If you’re trying to conceive, tracking your menstrual cycle and ovulation patterns can provide valuable information to increase chances of getting pregnant. But that’s not the only reason to be aware of your cycle. Understanding your menstrual cycle and ovulation patterns can also clue you in on other health issues like PCOS or thyroid conditions. Here we uncover the science behind cycle and ovulation tracking and how this can help you be more tuned in to your body.
Before we get into how to track ovulation, let’s do a quick refresher on how it works.
A typical menstrual cycle lasts 28 days, but can vary from woman to woman. It is marked by the first day of a period and ends with the start of the next period. The ovulation phase occurs about halfway through the menstrual cycle. It is the shortest phase of the cycle, providing a 24-hour window for the egg to be fertilized. The day of ovulation can be different for every woman, ranging anywhere from day 13-15.
During this phase of the cycle, a hormone known as luteinizing hormone (LH) is released. This hormone triggers ovulation and the release of an egg. In the case of conception, the egg travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus where it implants. If conception does not occur, the thickened lining of the uterus will shed, beginning your period.
While the day of ovulation can vary for each woman, there are some physical signs that can provide a good indicator of ovulation:
Your fertile window is when the chances are highest that sexual intercourse will lead to pregnancy. If you’re trying to conceive, it’s helpful to plan intercourse around these days. If you’re trying to prevent pregnancy, it’s best to be extra careful around these days.
Your fertile window refers to a small range of days including five days before and the day after ovulation. Your two most fertile days are the day of and the day after your LH surges (more on how to measure that below). Sperm can live inside the vagina for up to five days after sex occurs. Therefore, if the sperm is there and ready when ovulation occurs, then pregnancy can happen even if you had sex days prior to ovulation.
Ovulation Predictor Kits are one of the most accurate ways to predict ovulation. Similar to an at-home pregnancy test, ovulation strips measure your luteinizing hormone (LH) levels in your urine and show a particular color when these levels surge. LH is responsible for causing your ovaries to release an egg during ovulation, and a surge in LH levels typically indicates that you will ovulate within 12 to 36 hours. These simple tests are available over the counter at most drug stores.
If you’ve been regularly tracking your cycle and are still having difficulty conceiving, don’t be afraid to speak up! Fertility specialists (or reproductive endocrinologists as they’re known formally) can help you explore potential causes of infertility and get you on the right path toward conceiving. For women under 35, you are encouraged to seek help after trying for twelve months, and for women over 35 you are encouraged to seek help after trying for at least six months.
If you are ever confused or worried about your menstrual cycle patterns, don’t hesitate to reach out to your Axia Women’s Health provider.
May 22, 2023
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