Hi Mama! Ready to talk all about how to track ovulation and hear my best TTC tips? I’m so glad you’re here!
Maybe you’re just starting to think about growing your family, or maybe you’re actively trying to conceive and want to gain a better understanding about how it all works! Either way, I’ve got you covered.
The journey to motherhood looks different for everyone, but one key for many of us is figuring out when we ovulate. Ovulation is the time in your cycle when an egg drops from your ovaries down into your fallopian tube. The egg lives there for a 12-24 hour window and waits to be fertilized by sperm.
Figuring out when this happens for YOU is important to increase your chances of getting pregnant. Luckily, there are a few different ways to track ovulation and figure it all out.
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First, let’s talk about the fertile window
Okay, so I already talked about what ovulation is, and mentioned that once a mature egg drops down into your fallopian tube it lives there for roughly 12-24 hours before dissolving, if it isn’t fertilized.
You might be thinking, what?! 12 hours in an entire month to get pregnant?! Luckily, that’s not the case! You actually have what’s called a “fertile window” each month that lasts for 3 to 5 days before your day of ovulation.
This is because sperm can live in your fallopian tube for up to 5 days! It hangs out there, just waiting to fertilize an egg when it arrives.
So, the idea is that you should aim to have sex every day in the 3-5 days before you ovulate, so the sperm is already there when you do ovulate.
Determining when you ovulate
As you can see, timing is EVERYTHING when it comes to trying to get pregnant. This is why learning how to track ovulation is going to help a lot in your TTC efforts.
Ovulation for women who have a super textbook, 28-day monthly cycle, typically occurs on day 14 of their cycle. This is helpful knowledge because if you have NO IDEA when you ovulate, it’s a good starting place.
But I don’t want you to rely too heavily on the average day-14-ovulation! Studies suggest there are huge variations from woman to woman. This study actually found that only 30% of women ovulate in the average window.
How will this help me conceive?
What does this mean for YOU? You can really give yourself the upper hand in trying to conceive by figuring out exactly when ovulation occurs for you. And fortunately, it’s not as hard as you might think!
With the following tips and a little tracking, you’ll start understanding your cycle a lot better in a matter of one to three months.
And if you start tracking and a pattern doesn’t emerge, this is still valuable information. You’ll know it’s time to make an appointment with your provider to try and figure out what might be going on.
5 Ways to track ovulation
Alright, so now you understand WHY figuring out WHEN you ovulate is so dang important to getting pregnant. Soooo how do you do it? Here are the five most common ways to track ovulation.
I recommend using a few different methods because some women find some methods work better for them than others. By trying a few different ways to track ovulation, you’ll determine which ones are the best indicators FOR YOU.
I personally did calendar tracking and monitored my cervical mucus and had success! I was actually about to add in OPKs and basal body temperature charting, but wound up getting pregnant and never did.
1. Ovulation test strips (Ovulation predictor kits)
Okay! Ovulation test strips/Ovulation predictor kits (also known as OPKs) are basically little test strips that you dip in your pee to check for ovulation.
How do ovulation test strips work?
Well, just before your body releases an egg there is a surge of luteinizing hormone (LH) in your body. These test strips can indicate when the LH surge is happening. In most women, the LH surge occurs around 24-48 hours before you actually ovulate.
For many women, these are super helpful for timing when to have sex. Basically, once you get a positive OPK you should be actively trying to get pregnant for the next few days.
I know a TON of my friends have used and loved OPKs in their conception journeys.
How to use ovulation test strips
It’s recommended to begin using ovulation test strips on day 9 or 10 of your cycle in order to catch the LH surge in your body. If you know your cycle is highly irregular, you can even use one every day.
Unlike a pregnancy test, you want to do your OPK in the late afternoon or evening because the actually builds up in your body throughout the day. Some women with short LH surges test twice a day (once in the morning and once in the early evening) to catch that surge.
What’s more, to increase the accuracy of your OPK, don’t drink too much water before you test your pee, and try to do a nice long hold before you pee. This will help the strips pick up the LH in your urine.
Like with everything – these don’t work for everyone because we all have different bodies and hormone patterns! Some women have super short LH surges that are tricky to catch with an OPK, and other women have LH surges that last for days, which kind of creates a false positive.
The bottom line on ovulation test strips?
These are a great tool to have in your toolbox. Like I said, I know LOTS of women who love them and say they’re very effective. Others, not so much.
I recommend giving them a try for a month or two and seeing if you respond well. Use them in conjunction with some of the other ovulation tracking methods in this article and see how it goes!
Luckily, a box of them is pretty inexpensive so you can test every day if you think it’d be helpful for finding your baseline.
2. Cervical mucus (CM)
Another way to figure out your fertile window is with your cervical mucus. Yep! It’s true. The discharge you experience actually changes with the different phases of your cycle each month. Many women never really notice this, but once you start paying attention to it, it’s actually kinda cool!
And by cool – you might be thinking I’m nuts. But I love learning more about how my body works. For a lot of women, tracking cervical mucus is a free and super easy way to figure out ovulation. Especially if you note it along with some basic calendar tracking so you have an idea of what you’re looking for.
Here’s how the cycle of cervical mucus breaks down
- Your cycle starts with the first day of your period – during menstruation you won’t have CM
- After your period, you will see no CM or very dry CM
- Next is the sticky phase. Your CM is sticky and dry, it won’t stretch between your fingers
- Then you’ll see the creamy phase. This CM is lotion-like
- The next phase is wet and watery, indicating ovulation is getting closer!
- Finally, you’ll get the egg white cervical mucus! This means ovulation is imminent or occurring. Egg white cervical mucus (EWCM) is clear, very slippery and stretchy, and is similar to raw egg whites
- Once ovulation occurs, if the egg is not fertilized, CM will become dry or absent
- Then, if you did not conceive menstruation begins a new cycle
How to check cervical mucus
A good number of women can classify their CM when they wipe, or they’ll see it right on their underwear/liner. Cervical mucus can be more prevalent in women who drink a lot of water, so yet another reason to make sure you’re staying nice and hydrated.
If you don’t see obvious signs of CM, you can check for it internally. Simply insert a clean finger into your vagina to get a little sample of CM.
You may be able to tell the consistency just by looking at it, but you can also gently press another finger to it to check if it’s especially sticky, or leaning towards that stretchy, gooey mucus that indicates ovulation!
What kind of cervical mucus indicates ovulation?
So just to reiterate – you’re looking for egg white cervical mucus to indicate ovulation! This cervical mucus is clear, super slippery, stretchy, and gooey. This consistency actually helps move sperm towards the egg!
This method of tracking ovulation works really well in conjunction with temperature charting and the traditional calendar method. Most women start to see a pattern within 1 to 3 months!
I actually felt like once I read about this and started checking, I could immediately see what was going on with my body, which was pretty cool!
3. Basal body temperature (BBT)
Alright, let’s talk about basal body temperature and what the heck it has to do with ovulation. Your basal body temperature is your temperature when you’re at complete rest, and as it turns out, it rises and falls according to where you’re at in your cycle.
The hormone progesterone is the main player in rising body temperature. When you ovulate, your BBT will rise slightly and remain high for the following 10-14 days. If you’re not pregnant, your temperature will dip back down right before your period. If you are pregnant, your temperature will stay elevated.
So the thing about BBT, is that you are looking for patterns to emerge over the course of a few cycles. Because temperatures rise WHEN you ovulate, this actually indicates that the “fertile window” is closing.
But, if you chart your temps for 2-3 months, and see that you always ovulate on say, day 11 of your cycle, you can better target when to start having sex to conceive.
What’s more, with a really solid understanding of your body’s temperature trends, you may even see signs of pregnancy before a missed period because if you do conceive your BBT will stay elevated!
How to track your basal body temperature
Tracking BBT is easy and inexpensive! All you need is a thermometer that measures to the 1/100th degree and a good fertility tracking chart! You can print a basal body temperature chart for free from Myfertilitycharts.com, or download an app on your phone – there’s a bunch of free fertility tracking apps available.
Then, starting on the first day of your cycle (the first day of your period), start taking your temperature first thing in the morning when you wake up. Simply note your daily temperature and track the trend throughout the month.
Here’s what to know about temperature tracking to get accurate results:
- Be sure to take your temperature before you get out of bed. Even the slightest movement can raise your body temperature and render the data useless
- Ideally, your temperature should be taken at the same time each morning (plus or minus 30 minutes or so)
4. Use a calendar or period tracker app
Calendar tracking is one of the easiest ways to keep track of your cycle and notice general trends. BUT if your body doesn’t follow clinical “averages” for cycle length and day of ovulation, using just a calendar or tracking app can undermine your efforts to conceive.
These types of apps assume that your ovulation occurs on that magical 14th day of your cycle, and will give you notifications about your fertility window based on that alone.
And remember! Only around 30% of women actually ovulate on day 14, so it’s SUPER important to track ovulation with other methods in addition to calendar/app tracking.
However, I do still think calendar tracking is a useful tool, especially when you use it alongside checking cervical mucus, OPKs, and BBT charting. I really like the app Flo for tracking my cycle on a calendar because it allows you to put in little notes about your CM and other symptoms.
5. Use a fertility/ovulation tracking bracelet like Ava
Okay you guys, if you know me you know I LOVE to take advantage of technology when it comes to pregnancy/baby/pumping. There are just so many cool options out there that are SO helpful. And TTC is no different!
Insert the Ava Women fertility tracking bracelet!!
It’s a device that you wear while you sleep at night. It tracks a number of different physiological signals in your body to determine your EXACT fertile window!
It tracks your basal body temperature, heart rate, resting pulse, and skin perfusion. All these indicate changes to hormone levels in your body and work together to determine exactly what phase of your cycle you’re in.
All of the data syncs up to an app on your phone, which provides a detailed visual of your unique cycle and when you ovulate. You’ll also get cool data related to your overall health.
I personally did not use the Ava bracelet, but mostly because it just wasn’t on my radar yet. You guys, this seems so, so helpful!
Soooo many moms talk about how it helped them feel in control and really understand their body. It has helped women identify problems and irregularities in their cycle, and it’s helped others simply get the timing right!
It takes SO much of the stress out of tracking ovulation because there’s no more guesswork or room for error – simply sleep with the bracelet on and it does the rest. Pretty. Dang. Cool.
Signs of ovulation
I know we just talked about all of the ways to track ovulation, but did you know there are actually some physiological symptoms associated with it?
Some women will just look at me like I’m crazy, but some others who are realllllly in tune with their bodies can FEEL when they’re ovulating.
Here are some signs and symptoms of ovulation:
- Egg white cervical mucus
- Elevated basal body temperature
- Positive LH surge
- Increased sex drive
- Breast tenderness
- Pelvic ache or pain (in German they actually have a word for ovulation pain! Mittelschmerz!)
- Higher, softer cervix
- A heightened sense of smell
Related Reading: First Trimester Advice from an L&D Nurse
Other TTC tips
I think it’s pretty clear that timing is one of the most important aspects of conception, but sometimes, even when you’re doing everything right – the stars just don’t align. Trying to conceive can be a long, lonely, and isolating journey. It’s TOUGH on some mamas.
While I don’t know you and your unique situation, I did think it’d be helpful to share some general TTC tips just in case there’s something here that you didn’t already know or haven’t already tried.
Keep in mind that on average most couples will conceive within 6 to 12 months of trying. If after a full year of trying you haven’t had a positive pregnancy test, it may be helpful to seek support or at least have a consultation with a fertility specialist to talk about next steps.
Ready? 11 MORE TTC tips
- Take a good prenatal vitamin while you’re trying to conceive (Ritual Prenatals are great!)
- Sex position doesn’t matter! Yep. It’s true. The sperm is going to go where it needs to go regardless of position. So do what feels fun and right for you guys
- Having sex outside the “fertile window” WILL NOT lower your guy’s sperm count. In fact, some research suggests more regular sex/ejaculation is actually better for his sperm count, while long periods of abstinence can actually decrease the quality and quantity of sperm. Having sex 3 to 4 times per week throughout your cycle is considered ideal for sperm health
- Don’t assume that the fertility issue is with the woman. Research shows that there’s pretty much an equal chance of it being a male vs. female fertility issue! Approach a fertility specialist with an open mind
- Check you and your partner’s medications and supplements for anything that might impact fertility! One common example is finasteride, a medication that treats hair loss in men, but also causes low sperm count. Some other medications to look out for are a number of anti-depressants and anti-psychotics, steroids, thyroid medications, certain skin products with hormones, and some seizure medications
- Try to keep your stress to a minimum! Focus on relaxation and de-stressing as much as possible while trying to conceive. I know this can become more and more challenging, especially if conception doesn’t happen quickly. But try your best to find ways to relax. Yoga, baths, reading before bed, acupuncture, medication, daily walks – whatever works!
- Don’t overdo it with exercise, but do stay active! Excessive or very intense exercise can impact or prevent ovulation. While this isn’t super common, it’s good to have on your radar. On the flip side, a sedentary lifestyle is linked to infertility, so aim for moderate exercise a few times a week
- Focus on regulating your hormones, especially if you’re tracking ovulation and seeing a lot of variation or irregularity (or signs that you’re not ovulating at all!). This is kind of a loaded topic, and one worth discussing with your provider, but a healthy diet of real foods can be a powerful tool to balance your hormones and improve your cycle. Usually, a balanced diet that is low in carbohydrates (not to be confused with eliminating carbs completely!) is a great starting place
- Eliminate trans fat from your diet, but increase consumption of healthy fats (like those in nuts, avocados, and extra virgin olive oil) to boost fertility
- While the jury is out on whether caffeine impacts fertility, cutting back isn’t a bad idea. And EXCESSIVE caffeine use may be linked to miscarriage (again, kind of conflicting research). But I’d aim for no more than 1-2 cups of coffee per day to be safe
- Try to get to a healthy weight for your body. Some research suggests a link between obesity and lack of ovulation or impaired egg development (source)
Related Reading: Pregnancy Nutrition Guide and Resources
Feeling better about ways to track ovulation with these TTC tips?
Whew. I know that was a LOT of information. But my goal here is to help you feel more prepared and in control of your TTC journey.
One of the most important steps is to get in tune with your body and understand your UNIQUE cycle. This way you can get the timing right, or seek support if something seems off.
Do you have a TTC tip to add to the list? A favorite way to track ovulation? Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments!