Predicting Ovulation; Signs & Symptoms
The decision to have a baby is a special time for couples as it opens up to various possibilities and a mutual agreement to embark on a new adventure as a family. Thoughts of holding a little one’s tiny hand, listening to their coos and having their baby-soft skin snuggling against a new mother’s bosom spring to mind when the topic of having a first child is brought up. But to many couples’ surprise, getting pregnant takes more planning than they anticipated and, more specifically, is highly dependent on having intercourse at the right time of a woman’s ovulation cycle.
If you are experiencing disappointment because conceiving does not just happen with those first few attempts of your cycle, do not panic. Remember that the odds are in your favour. According to The Royal Women’s Hospital of Victoria, Australia, up to 80% of women achieve pregnancy within a year with regular and unprotected sex. It was also outlined that various factors may affect fertility, especially lifestyle choices and medical conditions that may alter regular hormonal levels in the body. Out of the percentages of couples trying to conceive, it was approximated that 15% of couples may experience challenges getting pregnant where fertility specialist consultation is advised.
To assist couples who are trying to conceive, this article will focus on the basics of getting pregnant, which is the fertilisation of a male’s sperm and a woman’s egg. The tricky thing about conceiving is finding the perfect time for intercourse because, unlike males, women under normal circumstances only release an egg during each cycle with a short lifespan of 24 hours. The Fertility Society of Australia outlined that the fertility window is defined as 5 days leading up to ovulation, taking into account the lifespan of the sperm (5 days) and the egg (24 hours). Therefore, couples who are trying to conceive should have sex within this fertility window to significantly increase their chances of having a child.
Predicting Your Ovulation
Now that you are aware of the increased likelihood of conceiving a child by having well-timed intercourse around your ovulation, the next two reasonable questions to ask is, “when do you ovulate & How do I know when I ovulate?”. According to the American Pregnancy Association, there are 3 parameters that women can track at the comfort of their homes to predict ovulation. The ovulation signs are listed as follows:
Predict ovulation with your Basal Body Temperature
Basal body temperature (BBT), to put simply, is your body temperature at rest. A woman’s BBT fluctuates throughout her menstrual cycle, most markedly during the rise of progesterone which is released after ovulation occurs. This is the spike in temperature that a BBT tracking method uses to predict ovulation. However, it should be noted that the rise in BBT is not as remarkable as expected. Before ovulation, a woman’s BBT can average between 36.1-36.4 degrees Celcius but may increase to 36.4-37 degrees Celsius after ovulation. The rise of BBT may persist until your next menstrual period, but a persistent BBT rise with the absence of a menstrual period may raise the suspicion that a pregnancy has occurred.
Women who use this method to track ovulation are advised to take a waking body temperature at around the same time daily by using ovulation thermometers which are designed to measure BBT, and later plotting the data on a BBT chart or graph to visualise the pattern of BBT throughout a menstrual cycle. A good BBT thermometer has high sensitivity and efficacy at detecting even a slight change in temperature with up to 2 decimal points.
Predicting ovulation by checking your cervical mucus
Cervical mucus is the gel-like or fluid discharge from the cervix. This mucus changes throughout the menstrual cycle due to the different interplay of hormones that sustain a woman’s reproductive system cycle. The changes to look for in the cervical mucus that may hint to which phase of the menstrual cycle is at are the thickness, consistency and amount of cervical mucus present. When bleeding occurs at the beginning of the menstrual cycle, the mucus may be stained with blood and could be difficult to qualify in terms of characteristics. Right after a woman’s period, she may experience “dry days” due to the absence of cervical mucus.
However, before ovulation, an increased cervical mucus production may be anticipated with varying colours such as white, yellow or cloudy with gluey or stretchy consistency. Just immediately before ovulation, the cervical mucus would be more clear and slippery with a watery consistency. At ovulation, the cervical mucus takes the form and consistency which resembles that of an egg-white or, most commonly known as “Egg White Cervical Mucus” (EWCM). This cervical mucus provides a suitable medium for semen to thrive due to its pH and texture. After ovulation has taken place, the amount of discharge will subside, and its consistency will subside to a thicker and cloudier quality.
To use this method to predict ovulation, a woman may manually insert one or two fingers into her vagina to inspect the characteristics of her cervical mucus or inspect the discharge which has been wiped onto a piece of toilet paper. The qualitative characters of the cervical mucus can later be recorded to observe the pattern of the discharge.
The position & firmness of the cervix
Similar to the cervical mucus, the position and firmness of the cervix would also change the menstrual cycle. During ovulation, the cervix rises to the top of the vagina and assumes a softer and moist consistency. At the peak of ovulation, the cervix may not be as palpable due to its high position and highly soft texture that may resemble the vaginal canal. The os or opening of the cervix is also slightly more open to enable semen to enter a woman’s womb.
Ovulation Predictor Kit (OPK)
An efficient test to conduct at home alongside fertility charting of ovulatory signs, as stated above, is through the use of an ovulation predictor kit (OPK) or also known as ovulation test. The most convenient form of OPKs is an ovulation test strip or dip & read test which are urine-based tests that detect the rise of Luteinizing Hormones (LH). During the ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle, a sudden spike of LH occurs to encourage the final maturation of a dominant egg. This spike in LH is detected through urine-based OPKs to signal and predict ovulation.
Using OPKs may offer valuable advantages to couples who are trying to conceive due to their ease of application and high predictive value for detecting when ovulation is approaching. Compared to BBT monitoring, using an OPK is more time-flexible as a urine sample taken within a six-hour window can still provide a reliable result. It is also more comfortable to use than the cervical mucus test, which some women may feel a little intrusive.
Using OPKs with the other methods to predict ovulation such as BBT tracking, cervical mucus monitoring and checking the firmness and position of your cervix can add extra confidence on the best time to have intercourse if you are trying to conceive. With its ease of application, OPK can alleviate the stress of fertility charting and increase assurance within couples trying to conceive and predict their ovulation window.