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3 Signs of Ovulation

3 Signs of Ovulation

Nicole Knight, AHCJ | July 14, 2020 | Getting Pregnant

For the best chances of conception, it’s important to have sex when you’re most fertile. But how can you tell when it's prime baby-making time (1)? 

Knowing when you’re fertile is easy when you track 3 key signs of fertility: cervical mucus (CM), basal body temperature (BBT), and luteinizing hormone (LH). 

Here we’ll cover everything you need to know about these 3 fertility clues. And we’ll share pro tips on how to track these signs to find the fertile time in your cycle. We’ll also give you the low-down on cervical position — a bonus bodily sign to further help you hone in on your fertile time.

Record basal body temperature daily to confirm ovulation

Basal body temperature (BBT) is the temperature of your body at rest and may be used to confirm ovulation. BBT doesn’t predict ovulation, so don’t use it to time sex. Since you’re most fertile 2-3 days before the rise in temperature, if you wait until you see the temperature rise to have sex, it's too late because you likely will have already ovulated. Once you see your temperature rise, you’re no longer fertile until your next cycle starts.(2, 3).  

BBT fluctuates slightly in the two phases of the menstrual cycle. Before ovulation, in the follicular phase, BBT ranges between 96-98 degrees Fahrenheit, on average, when measured orally. It then rises to around 97-99 degrees Fahrenheit following ovulation (2, 3). 

The hormone progesterone influences the slight hike in temperature in the luteal phase, which is the second half of your cycle. To track your BBT, you’ll want to take your temperature in the morning before doing anything else after getting at least 3–4 hours of sleep (3). 

By tracking BBT, you can also measure the length of your luteal phase, which is the time between ovulation and when your period arrives. A short luteal phase may make it more difficult to conceive or sustain a pregnancy, so knowing the length of your phase is important (4).

Even so, BBT tracking isn’t foolproof. Everyday occurrences, such as an illness, stress, or a sleepless night, can throw off BBT and make it difficult to interpret your temperature pattern. 

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Track changes in cervical mucus 

CM is a naturally occurring substance produced by the glands in your cervix that has significant fertility superpowers. Throughout your menstrual cycle, CM changes in quantity, color, and consistency. 

This fluid may become "hostile" to sperm after your period, then gradually grow more and more fertile as ovulation approaches. Fertile CM not only helps transport sperm to the egg, but also filters out unhealthy sperm (5, 6, 7). Like we said, serious fertility superpowers.

Tracking the changes in your CM can help you identify when it is fertile — a sign that ovulation is imminent.  While fertile CM is typically characterized by either wet or egg-white like consistency,  fertile CM isn’t one-size-fits-all. Your fertile CM, for example, may be wet and slippery or clear and stretchy. Your fertile CM is as unique as you are (7)! 

(Read here for pro tips on identifying fertile cervical mucus.)

When you see fertile CM, have sex every day or every other day until you’ve ovulated. According to science, having sex when you see fertile CM and you’re near ovulation gives you the best chance of pregnancy (5, 7).

Test luteinizing hormone to predict ovulation

Luteinizing hormone (LH) is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland. A surge of this hormone stimulates the release of the egg about 12–24 hours before ovulation. The egg is released from one of the ovaries, then hopefully encounters some sperm along its journey (8, 9). 

For many women, identifying the LH surge is an effective method to help time sex to achieve pregnancy. You can detect your LH surge with at-home ovulation predictor kits (OPKs), which are sold in drugstores and online. Generally, you begin testing several days before you expect to ovulate. The more you test, the better your odds at detecting LH, reports the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. They suggest you have a 95% chance of detecting the LH surge with 10 days of testing, and an 80% chance with 5 days of testing. Because LH is released in short bursts, they also recommend testing more than once daily to catch the surge (9).

OPKs come with some caveats. There's the cost, of course, especially if you're testing frequently. If your peak is on the short side, there’s a chance you may miss the surge. If you’re nearing menopause, you may get a false positive (10). 

Plus, by the time the test detects the LH surge, research shows that a "significant proportion” of women have already missed the optimal window for conception (11). 

Even so, LH can help you figure out when you're fertile, especially if you’re monitoring it along with other fertility signs.

Bonus fertility sign: cervical position

Your cervix, which sits at the base of your uterus, changes over the course of your menstrual cycle. Early in your cycle, the cervix sits lower in the vagina. It feels firm to the touch, like the tip of your nose, and its doughnut-like hole (the os) may be shut. As ovulation approaches and estrogen levels build, the cervix rises in the vagina. It becomes softer, the angle of the cervix grows straighter, and the os opens (12). 

Tracking the changes in your cervix provides another helpful clue to know whether you’re fertile or not. For consistency, you’ll want to check your cervix around the same time each day if at all possible. There are a couple of ways to do so. (Go here for tips on checking your cervical position.) Try to focus on how your cervix feels today compared to how it felt yesterday — rather than what you believe it should feel like. 

Bear in mind it’ll take at least a few cycles to get the hang of your new fertility skills! 

Meantime, give yourself some major props. By learning your unique fertility signs, you’re not merely improving your chances of timing sex to when you’re fertile, you’re also increasing your body literacy. And that’s an achievement we should celebrate every day.

References +
11

Weschler, T. (2015). Taking charge of your fertility: The definitive guide to natural birth control, pregnancy achievement, and reproductive health.