Having spent over two years trying to get pregnant, I spent a lot of time doing research, and I am sharing what I found out.
What to Know About Ovulation
There are two essentials to being able to get pregnant—one is that you need to be ovulating (i.e. releasing an egg) and the second is that you need to be having unprotected sex around the time that you are ovulating.
For this reason, it is pretty important to not only know when you are ovulating but also if you have ovulated at all. Ovulation essentially means that an egg is released from your ovary and passes down the fallopian tube where it can be fertilised by sperm and then move on to the womb.
According to Medical News Today, women are likely to start ovulation between the ages of 10 to 15 years old, and typically stop ovulating around the ages of 50/51 when menopause starts.
Signs Ovulation Has Already Occurred
There are a couple of ways to tell if you ovulated and some things that might give you an indication that you ovulated.
The Scientific Way
The scientific way to test this is to go for blood tests. This particular blood test is carried out on day 21 of your cycle and it measures the levels of progesterone in your system. At the beginning of your cycle, estrogen is produced, and when enough has been produced an egg is released, which leads to the production of progesterone. So the blood test checks your progesterone levels.
However, if your doctor does this test for you then you do need to make sure they know how long your cycles are. The idea is to do the test on day 21 as this, in theory, is 7 days after you should have ovulated (which is the optimum time to take the test).
However, if you have much longer cycles than 28 days, it may well be that day 21 is too close to your ovulation date to get an accurate test of the progesterone level (for example if you ovulate on day 19 of your cycle the test would need to be done on day 26). You would, therefore, need to let the doctor know that your cycles are not 28 days and arrange for the test to be done on the right day for your cycle.
Another way that you can tell if you ovulated (and this is something you can do for yourself at home) is to take your temperature every morning.
Taking your temperature every morning is a good way to keep track of what is happening in your cycle and can pinpoint ovulation for you.
You need to take your temperature with a basal body thermometer when you wake up every morning before you get out of bed; preferably at the same time each day. I used the Geon thermometer which measures up to 2 decimal places, which is what you need. Turn it on and put it under your tongue as soon as you wake up. After a minute or so it will beep to tell you that it has an accurate reading.
It is no good using a standard thermometer as it will not measure to 2 decimal points so make sure you choose a basal body thermometer.
Using a Chart to Check for Ovulation
So you need to mark down your temperature each morning on a chart (you can make your own, print one off from the internet, or use a temperature tracking app) and you can tell pretty accurately from the results when ovulation has occurred.
Once ovulation happens you will experience a shift in temperature upwards and this will last for most of the rest of your cycle. WebMD says that an expected shift would be around 0.5 degrees F.
There are a few websites and apps where you can track your daily temperatures so that you can see what is happening in your cycle.
By tracking your temperature using a basal body thermometer you can see if you have an anovulatory cycle (no egg is produced) or an ovulatory one. All you need to do is to enter your temperatures on the chart and see if there is a definite increase in your temperature mid-way through your cycle.
Other Methods to Detect Ovulation
Change in Cervical Mucus
Cervical mucus changes throughout your cycle and the key indicator in this case that you are about to ovulate is that your cervical mucus will become like the texture of egg whites.
Once this happens you are almost certainly fertile so it would be wise to make sure you have sex. The egg white cervical mucus helps the sperm to swim up to meet the egg, so definitely make use of this natural fertility lubricant.
Ovulation Test Strips
One other way to detect ovulation is to use Ovulation Tests. The ones that I used (and they happened to be the cheapest which is good if you need to test a lot), were these simple ovulation test strips.
Just before you ovulate there will be a surge in the level of luteinizing hormone (LH) and this hormone can be measured by ovulation detector strips and monitors.
These ovulation strips are simple tests that you dip in urine around the time you expect to ovulate to see how much hormone is present. You will get a very dark line on the test strip when you have the most LH in your body and thus at the time you are about to ovulate.
I found these really easy to use and accurate (as far as I could tell) but I needed to use them a few times a day once the lines started to get a bit darker on the test strips so that I did not miss my surge.
If you use these strips in the few days around the middle of your cycle then you can get a really good idea of when ovulation is likely to happen. If you have no idea when you will ovulate then it is worth starting to test with these strips on about day 10 of your cycle.
You will need to test at least twice a day as the peak time can come on quite quickly so you don't want to miss it. Once the strip has both lines as dark as each other then you will ovulate in the next 36 hours.
As you can see in the tests below, if I hadn't tested in the afternoon on a Friday, I may have missed my LH surge.
Being able to get advance warning of ovulation gives you a much better chance of getting pregnant.
If you use the test strips in conjunction with taking your temperature you will get a good overview of what is happening in your body.
It should be noted that even if you get a positive test for the LH hormone you will not necessarily ovulate—you need to confirm this with a shift upwards in your temperature.
You can also get much more complex ovulation monitors like the ClearBlue ovulation monitor. There have been many good reviews about these monitors but they are not particularly cheap and they do need a few months to get to know your body. They work in the same way as the test strips in measuring the LH in your urine, but the monitor gets to know your cycle and consequently knows when to get you to test more frequently.
Whichever method you use can give you an idea of when ovulation might have occurred.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.