By now you have most likely heard about fertility and ovulation tracking, but might be wondering what it is and how it works. No matter what your particular situation is, fertility tracking is a useful tool to increase your chances of getting pregnant in any given month, and help you become more mindful about your feminine health and menstrual cycle.
If you are trying to get pregnant, it can certainly be a nerve-wracking, time. Whether this is your first time trying for a baby, or you have children and want to grow your family, you and your partner are setting out on a life-changing journey. You want to have the best chances possible of conceiving, so tracking your fertility and ovulation can be important.
For some couples, getting pregnant happens quickly and easily once they make the decision to conceive. For other couples, the process isn’t so straightforward, or there may be questions or issues about infertility to address.
What is Fertility Tracking?
Keeping track of when you ovulate is key when trying to conceive. Ovulation is the most fertile time during your menstrual cycle as it is when the egg is moving down the fallopian tube, where it can come in contact with sperm to create conception.
While sperm can live for several days, eggs have only 12 viable hours. Knowing when you ovulate increases your chances of the egg and sperm connecting at the optimal time. Tracking your period and ovulation is one way to keep track of this important window of time, known as the “fertility window”.
Some women know when they are ovulating each month due to the signs their body gives them, like breast tenderness, cramping, and/or light spotting. For others, ovulation may occur without any noticeable symptoms. This is when help with fertility tracking comes in especially handy.
Despite common belief, the best time to have sex during ovulation is not on the day you ovulate, but rather 2-3 days prior, to allow sperm time to travel up the fallopian tube and meet up with an egg.
Period and Ovulation Trackers & Methods
Every woman’s cycle is different, so it’s important to understand your own body’s pattern. There are several ways to track your monthly period and what works best for each woman varies.
Tracking Ovulation Through Cervical Mucus Changes
You may have noticed that your cervical mucus (vaginal discharge) changes in consistency, amount, and appearance throughout the month. Sometimes it is more dry and sticky, and other times it looks and feels more like uncooked egg whites.
Did you know that tracking your cervical mucus can help you understand when you are going to ovulate? You can begin tracking this the day after your period stops completely. The best (and easiest) place to do this is on the toilet, but make sure it is before you urinate.
Insert one or two sanitized fingers into your vagina and then rub them together to feel if the cervical discharge is sticky or smooth. You can also check the color and consistency of it on your fingers. Record the consistency (dry or wet), color, amount, and texture (sticky or smooth) on a daily chart. Right before you ovulate cervical mucus will increase in amount, will be clear, and will feel slippery between your fingers (like egg whites). This is the optimal time to try to conceive.
Monitoring Fertility With Basal Body Temperature
Another way your body indicates you are about to ovulate is an increase in your basal body temperature. This is your body’s temperature when you are completely at rest, even before you sit up or move in any way. By tracking your basal body temperature daily you can determine if there is a change that may indicate you are about to ovulate.
A regular thermometer doesn’t work for tracking basal body temperature; a special thermometer is needed (available at Amazon.com and other retail outlets). Most women’s temperature reads 96-98 degrees before ovulation and 97-99 degrees after ovulation.
Ovulation Trackers & Tracking Kits
An ovulation tracker kit, also called ovulation predictor kit, is a testing strip that measures the level of the LH (luteinizing hormone) in your urine. When ovulation is impending, the level of LH in your system spikes (called an LH surge), and this indicates ovulation is approximately 36 hours away.
About two days before you expect to ovulate (which can be determined based on body changes and/or through the use of a menstrual cycle tracking app) begin using the testing strips. Much like a pregnancy test, ovulation test strips have a control line that shows the test is working, and if you are experiencing an LH surge a second, darker line will appear. When it does, this is the best time to have sex to try to conceive.
It’s important to note that for some women, ovulation test strip results may not be immediately obvious and this may cause them to miss their ovulation window. Moreover, some tests require that testing begin on the first day of your period so be sure to read and follow all the directions on the kit you choose.
Check with your doctor for additional information on tracking methods that may work best for you.
Special Considerations for Ovulation for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Patients
There are special considerations for PCOS patients, too. Patients with PCOS have elevated LH levels which can falsely indicate ovulation. In these cases, ovulation induction with medications, along with monitoring via blood work or ultrasound, can help women with PCOS conceive more reliably.
Best “Period Trackers”
Every woman’s body is different, so the ovulation tracking method you choose will be the one that works best for you. There are many products and apps on the market for fertility tracking, so it can be confusing.
This list of the best ovulation testing kits of 2021 may be helpful in learning more. Clearblue Easy and First Response are two of the most popular ovulation testing kits. Apps like Clue, Flo, and Glow are also popular period, ovulation, and fertility tracker options.
Surviving the “Two Week Wait”
The period of time between having sex to conceive and taking a pregnancy test is exciting and stressful. It’s particularly difficult for couples who have been trying to conceive for some time. Here are some tips for ways to manage stress while you wait to take a pregnancy test:
- Plan fun activities – staying busy can help pass the time and get your mind off of waiting, even for a little while. Making plans to do things you enjoy both as a couple and individually can make waiting a little easier. Do things that may be difficult to do when you’re caring for a newborn like get a massage, a night out for dinner or a movie, or some time away on vacation.
- Spend time with friends and family – surround yourself with the people who lift you up and are part of your support system. Talking to a trusted friend or someone else who understands what you’re going through can also help.
- Focus on wellness: now is a good time to focus on eating healthy foods and cutting back on harmful substances like alcohol and caffeine. You want your possible pregnancy to start out on the best foot possible!
- Talk to your doctor about prenatal vitamins: your doctor may recommend taking prenatal vitamins while you are trying to conceive. This may reduce the risk of neural tube defects or other developmental issues.
- Go on a date: spend quality time with your partner. After all, the two of you are experiencing this exciting time together! Staying connected with each other is important both as a support and also to do fun activities you enjoy doing as a distraction from all the waiting.
Are you planning to become pregnant and looking for an obstetrician in Tucson? In addition to traditional obstetrician services, Copperstate OB/Gyn now offers ovulation induction with oral medications as well as intrauterine insemination.
Let us join you on your amazing and unique pregnancy journey. Book an appointment today!
Originally published 11/16/2021