There’s a magic ‘fertility window’ that opens during ovulation, where the universe finally aligns and gives you all the ingredients you need to support conception and make your baby-making dreams come true. We should all be able to access the window, but the big question is, how do you know when you’re ovulating? Even if you’re not quite ready yet to start trying for a baby, or you’re taking a natural approach to contraception, it’s useful to know so you can understand the source of any cycle issues or symptoms and understand your unique cycle rhythm.
Typically speaking, the fertility window is open for six days during your cycle, which reflects the 5-day lifespan of sperm. The possibility of becoming pregnant rises until the two days before and on the day of ovulation. After this, it declines quickly, within about 24 hours. But we all know that there’s no such thing as a truly typical cycle, and that’s when it becomes even more important to understand the signs and begin your tracking journey.
The Signs of Ovulation (Track Ovulation)
Your body gives you signs when you’re ovulating, so getting in touch with them is the first step to taking advantage of the fertility window. This isn’t about using methods to define your sex life and create added stress or anxiety. It’s a clear, obvious process to help you figure out the best times to conceive, rather than to dictate how often you practise! Many of the signs of ovulation include:
- Body temperature changes
- Heightened senses
- Mittelschmerz (one-sided, lower abdominal pain)
- Sensitive breasts
- Libido changes
- Cervix position changes
- Nausea & headaches
- Changes in cervical mucus
Ovulation typically occurs about 14 days after your bleed, on a 28-day cycle. But there is no such thing as typical! A normal menstrual cycle is anywhere between 24-35 days, so ovulation can be a moving target! It’s important to keep that in mind when taking note of any symptoms you may experience.
1. Record Your Basal Body Temperature
At ovulation and in the weeks after ovulation, you experience a rise in body temperature, as progesterone rises in preparation for a fertilised egg. The best time to try to conceive is before you begin ovulating, which may coincide with a slight drop in temperature before the post-ovulatory rise. So getting to know your own temperature pattern can assist with timing intercourse.
Basal body temperature is your body’s temperature at complete rest, so monitoring this with a basal body temperature thermometer first thing in the morning is one of the simplest ways to track ovulation when armed with the right knowledge. Readings let you know of the hormonal changes throughout your cycle, to alert you to optimal fertility times. This is the thermometer I recommend to my clients in practice.
You use this intel to then track and chart your cycle, so you know when you’ve ovulated, as well as familiarising yourself with the patterns in your individual cycle, because cycles will differ from person to person. It will take you a couple of cycles to really get to understand your basal body temperature, and how to use this incredibly informative tool, but when you do it can become one of the most powerful methods of reclaiming your fertility.
2. Check Out Your Cervical Mucus
Cervical mucus (which you might call discharge), changes throughout your cycle and you can see and feel cervical mucus changes during ovulation time. The key is to monitor it over a few months to discover your own patterns of hormonal change. It might feel a bit uncomfortable at first, but that’s just because we’ve grown up in a generation that has been taught women’s health is taboo. Monitoring the changes in your body throughout the month is the key to understanding it.
Fertile mucus is also known as spinnbarkeit (from the German meaning of being able to be spun). It becomes more abundant, thick and stretchy due to the oestrogen surge that precedes ovulation. Throughout the day, you can examine your cervical mucus with your fingers, to figure out the texture and amount. And I promise this is totally sanitary! If it’s more copious, wet, stringy, jelly-like, stretchy and resembles something similar to raw egg white, chances are you’ve clocked into the ovulation phase of your cycle!
3. Monitor Your Secondary Signs
Remember those signs we touched on at the beginning? Though signs differ individually, you can also look out for symptoms including sore breasts, back pain, increased hunger, breakouts and lower abdominal pain to record them to track your cycle. You may also experience energy shifts, including increased stamina, when you enter your ovulation phase. Often, women notice various mood swings, from increased anxiety or irritability to feeling a sense of greater wellbeing. There can be many different reasons for mood swings, which is why monitoring them helps you to determine what they mean, within your own unique pattern. When you combine all three tracking tools, you can unlock the secrets to your own fertility.
Because Mother Nature is an all-wonderful being, you’re also likely to desire sex more when you’re ovulating or about to ovulate, than at other times during your cycle! This is due to the rise in oestrogen before ovulation. Aren’t our bodies clever! Though it may seem confusing at first, when you methodically track your symptoms, that magic window will soon become crystal clear. After all, your body is an intelligent, highly-tuned instrument, just waiting to alert you of the prime, baby-making time for you!