Whether you’re trying for your first or fourth, or when you decide it’s time for a(nother) baby, you want to get pregnant ASAP (if not sooner). You could increase your chances if you know when you’re ovulating. Here are a few indicators and things to remember that can help you conceive.
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Though it’s not an exact science, if you have a regular cycle (now’s the time to start recording your cycle if you don’t already—day one is the first day of your period), you can certainly narrow down ovulation with this method. For example, if you have a 30-day cycle, you should ovulate around day 16. (Regardless of the length of your cycle, you ovulate fourteen days before the start of your next period.) So if you start having intercourse every other day from day 10 or 11 (many doctors suggest every other day is best so your partner can produce as much sperm as possible), you’ll cover your most fertile time. If your cycle is irregular it will be difficult to pinpoint ovulation by counting days.
(Our Ovulation Calculator is a handy tool to use if you want to get an idea of when you’ll likely ovulate next. Just put in the first day of your last period and the usual number of days in your cycle, and it will provide you with information on your most fertile day of the month.)
Some women can actually feel when they’re ovulating because of lower abdominal cramping on one side, also called “mittleschmerz.” (German for “middle pain.”) The pain ranges from mild aching to sharp pangs and can last up to a few hours and sometimes days. It’s said that this discomfort happens mainly because of the pressure that’s caused when the ovum is released and the membranes stretch.
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Cervical mucus and position
Monitoring cervical mucus (with clean fingers or toilet paper) is a simple way to track ovulation. Once you’ve checked it and recorded your findings for a few months, you’ll notice that cervical mucus changes during your cycle. Here’s what to look for.
After your period ends (low chance of conceiving): Dry, lack of cervical mucus
Approach ovulation (chance of conceiving): Mucus will increase. Colour will be white or yellow and the consistency will be sticky. Mucus will not stretch between fingers.
Around ovulation (high chance of conceiving): Lots of mucus. Clear, thin, slippery and stretchy. Resembling raw egg whites. Mucus will stretch between thumb and fingers without breaking. This is your most fertile time (sperm can move more easily through the cervix with the help of this mucus). Sperm can survive in this mucus for up to a few days.
After ovulation (low chance of conceiving): Amount of mucus decreases, it gets sticky again and does not stretch.
Note: There could be other reasons for changes in cervical fluid, such as infections and medications.
As for cervical position, when you’re ovulating your cervix will soften, rise, widen and feel wet (this stage is known as SHOW— soft, high, open and wet). After ovulation your cervix hardens (it’s said to feel like the tip of your nose) and lowers. Ask your doctor if you have questions about checking cervical position.
Basal body temperature
Taking your temperature first thing in the morning is a good indicator of ovulation. Keep a thermometer (a basal body thermometer is best; they’re available at pharmacies) on your night table and take and record your temperature before getting out of bed, eating or drinking. Temperatures usually range between 96°F and 98°F before ovulation. Changes in hormone levels caused by ovulation make your basal body temperature (BBT) rise slightly by about 0.5° to 1.5°. You’ll see the change two or three days after you’ve ovulated, so the key is to record and look for patterns so you can anticipate ovulation if you’re using this method. Be sure to note if you’re not feeling well, extra stressed, exhausted, etc. on your chart — these factors can all influence your temperature. Your temperature will remain higher until day one, then it will dip and the cycle starts again. If you’re pregnant, your temperature will continue to stay elevated.
Ovulation predictor kits (OPK)
If you’re having a hard time reading your body’s ovulation signs or you have an irregular cycle, you might want to try an OPK. These often pricey kits can are available at drugstores and measure the surge in luteinizing hormone (LH) in your urine. This hormone causes the ovaries to release an egg. The 12 to 36 hours from the time you test positive for ovulation is the best time to conceive.
Other possible signs
Here are a few more symptoms to watch out for. Note that these signs could be caused by many other factors such as medication, stress, weight loss and gain, etc:
Some women say they notice breast tenderness, headaches, bloating and moodiness around ovulation
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Increase in libido
Some women enjoy an increased sex-drive at their most fertile time
Women who are particularly sensitive to changes in hormones could experience nausea around ovulation