The definitive guide to ovulation testing
Today, we’re here to have the talk. No, not the Sex Talk, today is about the Right Time to Have Sex Talk. Let's talk all things ovulation testing.
If you’re trying to get pregnant, trying to avoid pregnancy or just curious about how your reproductive system operates, it’s important to learn more about ovulation, ovulation testing, and specifically when you’re ovulating.
Can you back up a bit?
You’re right — let’s start with the basics. What exactly is ovulation? Ovulation is when a mature egg, which is also called an ovum, is released from the ovary and is pushed down through the fallopian tube, where it waits to be fertilized. Fertilization occurs when a healthy sperm inseminates a mature egg. The released egg can survive for 24 hours, therefore fertilization is possible 12-24 hours after ovulation.
That’s such a small window!
While the window for fertilization is brief, sperm can survive for up to five days in the cervix. So, if you have sex before or during your fertilization window, you’re basically lining up sperm to await your mature egg. Timing is everything, but by understanding your fertile window and planning your unprotected sex strategically (important for both people who are and who are not trying to conceive!), you can reach your reproductive goals.
How do I know if I’m ovulating? How do I know if I’m in or approaching my fertile window?
The time when you could conceive after unprotected sex is called your fertile window, which is anywhere from five days before, until one day after, ovulation. Learning how to count the days of your cycle is a big step. Day 1 of your cycle is the first day your period, and the first day of your next period is the end of your cycle. The number of days in between will give you the number of days in your cycle. The likelihood of conceiving on your ovulation day and the five days leading up to it varies from person to person. So, it’s important to learn how to tell when you're ovulating. Ovulation typically begins 14 days before the start of your next period, and the ovulation process can be divided into three periods based on different periods of elevated hormones. These three phases are:
- The follicular phase: During this phase, a layer of cells around the ovum becomes more like mucus and then expands. The lining of the uterus begins to thicken.
- The ovulatory phase: This is part of the period of fertility, which lasts about 24 to 48 hours. Enzymes that have been secreted form a hole, which the ovum uses to move into the fallopian tube.
- The luteal phase: The enzyme called luteinizing hormone (LH) is secreted. If the ovum is fertilized it will implant into the womb. Unfertilized eggs will stop producing hormones and dissolve within 24 hours. After this phase, the uterus lining starts breaking down and preparing to exit the body, which is what constitutes menstruation.
There are some subtle, biological symptoms of ovulation. These include:
- Cervical mucus changes: When you near ovulation, your body produces more estrogen, which makes your cervical mucus more stretchy and clear. This mucus assists the sperm in swimming towards the ovum. If your cervical mucus is sticky and stretchy, or very wet and slippery, that’s a strong sign you’re in your fertile phase.
- Heightened senses: Some women report a heightened sense of smell and taste during the latter half of their menstrual cycle. Theoretically, this could be your body seeking out male pheromones during your fertile phase.
- Breast tenderness: The rush of hormones entering your body after ovulation can cause breast tenderness or soreness. Some people have these feelings right before or right after ovulation.
- Mild pelvic or low abdominal pain: Some people can actually feel ovulation occurring, which comes as mild pain in your pelvic or lower abdominals. It can feel like a sharp or dull cramp where the ovary releases the egg, usually on the right or left side of your pelvic area. Some people also experience light bleeding or discharge, which is usually short-lived and mild.
While it’s great to know some of the biological symptoms of ovulation, these may not occur for all people. There’s some other ways to get more involved and figure out if you’re ovulating or not.
If you’re trying to track ovulation, you should track your entire menstrual cycle. Ovulation usually occurs 14 days before your menstruation, if your body follows a 28-day cycle.
How else can I know if I'm ovulating?
One tool is basal body temperature (BBT) monitoring, which is the monitoring of your body’s resting temperature. At the beginning of your cycle, your BBT is consistent around 97.2 to 97.6 degrees Fahrenheit. As you near ovulation, your BBT dips slightly, and then sharply increases, usually increasing about .4 to 1 degrees Fahrenheit just after ovulation. If you track your BBT over a series of months with a specific thermometer, you can notice trends and figure out when you may be ovulating.
Another tool is at-home ovulation testing. Ovulation predictor kits measure the levels of Luteinizing Hormone (or LH) in your urine. These kits are useful because LH is a clue to impending ovulation — you typically ovulate 10 to 12 hours after your LH peaks, or 24 hours after your first positive LH test. On average, an LH surge can last for two days. The relationship between LH and ovulation varies substantially from person to person. Since you’re fertile for up to 5 days before ovulation, your ovulation test can be a sign to start having sex if you’re trying to conceive, or to use protection if you are not.
Our Ovulation Tests comes with seven tests so that you can really figure out your LH peak. We recommend you test more often than you may think is necessary, and to test multiple times on the day of your surge to better understand when it's peaking. Test around the same time everyday and avoid urination for four hours before you test so you're testing the most concentrated urine. If you are tracking your cycle, start using your ovulation test about two weeks before the first day of your next expected period.