Predicting ovulation is one of the critical factors in getting pregnant. Sexual activity has to be timed according to a woman’s most fertile periods, or when her body releases an egg ready to be fertilized. Of course, like many bodily processes, ovulation cycles are not set in stone—some women are always off by days or weeks, while others can predict it down to the hour.
The signs of ovulation vary from one woman to the other. The hormonal changes that accompany ovulation can produce changes in body temperature, cramps, and a slight dilation of the cervix, among other things. These are felt to different degrees by different women, so it’s best to check across several factors to get more accurate results. Below are five common ways to tell when you’re ovulating and increase your chances of conceiving.
1) The calendar method
The simplest way to predict ovulation is to track your menstrual cycle. This cycle lasts about 28 days, Day One being the first day of menstruation. Most women ovulate about midway through this cycle. However, there’s a large margin of error here, with some cycles lasting as little as 23 days or as long as 35. Your cycle may even change from one month to the next, especially if you’ve stopped using birth control pills. Keep a menstrual calendar and track your periods for a few months. It’ll come in handy not just when you’re trying to conceive, but for predicting your due date when you do become pregnant.
2) Watch for cramps
About 20% of women get slight cramps at the time of ovulation. These are known as “mittelschmerz,” German for pain in the middle, although they’re not quite like menstrual cramps. While menstrual cramps are which are deep and last a few minutes each time, ovulation cramps are characterized by shorter, milder pangs of pain. They usually occur on just one side, from the ovary releasing the egg. Doctors aren’t entirely sure of the link to ovulation—it could be from the release of the egg itself or the maturation of the egg. In any case, listening to your body can help you pin down your cycle more accurately.
3) Check for cervical changes
The cervix is designed to prepare your body for fertilization at regular periods in your menstrual cycle, basically making it a more welcoming place for sperm. Around the time of ovulation, your cervix may pull back and open up so that sperm can easily reach the egg. Not all women can feel these changes clearly—some don’t even notice it at all. Consider doing a daily cervical chart by checking your opening with one or two fingers, and noting the days when it starts getting wider. Another thing you can do is check for cervical mucus. When your natural fluids start to thicken, it’s a sign that your body is producing more mucus to help sperm cells on their way to the uterus.
4) Keep a temperature chart
Your basal body temperature—the lowest temperature your body achieves at rest—rises and falls throughout your menstrual cycle. It decreases just before ovulation as your body produces more progesterone, and rises once you’ve ovulated. Take your basal body temperature every day (you’ll need a basal body thermometer) and see when it’s at its highest and lowest. For this to work, you’ll have to do temperature charts for at least a few months, not just one or two. This will help you figure out the pattern of your menstrual cycle and help you predict ovulation more accurately, rather than see the signs when it’s already occurred.
If you’ve found what you aren’t pregnant, read our guide on how to get pregnant quickly.