How to Track Ovulation
Ovulation is the time of month that an egg is released from the ovary. The ovulatory cycle lasts approximately 28 days and details the stages and conditions that this egg experiences from production to release to fertilization or menstruation. Most people believe that knowing your ovulatory cycle is only necessary while trying to conceive. But nothing could be further from the truth. The ovulatory cycle can help you or the women around you prepare for menstruation, identify the fertile window (and thereby plan or prevent pregnancy), and give you insight if you’re experiencing sexual or reproductive health issues. Knowing where you are in your cycle can make a world of difference while being treated even for a simple yeast infection. So now that you know how vital it is, here’s a quick crash course on how to track ovulation…
The cycle works in 4 main phases:
1. Menstruation (Days 1-5):
Lasting about 4-7 days, menses mark the beginning of the ovulatory cycle. When pregnancy (fertilization of the egg) does not occur, estrogen and progesterone levels in the body decrease, and the uterus sheds its nutrient-rich lining created from the last cycle.
2. Follicular Phase or Pre-ovulatory Phase (Days 1-11):
Starting on the first day of one’s period and lasting about 10-17 days, the follicular phase is characterized by the maturing of several follicles each month thanks to the Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH). The fittest, strongest, and fastest egg will be released from its follicle during ovulation. Until then, a flood of estrogen helps fertilize the uterine lining with essential nutrients in preparation for the release of an egg. Testosterone is also released to help improve libido and thus encourage pregnancy.
3. Ovulatory Phase (Days 12-16):
Ovulation usually occurs on the 14th day of the cycle, and marks the release of the best egg from the follicle through the fallopian tube. A few days before and after the day of ovulation are often referred to as “the fertile window”, since it is the most fertile period in a woman’s cycle. Conception is most likely to happen now, so couples planning for children should keep an eye out for these dates.
4. Luteal Phase (Days 17-28):
The final phase of the ovulation cycle is marked by a fall in estrogen (which helps fertilize and promote the growth of the egg), but a rise in progesterone (which helps keep the lining fertilized). A fertilized egg will attach itself to the uterine lining, which results in pregnancy. However, if the egg does not get fertilized and attach itself, progesterone levels will fall, thus preparing the uterus to shed its lining during menstruation.
So what are the best ways to track this cycle? There are several great apps online that can help you track menstruation. Since not everyone has a perfect 28 day cycle, it may be better to utilize an app which allows you to log symptoms as well as factors that can affect menses like sexual intercourse, stress, alcohol, or infection. If you're looking to conceive, the following can very accurately predict ovulation:
- Basal Body Temperature (BBT) Charting
- Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPK)
- Fertility Monitors
Tracking ovulation isn’t just for couples trying to conceive, everyone should know about the ovulatory cycle as it is vital for a healthy sexual life.