Ovulation is the
release of a single egg from a follicle that developed in the ovary. It usually
occurs regularly, around day 14 of a 28-day menstrual cycle.
Woman planning to
conceive may choose from these methods:
- Natural planning methods such as the ovulation method (intercourse takes place
just before or after ovulation)
- The symptothermal method (evaluating fertility based on your daily temperature).
Remember: women are more likely to become pregnant if intercourse takes place
just before or just after ovulation. This is because the unfertilized egg can
live for only 12-24 hours in your body. If you have been trying for a few months
with no results, don't get discouraged. Only 20% of women who are trying to
get pregnant are successful on the first attempt, so don't lose hope or assume
something is wrong.
Understanding your monthly fertility pattern (days in the month when you are
fertile, days when you are infertile, and days when fertility is unlikely, but
possible) can help you plan a pregnancy, or avoid pregnancy. If you have a problem
with fertility, learn all you can about you and your partner's health, and your
options for treatments.
The Menstrual Cycle
Being aware of your menstrual cycle and the changes in your body that happen
during this time can be the key to helping you plan a pregnancy, or avoid pregnancy.
During the menstrual cycle (a total average of 28 days), there are two parts:
before ovulation and after ovulation.
• Day 1 starts with the first day of your period.
• Usually by Day 7, a woman's eggs start to prepare to be fertilized by
• Between Day 7 and 11, the lining of the uterus (womb) starts to thicken,
waiting for a fertilized egg to implant there.
• Around Day 14 (in a 28-day cycle), hormones cause the egg that is most
ripe to be released, a process called ovulation. The egg travels down the fallopian
tube towards the uterus. If a sperm unites with the egg here, the egg will attach
to the lining of the uterus, and pregnancy occurs.
• If the egg is not fertilized, it will break apart.
• Around Day 25 when hormone levels drop, it will be shed from the body
with the lining of the uterus as a menstrual period.
The first part of the menstrual cycle is different in every woman, and even
can be different from month-to-month in the same woman, varying from 13 to 20
days long. This is the most important part of the cycle to learn about, since
this is when ovulation and pregnancy can occur. After ovulation, every woman
(unless she has a health problem that affects her periods) will have a period
within 14 to 16 days.
Charting Your Fertility Pattern. Click
Here to Print Your FREE Ovulation Chart Form.
If you are know when you are most fertile, this will help you plan or prevent
a pregnancy. There are different methods that could help you to track it every
• Basal body temperature method - This involves taking
your basal body temperature (your body's temperature when you're at rest) every
morning before you get out of bed, and recording it on a chart. You will begin
to know your own fertility pattern, and you can see the changes from month to
month. During the menstrual cycle, your body temperature remains at a somewhat
steady, lower level, and begins to slightly rise with ovulation. The rise can
be a sudden jump or a gradual climb over a few days. The rise in temperature
can't predict exactly when the egg is released, but your temperature rises between
.4 to .8 degrees Fahrenheit on the day of ovulation. You are most fertile, and
most likely to get pregnant during the two to three days just before your temperature
hits the highest point (ovulation), and for about 12 to 24 hours after ovulation.
Once your temperature spikes and stays at a higher level for about three days,
you can be sure that ovulation has occurred. Your temperature will remain at
the higher level until your period starts. Basal body temperature differs slightly
from woman to woman, but anywhere from 96 to 98 degrees orally is normal before
ovulation and anywhere from 97 to 99 degrees orally after ovulation. So, any
changes that you chart are very small and are in 1/10 degree. You can buy an
digital basal body temperature
thermometer on our website.
• Calendar method - This involves keeping a written record
of each menstrual cycle on a regular calendar. The first day of your period
is Day 1, which you can circle on the calendar. Continue doing this for eight
to 12 months so you know how many days are in your cycle. The length of your
cycle can vary from month to month, so write down the total number of days it
lasts each time in a list. To find out the first day when you are most fertile,
check your list and find the cycle with the fewest days. Then subtract 18 from
that number. Take this new number and count ahead that many days on the calendar.
Draw an X through this date. The X marks the first day you're likely to be fertile.
To find out the last day when you are fertile, subtract 11 days from your longest
cycle and draw an X through this date. This method always should be used with
other fertility awareness methods, especially if your cycles are not always
the same lengths.
• Cervical mucus method (also known as the ovulation method)
- This involves being aware of the changes in your cervical mucus throughout
the month. The hormones that control the menstrual cycle also cause changes
in the kind and how much mucus you have just before and during ovulation. Right
after your period, you usually have a few days when there is no mucus present
or "dry days." As the egg starts to mature, mucus increases in the
vagina, appears at the vaginal opening, and is usually white or yellow and cloudy
and sticky. The greatest amount of mucus appears just before ovulation, during
the "wet days," when it becomes clear and slippery, like raw egg whites.
Sometimes it can be stretched apart. This is when you are most fertile. About
four days after the wet days begin the mucus changes again. There is now much
less and it becomes sticky and cloudy. You might have a few more dry days before
your period returns. You can describe changes in your mucus on a calendar. Label
the days, "Sticky," "Dry," or "Wet." You are most
fertile at the first sign of wetness after your period, but maybe also a day
or two before wetness begins. This method is less reliable for women whose mucus
pattern is changed because of breastfeeding, use of oral contraceptives or feminine
hygiene products, having vaginitis, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or
surgery on the cervix.
• LH Ovulation
Prediction Urine Test Kits. Luteinizing
hormone ovulation urine test (home test kit); Ovulation
prediction test; Urinary immunoradiometric assays (IRMA). This
urine test detects LH levels above a certain threshold. Urine is collected.
A sample of the urine is then applied to the test kit. The first urine of the
day should not be used for this test. The test is done to determine the time
of ovulation and is also used to adjust doses of certain medications. The anterior
pituitary gland secrets hormones called Gondaotropin (LH is one of these), which
stimulate the ovary to prepare a follicle to release an egg. Once the follicle
has matured, a dramatic rise in LH levels (known as the "LH surge")
signals the ovary to release the egg. (This is ovulation.) Ovulation typically
occurs 10-12 hours after the peak of the LH surge. Most test kits can detect
urinary LH levels as low as 20-40 IU/L (international units per liter). An LH
"surge" is detected if the urinary LH is above the threshold. However,
variations between different urinary LH kits are common. Check with the manufacturer
to find out the detection limit of their kit in IU/L.
Fertility Monitors Lady-Q - or Ovulation Saliva Test Lady Q. In
this test, you get a small microscope with built-in slides. You put some of
your saliva on a glass slide, allow it to dry, and look at the pattern it makes.
You will see dots and circles, a fern (full or partial), or a combination depending
on where you are in your monthly cycle. You will get your best results when
you use the test within the 5-day period around your expected ovulation. This
period includes the 2 days before and the 2 days after your expected day of
ovulation. The test is not perfect, though, and you might fern outside of this
time period or when you are pregnant. Even some men will fern. When a woman
is on the verge of ovulating, her saliva begins to form a distinct fern-like
pattern (when viewed under a microscope) due to an increase in the level of
salt/estrogen present. This pattern begins to appear around 3 days prior to
ovulation, and remains present for one or two days after. With saliva-based
fertility monitors, you apply saliva (or in some cases, cervical mucus) to a
slide or directly to the viewing window of the microscope. The slide is then
inserted into the monitor and allowed to dry for a short period. The monitor
serves as a magnifying lens which allows you to identify the fern-like pattern,
and therefore, the best time for having procreational sex. This test may not
work well for you.
Some of the reasons are:
• not all women fern
• you may not be able to see the fern
• women who fern on some days of their fertile period, don't necessarily
fern on all of their fertile days
• ferning may be disrupted by
- brushing your teeth
- how you put your saliva on the slide
- where you were when you did the test
To most accurately
track your fertility, it is best to use a combination of all methods, and remember
that your doctor is a professional.