How to Track Ovulation

From Follicle to Fallopian Tube: How to Predict and Confirm Ovulation

It sounds simple enough. An egg is released, ovulation occurs. Unfortunately, determining when and if ovulation happens can be a complicated matter. And if you're trying to conceive a child or avoid pregnancy, the ability to track your ovulation is crucial. There is a common assumption that ovulation occurs on the 14th day of a menstrual cycle, but this is often not the case. Cycles among women vary widely, not always aligning with the textbook model. If you're waiting for that 14th day, you may be missing your window to conceive. Thankfully, there are reliable methods for tracking and confirming ovulation.

Use Ovulation Test Kits

Temperature measurement in a natural family planning method.

How to Calculate Ovulation for Irregular Menstrual Period

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A relatively simple way to predict ovulation is with ovulation test kits, which are readily available online and over the counter. These strips or sticks test your urine for a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH), which occurs 12 to 36 hours before ovulation. Ovulation test strips are 90 percent accurate and typically inexpensive. It’s best to begin using them several days before you anticipate ovulation, so you don't miss the LH surge. It’s also important to remember that the strips test only the LH surge that precedes ovulation; they do not confirm that ovulation has occurred.

For a more comprehensive system, there are fertility monitors that work in conjunction with ovulation tests. The tests measure LH and estrogen, and the data is stored in the monitor. The monitor identifies days of high and peak fertility, which may increase your chances of conceiving sooner.

Watch for Physical Changes

Your body will send signals when ovulation is approaching. It’s simply a matter of learning what to look for. In the fertile days leading up to ovulation, the cervix produces a clear, slippery fluid, like raw egg whites. This fluid is the perfect medium for those millions of sperm on their quest for the egg, improving mobility and providing nourishment. If your body is producing this fluid, you are likely in a fertile period near ovulation. If conception is your goal, squeeze in some time for intimacy. If you're not on the baby track, this is the time to either use protection or abstain. After ovulation occurs, the fluid dries up, sometimes within hours.

During ovulation, some women experience mild pain near the ovaries, tender breasts, increased energy or arousal, or a heightened sense of smell. However, these secondary signals depend upon the individual woman and are not a reliable indicator of ovulation when used alone.

Track Your Temperature

Temperature measurement in a natural family planning method.

How Soon After an LH Surge Do You Ovulate?

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A day or two after ovulation, your body will release a hormone called progesterone, which increases your body temperature by about 0.5 degrees, give or take, and stays higher until the beginning of your next cycle. This small increase, looked at in isolation, isn't necessarily a clear sign of ovulation. The trick is to chart your body temperature over time to determine when your temperature shifts to the higher range, indicating that ovulation has occurred. Your body temperature must be taken first thing in the morning each day for an accurate picture of your cycle. If the prospect of pencil and paper charting feels overwhelming, look into apps that can store and track the data for you.

If you're charting, it's wise to also pay attention to your cervical fluid. These two methods can provide you with important information—when you're near ovulation and when it has already happened.

Talk to Your Doctor

Whether you're trying to conceive or not, consider seeking valuable guidance from a doctor who knows your history. It’s important to talk to your doctor if you have concerns about your cycle, or if you’re unsure that ovulation is, indeed, occurring. Your doctor can also help you rule out or treat medical conditions that may impact ovulation.