These days, there’s ads all over Instagram offering you quick and easy birth control delivery right to your door. Every time I see these types of ads claiming they have the easiest solution for people who ovulate to avoid pregnancy, I can’t help but wonder how many people actually fully understand their ovulation cycle. Just how do you track ovulation?
What better way to empower yourself to get pregnant or not get pregnant than to understand your own cycle? While it may seem daunting when you first look into it, not only is it as easy as having to remember your pill everyday, it also provides an opportunity for you to connect to your body.
Note, I’m a full spectrum birth worker and not a doctor, so for an expert medical opinion, always consult with your doctor. Let’s look into the quick facts about how to track ovulation so you can make an educated and empowered choice.
An egg can only survive 12-24 hours after ovulation. This means you’ve got a good chunk of your cycle where there is absolutely no chance of conceiving regardless of the birth control (BC) method you incorporate into your sex life or lack there of. Conceiving actually isn't that simple or easy! So if you’re at the beginning of your Trying-To-Conceive (TTC) journey, don’t jump to conclusions two months in.
Fact: Doctors actually say it is normal to actively try for a full year before conceiving.
There are only 5-6 days of a month you can possibly get pregnant: We call this the fertile window of your menstrual cycle. We say five days, as sperm has the ability to live inside of us for up to five days. I know right, only five days.... Once you get them figured out, it becomes much easier to plan for sex with or without protection, depending on your goals that month!
So how do we discover these five ovulation days? Well first you need to work out the average length of your cycle. You can do this by counting your last 4 cycles from day one of your period to the day before the next period, and then finding the average.
Ex: 28 + 24 + 25 + 29 = 106
106 / 4 = 26.5
If we go off of the average 28-day cycle, however, you ovulate around day 14. Meaning your fertile window would be from day 10 to day 15. If your average cycle is longer, like 35 days, you most likely ovulate around day 21, meaning your fertile window would be from day 16 to day 22 of your cycle.
Quick tip: To find out exactly when you ovulated, count back 14 days from the start of your period! That’s an easy way to know how to track ovulation. Learn how to track your menstrual cycle here.
Our bodies give us signs before we ovulate: Some of these signs include:
a change in cervical mucus
raised body temp
change in cervical position
ovulation pain (cramps)
increased sexual desire
Your cervical mucus and position change throughout your cycle. One of the easiest ways to actually get to touch and see your fertility is through your cervical mucus and positioning. A few days before ovulation, your mucus will generally become clear, slick and slippery; think egg whites. To properly use your mucus as a sign of ovulation you should check your mucus one to two times per day and ask yourself two questions: Did you notice any cervical mucus today, and did you notice any cervical mucus yesterday. Note the changes as well, if so!
As for the cervix itself, you or your partner may notice (mine does!), it feels higher up in the body and softer right before and during ovulation. Generally the cervix feels like the tip of your nose, but during your fertile window it feels more like your lips.
Our basal body temperature (BBT) changes around ovulation. Many people use their basal body temperature as a method of BC or to know when it's time to start baby making. There are actually apps and products dedicated just for this (Hello, Natural Cycles, I love you)!
How it works: simply take your temperature every morning with a thermometer before leaving your bed; this takes like five seconds. Your BBT will dip slightly (between 0.5 to 1 degree Celsius) before your egg is released, and then rise about 24 hours after ovulation until your period comes along. Once you start to notice this shift, it’s pretty easy to predict your fertile window. And thanks to ovulation apps, you can make it a lot easier to start this method!
So now that you’ve got the basic info on ovulation tracking down, you're probably thinking, where, when, and how do I start?
As for the when, wait for the first day of your next period.
As for where, my suggestion is either your bedroom or the bathroom after a nice bath or shower. Getting familiar with your body temp, cervical position and mucus are easy first steps. Keep a journal or get an app just for this! Top three apps: My Moontime, Flow, and Clue Period Tracker.
As for how, I’ll be real with you, using a fertility awareness based method (FABM) product and software is the easiest way to ease into FABM birth control. For a small investment (anywhere from $25 to $200), you can get FDA approved products that are sustainable and really help you grow to understand your body's cycle whether you are trying to conceive, or avoiding it!
Here are a few of my favourite FABM options:
Mira Fertility Tracker and Natural Cycles Birth Control Thermometer. Mira uses your LH and estrogen levels to track your fertility window. This is a great option for anyone with irregular cycles and it is also PCOS friendly!
Natural Cycles uses your temperature to analyze your fertility window, and after a few cycles of consistent tracking, it will give you a green (not fertile) or red (fertile) day to let you know instantly where you are in your cycle. Both utilizing different ways to calculate your ovulation, both are great options as a starting point.
Now you know how to track your ovulation armed with all you need to about starting FABM. I hope you feel more empowered and aware of the way your body naturally signals what phase it's in and can use this info to either plan for or avoid pregnancy!