Why You Want to Know
There are a number of reasons why women want to know when they ovulate. Pregnancy is probably the prime motive, either getting pregnant or avoiding pregnancy. Keeping track of menstruation is important when there is a concern about female health or gynecological issues. Irregular periods brought on by physical problems, stress, hormone levels or other factors can make tracking ovulation a real challenge.
The ovulatory phase of menses (the time you ovulate) sees the release of an egg from one of the ovaries for fertilization. The body signals a trigger response that increases the level of the hormone estrogen that, in turn, causes a surge of luteinizing hormone (LH), the hormone that helps ovulation. When the LH surge hits the right point, the egg is released and travels into the fallopian tube where it will be fertilized.
When Does Ovulation Occur?
It's hard to know exactly when ovulation will occur because cycles may vary from month to month. There is a typical measurement based on a 28-day cycle. However, not all women have 28-day menstrual cycles. Some have 21-day cycles while others may go as long as 35 days between menstruations. Depending upon the length of the cycle, ovulation will occur at different times in different women. The general rule of thumb in assessing approximately when ovulation will take place is that it generally happens two weeks before menstruation. So, if you have a 28-day cycle, then counting two weeks back will put ovulation on or around the 14th day. It is good to note that very few women ovulate like clockwork. Consequently, ovulation can take place any time between Day 8 to Day 20, depending upon the length of the menstrual cycle. It is possible to know when you ovulate by paying attention to the signs your body gives you that are peculiar to that specific time.
Being In Control
You'll need to know when you ovulate in order to be in control of your own fertility. You can track your menstrual period so you aren't caught off guard when it rolls around. If you've planned a vacation in the tropics, you don't want to be bloated and bleeding while you're away. For women who deal with endometriosis or irregular periods, knowing when you ovulate can help give a sense of control with the disease. Of course, if you want to get pregnant, knowing when you ovulate is very important. You are your most fertile during ovulation so planning intercourse during that time is instrumental in conception. On the other hand, if pregnancy is not the desired outcome, then knowing when you ovulate means you know when to abstain in order to reduce the chances of conception.
Learning the Signs
Unlike most mammals, humans don't give off overt fertility signs. The human signs are much more subtle, so discovering when you're ovulating can be a bit more challenging. There are, however, some signals that your body gives you that ovulation is occurring, one of which is tender breasts. Before and during ovulation the rise in hormones may cause your breasts to become tender. Mittelschmerz is the name given to the abdominal pain that can sometimes be felt during ovulation. Sometimes sharp twinges in the lower abdomen are felt, usually on one side. Basal body temperature rises during ovulation and there may be cervical changes as well.
Some Ways to Know
While no method of finding out when you ovulate is fool-proof, there are some tried and true methods that seem to work just fine for most women. First, there is charting your menstrual cycle, using a monthly calendar. The day your period comes is Day 1 of your cycle. The following month you record Day 1 of that month's cycle and then count backward 14 days - giving you an approximate time of ovulation.
You can monitor your basal body temperature by taking your temperature every morning and recording it on an ovulation calendar. Watch for the temperature increase that comes with hormones during ovulation and you'll have a good idea when you ovulate. During ovulation the cervical mucus becomes very stretchy and can be stretched a few inches without breaking. Checking cervical mucus regularly can signal ovulation. Then, of course, the easiest way is with an ovulation predictor kit that is a urine test for LH in the urine. When the surge happens, ovulation is occurring.