In an ideal world, there would be no such thing as premenstrual symptoms (PMS), heavy painful periods, bleeding between cycles, long cycles, short cycles, and the list can go on forever. These types of symptoms may be common, but they are not normal, and could be an indication of hormonal imbalances in your health. We know that the average cycle length is 28 days and that ovulation occurs on day 14. Although this may be true for some women, this is not the case in all women. If you happen to be one of those women who doesn't ovulate on day 14, you could be having sex at the wrong time.
Ovulation is the release of a mature egg from a woman's ovary. Depending on a woman's health and age, this will happen once a month. Once an egg is released from the ovary, it has up to 24 hours to be fertilized by the male sperm. Dependent on the health of the male sperm, it can remain viable and fertilize the mature female egg within a maximum of 5 days after intercourse.
Hormones within the female body change daily, and even fluctuate throughout the day. Due to these constant, but organized changes, women are able to use various tools to inform them about when they ovulate.
Below I will discuss three methods that will tell you when you're about to ovulate, are ovulating and have just ovulated. These tools will help you time intercourse for conception.
1. Luteinizing Hormone (LH) Strips:
In women, luteinizing hormone is a sex hormone that controls the production of estrogen from the ovaries. It is important in fertility because prior to a mature egg being released from a woman's ovary, LH will surge (increase). Once your LH surges, an egg is released within the following 24-36 hours, at which point you have up to 24 hours for the sperm to fertilize the egg.
Testing Your LH: Just like you would use urine to check if you were pregnant, you can use urine to check if your LH is surging (positive strip). Depending on your cycle length, you will start checking your LH daily anywhere from day 9 and onwards of your cycle. Day 1 is the first day you bleed.
- Your LH strips should come with a chart indicating which day to begin checking your LH based on your cycle length. Typically your results from day to day should look like this:
- Negative - Positive - Negative - Stop checking
- A positive strip indicates an LH surge. Intercourse should start now, and continue for the next two days. Once you've done this for a few cycles, and you know on which day you have your LH surge, you can begin having intercourse 1-2 days prior to your surge day.
2. Cervical Mucous:
Based on where you are in your cycle, the amount and quality of your cervical mucous will differ. This is due to the ever changing hormones in your body. Cervical mucous is present to either prevent things from entering the cervix (days where there is less mucous and it's thicker) or help transport sperm through the cervix in the the uterus to fertilize (days where mucous is like the whites of a raw egg). Knowing what to look for can help you know when you are ovulating. When a woman is ovulating, the mucous will resemble raw egg whites and she will typically have more discharge. Assessing your cervical mucous will require you to touch your mucous between two of your fingers to see how sticky or dry it is.
How you can mark your daily discharge.
P = during period
D = dry
S = sticky
E = egg white - ovulation
3. Basal Body Temperature (BBT):A tool to let you know that you have ovulated. Needs to be done for a few cycles so you know which day you ovulate and can have intercourse prior to.
First things first, to measure your BBT, you will need a thermometer that has a tenth decimal reading (two numbers after the decimal). You can check your local pharmacy or simply order online. Your BBT needs to be the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning, even before getting out of bed. Be patient, this reading can take a bit longer then a normal thermometer for fevers. Once you have your reading, record it on a paper BBT chart (easily found online to print) or via various available phone apps. You want to search for 'ovulation' or 'BBT' when looking for an app. Phone apps will also typically have areas you can record your daily vaginal mucous.
- Take your temperature at the same time every morning
- First thing you do when you wake: before getting out of bed, eating, drinking, going to the bathroom. You open your eyes, you take your temperature.
- Be consistent in your routine
What to look for: a sudden increase in basal body temperature on your chart. This sudden increase indicates that you have ovulated.
Your readings can be affected by the following:
- Jet lag
- Sleep disturbances
Knowing when you are ovulating is an important part of trying to conceive. For more information on pre-natal, natal or post-natal care, contact Dr. Skorka at Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic.