Once upon a time there was a handsome strong sperm, who valiantly fought his way to the beautiful once-in-a-lifetime egg; together they merged to create a baby…
So how did he know when this beautiful egg would be waiting for him? Well the key to creating a happy ending to our story revolves around timing, specifically knowing when a woman is ovulating.
Important Things To Know
- When you ovulate one or more eggs are released into the pelvic cavity, and then into the fallopian tube
- The egg is fertile for only about 12 to 24 hours after it has been released
- Sperm can live for up to 3-7 days in the fertile cervical mucus present in a woman's cervix and vagina in the few days leading up to ovulation
So just like all the classic love stories, a happy ending comes down to great chemistry (healthy eggs and sperm) and good timing. In this case, the key is for the sperm to be either waiting chivalrously, or to not keep it’s sweetheart waiting for too long. It’s nature’s way of reminding us that it’s never a good idea to keep the girl of your dreams waiting!
When Does Ovulation Happen?
Ovulation is on average 12 to 14 days before the start of a woman's next period. For example if your cycle is 28 days long, then your ovulation day is likely to be day 14. However, women's menstrual cycles can range from about 21 to 40 days and some women do not ovulate consistently. Therefore, there are some tools that can be used to detect ovulation and therefore peak fertility.
Method One - Charting your Temperature
One very reliable way to know when you’re ovulating is to measure your basal body temperature (BBT). This is your temperature when you first wake up in the morning before you even get out of bed to start your day.
How it works:
- Pre-ovulation BBT is generally between 36.1-36.3 degrees Celsius.
- Once ovulation has occurred, the BBT goes up usually ranging from 36.4-36.6 degrees Celsius
- The day after ovulation, the BBT jumps up by at least 0.11 degrees Celsius, and then continues to rise. (This increase in temp is caused by the progesterone released from the follicle after ovulation)
- The temperatures themselves will continue to rise and dip day by day, but will remain in the higher range.
- The actual temperatures are less important than noting a pattern showing two levels of temperatures.
- If you are not pregnant, then your temperature will stay elevated for 10 - 16 days. At this time, progesterone levels drop dramatically and you get your period. Your temperature normally drops at this time as well, though it is not unusual to have erratic or high temperatures during your period.
- If your BBT remains elevated for 18 days or more after ovulation, you are probably pregnant.
- You’ll need a basal thermometer (from the chemist) which is different from a normal thermometer, as the scale is much finer and can measure very smaller changes in your BBT.
- BBT thermometers come with a temperature plotting chart - there are also lots of phone apps that have charts
- Once you wake in the mornings and before you get out of bed place the thermometer in your mouth for a minute then check and record the temperature on your chart.
- You are most fertile and therefore have the best chance of conceiving the day of and the day after your temperature rise.
Method Two - Cervical Mucus
A reliable sign of ovulation is an increase in vaginal discharge, which changes from white, creamy or non-existent to clear, stretchy and slippery when you ovulate. Once you get the hang of it, checking your cervical mucous is one of the easiest and most reliable ways of knowing when you are ovulating and combined with BBT charting is even more reliable.
How it works:
- Begin checking your cervical mucus after the last day of your period, up until the first day of your next period.
- Check mucus from the cervix by inserting two fingers (index and third finger) into your vagina and gently sweeping the cervix
- Once you have some mucus on your fingers, between your thumb and index finger, press them together and stretch the mucus – take note of what the mucus does. Does it stretch? Does it stay in shape and is tacky? Is it slippery? Is it clear, yellow or cloudy?
The following notes will help you interpret what you find:
- Not Much Mucus: If there is no mucus on your finger or very little mucus, the body is not currently ovulating. Cervical mucus production increases during ovulation.
- Sticky Cervical Mucus: If the cervical mucus is sticky, this could mean you are not ovulating at this time. Mark the results on the chart and check again tomorrow.
- Creamy Cervical Mucus: Creamy cervical mucus is a good thing. This is a good indicator that you are going to ovulate soon. Keep checking the cervical mucus every day for a change from creamy to watery and wet.
- Wet Cervical Mucus: Wet cervical mucus is the first sign of ovulation. If you find that the cervical mucus is wet, ovulation is happening and conception is more likely. Wet cervical mucus will most often also appear watery and could appear similar to egg whites.
- Watery Cervical Mucus: As ovulation begins the cervical mucus changes from sticky to watery. Along with the wet nature, the watery cervical mucus means baby making is a priority.
- Egg White Cervical Mucus (EWCM): Is mucus which can be stretched an inch or more between your fingers. EWCM is the perfect fertile mucus which allows sperms to penetrate the cervix and helps fertilization. EWCM that stretches between the fingertips when spread means the cervical mucus is fertile! The longer the stretch holds between the fingers the more fertile the mucus.
Note your results on a chart, a pattern will emerge showing your times of ovulation and peak fertility.
Method Three - Ovulation Kits
These kits can help you identify and predict your ovulation in advance. However, please keep in mind that these kits may not be 100% accurate, they tend to be less reliable than checking temperature and mucous.
There are 2 types of Ovulation Predictor Kits:
- Urine Based Ovulation Kits: These tests detect the increase of the luteinising hormone (LH) in your urine. You are most likely to conceive between the beginning of the luteinising hormone increase and the moment when your egg is released, which tends to occur around 12 to 36 hours after the initial hormone increase.
- Saliva Based Ovulation Kits: These kits test for rising oestrogen levels in your saliva near your ovulation. As oestrogen levels rise, it will cause the salt content of your saliva to increase and when it dries it crystallises. The test detects whether this crystallisation has occurred when your saliva dries.
If you have any questions please feel free to wrote to our team of fertility experts, to send an email click here.
Next time we explore how the handsome sperm becomes strong enough to win the beautiful egg.
To be continued…