal Body Temperature (BBT) thermometer to take your temperature every morning before you get out of bed, which you will then need to record and chart for several months. This method requires commitment for you to detect the – very slight – temperature changes over the month.
Changes in cervical position
The cervix goes through many changes during the menstrual cycle. During ovulation, the cervix will be soft, high and open before returning to a lower, firmer position afterwards. Checking your cervix is easier than you might think and can be done with no equipment at all – just clean fingers – but it may take a few tries before you can tell the difference between the cervical positions for yourself.
Ovulation predictor kits
Hormone levels increase around the time of ovulation and ovulation tests can be used to detect the level of hormones in your urine. These tests are easy to use and should be carried out at the same time every day during your estimated fertile window (according to the length of your menstrual cycle) in order to detect a surge in luteinising hormone, which triggers the release of an egg from the ovary.
Secondary signs and symptoms
The following may not happen as consistently, if at all, for many women but can indicate ovulation is occurring or is approaching.
Some women experience breast tenderness around ovulation but this is a less reliable way of predicting ovulation as it can also occur at different stages in the menstrual cycle, particularly right before your period.
Bloating and tummy pain
Mittelschmerz is experienced by some as one-sided, lower abdominal pain and is associated with the release of an egg from one of the ovaries. The pain is usually mild and can last for a few minutes or a few hours and can be accompanied by some light spotting as the egg breaks through the small sac (follicle) on the ovary. Many women experience no pain at all or may mistake PMS symptoms for those associated with ovulation.
Increased sex drive
Many women will experience a rise in libido at certain times during the month. This is due to hormonal changes during ovulation, effectively encouraging the body to make the most of a period of high fertility.
Heightened sense of taste or smell
A lesser-known symptom but one reported by some is heightened senses around the time of ovulation, as hormonal changes prime the body to be drawn towards male pheromones.
While some of these signs and symptoms are more reliable indicators of ovulation, it can help to keep a record of any changes that occur in your body throughout the month if you are trying to conceive. Once you have narrowed down your ‘fertile window’, having sex every 2-3 days is recommended to increase your chances of becoming pregnant. Consult your GP if you experience any new symptoms, particularly pain or bleeding.
Jen Dowding, Baby massage and baby yoga instructor, Basking Babies Laindon & Orsett