So you want to get pregnant quickly?
Well, it’s time for a biology lesson.
Hands down the quickest way to get pregnant is by learning about your body.
Knowing your ovulation cycle inside out will give you a huge advantage to getting pregnant.
As a woman, you’ll be familiar with the menstrual part of your cycle. It’s obvious when this happens, you can physically see it.
But did you know your body also gives you other signs to signal when you are most fertile?
These signals are really easy to learn and will help you tune into your body.
This guide will help you learn how to track your ovulation cycle. Don’t worry if you hate biology at school, I’ll explain it all so it really easy to understand.
There is a lot of information to remember, so I recommend you Pin it or bookmark it for later.
Let’s get tracking.
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Ovulation Cycle Tracking for Beginners
Why Cycle tracking is important
Regardless of whether you are trying for a baby or not, tracking your ovulation cycle is great for all women. Knowing your most fertile days can help you get pregnant or try to avoid getting pregnant. This guide assumes you are trying to get pregnant.
As soon as you decide to try for a baby, start tracking your cycle. Having around 3-12 months of cycles will give you a good idea of what’s going on during your cycle.
It can also help you pinpoint any issues with your cycle that can cause problems when TTC.
Most textbooks will give information based on a 28-day cycle with ovulation on day 14. You may be surprised to know that your cycle is shorter/longer or you ovulate earlier or later than this.
Ovulation Cycle Basics
You may see your ovulation cycle referred to as your menstrual cycle, fertility cycle or period cycle. They all refer to recurring events that happen in your body during your fertile years. Each month your body will go through the following phases:
- Follicular Phase
- Luteal Phase
If you don’t get pregnant it will happen all over again. The length of time this takes is called a ‘cycle’ and will normally vary 21-40 days from the start of your period to the start of your next period.
Let’s look at what happens to your body during each cycle. This diagram is handy to know what areas I’m talking about in the next few paragraphs.
Day 1 of your cycle is the first day you bleed on your period. This is the shedding of your womb lining which signals that your body is not pregnant.
A period will usually last three to seven days with heavier and lighter flows of bleeding. You’ll need to use either sanitary pads, tampons or menstrual cups to catch the bleeding.
Hormone changes a can cause you to feel common physical and emotional signs including:
- Tender breast
- Mood swings
- Loss of interest in sex
You may experience all or none of these symptoms.
If you are concerned about your periods it best to see your doctor before trying for a baby. This may indicate gynae problems which need treatment.
This begins the day after your period ends up until ovulation. It usually lasts for around a week. Hormones are released to start stimulating the eggs in your ovaries. The release of hormones will make you feel a lot better and usually sexier as you gear up toward ovulation.
Your ‘fertile window’ will open near the end of this week. This is the few days before you ovulate. It’s the best time to have sex so the sperm is waiting for the egg as soon as you ovulate.
Ovulation is when a mature egg is released from your fallopian tube. This can happen anytime from one to three weeks after your period stops. This huge time difference is why it’s so important to learn your own cycle.
As soon as your body releases the egg you are ready to get pregnant. The egg only lives for 12-24 hours. That’s a very short timeframe to get pregnant and if no sperm is waiting it easy to miss.
This is the phase of your cycle which happens after ovulation until the time your next period starts (or is expected).
If the egg gets fertilized by sperm, it travels down the fallopian tube and implants in the womb. This usually happens around 6-12 days after you ovulate.
Your baby then starts to grow and produce hormones which give a positive pregnancy test.
If the egg is not fertilized it reabsorbed into your body. Your womb will know the egg has not implanted and will being to shed. The release of this lining is when your period starts again.
Ovulation Cycle Hormones
There are 4 main hormones involved in your ovulation cycle. It’s not essential to know them in depth. However, knowing the basics will help you understand how most ovulation tracking techniques work. Problems with these hormones can cause infertility or be altered with infertility medications.
Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)
This is a hormone released in the brain. Its release begins at the start of your cycle increasing each day.
The job of FSH is to mature the eggs in your ovary. These eggs then start to make a hormone called estrogen. Eventually, one (or two) eggs will become dominant and be ready for release.
As the eggs mature they release estrogen. These levels keep steadily rising through your cycle.
The estrogen causes your body to thicken your womb lining to prepare for a baby. It also causes your body to make sperm friendly mucus to aid fertilization.
Luteinizing hormone (LH)
Once estrogen reaches peak levels it causes the brain to release LH.
LH causes the ovary to release the mature egg.
This release is known as the LH surge as it peaks and falls quickly on a chart. This LH surge can be easily detected by ovulation tests. This means we can track LH to give a better idea of how soon ovulation will happen.
Related: Clearblue Fertility Monitor Review
As soon as you ovulate the ovary produces another hormone called progesterone. This hormone builds up the womb lining more to expect a fertilized egg.
Progesterone also causes a subtle spike in body temperature which can be detected of your cycle. This gives a good indication ovulation has occurred. You can learn more about basal body temperatures later in this guide.
Okay, are you keeping up so far? I told you there is a lot to learn but stick with me as we’re about to discuss what you can do with all this information.
Identify your most fertile days
These are the three most common methods used to pinpoint fertile days.
Basal body Temperature (BBT)
Remember your body temperature increases once you ovulate. That means you can monitor your temperature to show when you ovulated.
This method involves taking a vaginal temperature every morning before you get out of bed.
The temperatures are then charted and will show a pattern. This pattern is best used when done with a few cycles to compare. You should see a pattern of lower temps and then a rise at some point in your cycle. Ovulation has occurred by the time the temp shifts, but the information will give you an idea of what days to expect o ovulate.
During your cycle, your vagina will produce a discharge which indicates how fertile you are.
After your period you should start to see a dry, sticky or lotion like discharge. This will start to change into a clear, slippery and stretchy discharge. This is known as egg white cervical mucus (EWCM) as this is what it will look like. This mucus makes it easier for sperm to swim to the egg.
The days you have EWCM are the best days to have sex.
You can take a test which indicates if you are ovulation or not. Just like a pregnancy test, this is done by peeing on a stick.
The result will give a positive or negative based on your LH hormone levels. Any day which shows even a faint positive is a good day to have sex. The positive shows your body is about to ovulate soon.
The best way to understand it all is to start charting your own cycle as soon as possible.
Start with the first day of your next period and observe and document all the things we’ve discussed.
You can either do it manually on a blank printed chart, use an app or both.
Apps can be good as they can detect your fertile days from the info you put in.
That being said there is no substitute for knowing your own body and these apps can sometimes throw results which confuse you.
You will start to notice common patterns with each cycle you chart. After around 3 cycles you’ll get a better idea of your:
- Cycle length
- Ovulation day
- Length of luteal phase
This makes it easier for you to know when you’re fertile and the best time to take a pregnancy test.
Charting Apps I love
Dealing with Irregular cycles
After charting for a few months you don’t see any pattern to your cycle you may want to discuss this with your doctor. You can use your cycle charts to give your doctor or a fertility specialist an idea of what has been going on in your cycle. This can help to diagnose medical conditions which are affecting your fertility and get you started on the right treatment.