How to Track Ovulation (Hint: It’s Not Through Your Flo App)

Ovulation is the first step towards pregnancy, and many women wonder how to track ovulation to understand their fertile window. We can only conceive for about six days every month, the five days leading up to ovulation and the day of ovulation. In this post we’ll cover different methods for pinpointing your fertile days and pros and cons of each. You’ll learn how to track ovulation to feel confident you’re doing it correctly, and which methods to avoid due to the potential for inaccuracy.

Ovulation Tracking Pitfalls to Avoid

The most common pitfall I see is relying on a period tracking app, like Flo or Clue, to predict your fertile days. In our modern world it’s so easy to rely on an app for everything. Unfortunately that app isn’t individualized to your body or cycle. It simply takes the average length of your cycle and cuts it in half to “guess” when you’re most likely to ovulate. When it comes to ovulation, even being off by a few days can mean zero chance of pregnancy that cycle.

Many women assume that ovulation occurs on day 14 of their cycle without confirming it. That’s because the media popularizes day 14 as the most common ovulation day. However, that’s based on the assumption that you’re having a 28-day cycle. However, a normal cycle can range from 23-35 days. Even with a 28 day cycle, ovulation doesn’t necessarily happen on day 14! That’s why it’s so important to learn how to track ovulation and pinpoint your fertile days.

Ovulation Predictor Kits

Also called OPK’s, ovulation predictor kits are simple at-home urine tests you can take each month to help you find your fertile window. These tests measure your LH, or leuteinizing hormone, which surges about 24-36 hours before your egg is released from a follicle. To be more specific, ovulation typically occurs 10-12 hours after the peak of your LH surge. Ovulation predictor kits help you understand when your surge is happening in a few different ways. They may show you a test line that’s as dark as the control line, show you a smiley face, or even give you an LH value.

Some popular OPK’s include Easy@Home Ovulation Test Strips, the Clearblue Advanced Digital Ovulation Test, and the Modern Fertility Ovulation Test. OPK’s are a top choice for women wanting to track ovulation easily at home. For most women there’s no need to test daily. For women with a 28 day cycle, begin testing around day 10 and continue testing until you get your peak. Adjust the first day of testing based on the length of your cycle. However, if you have irregular or absent cycles, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of daily testing.

Basal Body Temperature Tracking

Another option for how to track ovulation at home is basal body temperature, or BBT, tracking. Take your basal body temperature first thing in the morning before getting out of bed. Get at least three hours of sleep prior to taking your temperature, and take it at the same time each day you test. Your temperature normally dips prior to ovulation, then rises above your norm 24 hours after ovulation. This temperature rise is subtle – only a half to one degree for most women – but it’s a good indication that you’ve ovulated. You can use a special basal body temperature thermometer or an app like Natural Cycles to help with this method.

I know many women who use this method, but I don’t love it, and I’ll tell you why. First of all, it’s hard to remember to do something the second you open your eyes. Second, if you haven’t slept well BBT can be inaccurate. And third, this method won’t help you get pregnant right away. Once your BBT rises, you’ve already ovulated. Your egg only survives 24 hours max, so your fertile window has passed by the time your temperature rise occurs. If you have regular cycles, tracking your BBT for a few months can help you predict your fertile window. However, I think it’s best to combine it with another form of ovulation tracking so you don’t miss your peak fertility days. You can also use BBT tracking to help confirm successful ovulation after using another method like OPK’s to predict ovulation.

Cervical Mucus

Your cervical mucus changes pretty dramatically throughout your cycle. After your period you’ll notice dryness or tacky white/yellow mucus. This will turn to sticky, whitish mucous that becomes creamier in consistency over the course of a week or two. Then, in the middle of your cycle, your cervical mucus changes to a clear, slippery, stretchy consistency. This “egg white” mucus indicates ovulation is getting closer. In fact, when you notice the egg white cervical mucus, ovulation is typically four days away. After ovulation cervical mucous decreases and you’ll notice dryer discharge until your period.

I don’t recommend that most women rely on cervical mucus to predict ovulation for a number of reasons. First of all, women with hormonal imbalances may not experience egg white cervical mucus or any significant change in their cervical mucus. Women who have recently stopped using hormonal contraceptives also may not produce egg white cervical mucus. And women who are approaching perimenopause may have less cervical mucus, making this method of tracking ovulation unreliable. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not ovulating. Try using another ovulation tracking method that gives you real data to work with, like LH test strips or BBT tracking.

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