Knowing When You Ovulate
Menstrual cycles can be tricky business sometimes: they aren't always regular, they can come and go when they please, and sometimes you can even have two periods in one month. This is because every woman's menstrual cycle is different and, depending on factors like stress, physical activity, and hormone levels, your monthly cycle may be hard to keep track of. Whether you are trying to get pregnant, trying to guard against pregnancy, or are just interested in keeping track of your menstrual cycle, knowing when you ovulate can be a great help to any woman.
What is Ovulation?
Ovulation refers to a specific phase in your menstrual cycle. Known as the ovulatory phase, it is during this time that your body releases an egg for fertilization. During the ovulatory phase, your body sends a series of signals that trigger an increase in the levels of estrogen in your body. In turn, this increase sets off a rise in luteinizing hormone (called the LH surge), a special hormone that helps you ovulate. When this LH surge reaches a certain point, one of your ovaries releases an egg. This egg will then travel down the fallopian tubes in order to be fertilized.
When Does Ovulation Occur?
It can be hard to predict exactly when ovulation occurs. This is because every woman's cycle is different and can even vary individually from month to month. Typically, it is assumed that every woman has a cycle around 28 days in length. However, your cycle may last anywhere from 21 to 35 days in length. Ovulation occurs at different times in different women, depending upon the length of your menstrual cycle.
A good rule of thumb is to remember that ovulation typically takes place about two weeks before menstruation. This means that, if you have a 28-day cycle, you will ovulate around Day 14. However, few women ovulate like clockwork. As a result, ovulation can occur anywhere from Day 8 to Day 20 depending on the length of your cycle. In order to find out when you ovulate, it is necessary to look closely at specific signs that your body gives off.
Why You Need to Know
So why would you want to know when you are ovulating in the first place? Well, women find that knowing when they ovulate helps to provide them with control over their own fertility. Knowing when you ovulate can help you:
- Track your menstrual period: Keeping track of your ovulation will help you to predict when your menstruation is going to arrive, so you won't be caught off guard. It is also especially useful for women with irregular periods or endometriosis, who often don't ovulate.
- Get Pregnant: It is during ovulation that you are at your most fertile. If you are trying to get pregnant, timing intercourse around your ovulation can greatly increase your chances of conception.
- Preventing Pregnancy: Women who are sexually active but who don't want to get pregnant sometimes monitor their ovulation in order to prevent pregnancy. By refraining from sexual intercourse around the time of ovulation, you can reduce your chances of getting pregnant.
Signs of Ovulation
Humans are unlike most other animals in the world because we don't give off overt signs that we are fertile. Instead, our signs of fertility are much more subtle, and this can make it challenging for us to discover exactly when we are ovulating. However, there are a few physical signs that the body gives off when ovulation is occurring. Some common signs to watch out for are:
- Tender Breasts: Before and during ovulation your breasts may become more tender than usual, due to the rise in your hormones.
- Mittelschmerz: Mittelschmerz is the name given to abdominal pain felt during ovulation. Some women experience sharp twinges in the lower abdomen during the ovulatory phase.
- Body Temperature: During ovulation, your basal body temperature (BBT) will increase slightly.
- Cervical Changes: Your cervix will change shape, position, and texture during ovulation. It will also produce a different type of cervical mucus.
Finding out When You Are Ovulating
There are various ways to find out when you are ovulating. No method is foolproof, so it is important to take extra precautions if you are having unprotected sex at any time during your menstrual cycle. Choose a method that you feel most comfortable with and practice it for at least a couple of months, in order to determine when you are ovulating.
Charting Your Menstrual Cycle
Many women choose to chart their menstrual cycle in order to determine when they are ovulating. Ovulation charting is also useful for predicting when your next period will be. All you need is a calendar that marks all the days in each month. When your period comes, mark that day on the calendar. This is known as Day 1. Next month, you will also record the first day of your period on the calendar. Count the number of days in between to find out the length of your cycle. To determine when you ovulate, count back 14 days from Day 1 of your cycle. This method will not be completely accurate it may be a few days off but it should give you a good idea as to when you are ovulating.
Basal Body Temperature (BBT): Monitoring your basal body temperature is also a good way of determining when you are ovulating. When you begin to ovulate, your basal body temperature increases, as a response to hormone levels. If you can find out when this temperature increases, you can determine when you ovulate. All you need is a special thermometer, which you can get from your local drugstore or pharmacy. Each morning, take your temperature and record it on an ovulation calendar. When you begin to ovulate, you should notice a slight increase in your BBT, typically between 0.5 and 1.6 degrees.
Cervical mucus can also provide clues to your ovulation date. Cervical mucus changes throughout your cycle; during ovulation, you will find that your cervical mucus becomes thin, clear, and stretchy. There will also be lots of it. Every morning, check your cervical mucus and record its texture and appearance on your calendar. Stretch the mucus between your thumb and forefinger. When you can stretch it a few inches without breaking it, you are ovulating.
Ovulation Predictor Kits
Ovulation kits are now widely available to help you to determine when you are ovulating. These ovulation tests measure the amount of LH in your urine, allowing you to predict when you are ovulating. These tests are fairly inexpensive and easy to use all you have to do is place a special stick in your urine flow and then wait for the results.
Chat with other women about ovulation, irregular cycles and other menstruation issues in our menstruation forum.