If you have been all excited and have decided to start a family or join the TTC (Trying to Conceive) bandwagon, then it’s a good idea to track your Menstrual Cycles and your Ovulation. A normal cycle typically ranges from 24 days to 36 days and in some cases 21-45 days. In some women, all menstrual cycles maybe of the same length. This means you have regular cycles. Eg. You may have 30 day cycles consistently. If your menstrual cycles are regular, then it is easier for you to track your ovulation. However, our bodies work differently and some women may have irregular cycles. One cycle maybe 30 days longs, whereas the next one may be 35 days long. The important point is know when you are ovulating (Fertile Window) so that you can time intercourse which can lead to a Pregnancy.
Women are fertile for 5 days before ovulation and upto 1 day after ovulation. The only way to achieve pregnancy is by timing intercourse for your fertile window. Any other time in your cycle will not be suitable for achieving pregnancy. Sperm can survive inside a woman’s body for upto 5 days provided there is an abundance of fertile quality Cervical Fluid. However, the fact is that fertile cervical fluids may not be present in all women several days before ovulation – and not all sperm will be able to survive for so long. Hence, peak fertility comes down to the two days prior to ovulation and the 24 hours after the egg is released. Your Fertile Window is thus between 3 to 6 days.
Phases of Menstrual Cycle
There are 2 phases in a Women’s Menstural Cycle
- Pre-Ovulatory Phase (Follicular or Estrogenic Phase) – The first part of your Menstrual Cycle, starting from Day 1 of your Period and until the day of Ovulation. It’s length can vary each cycle.
- Post-Ovulatory Phase (Luteal or Progestational Phase) – The second phase of your Cycle, from ovulation to the last day before your next period begins. It remains almost consistent every cycle and can be anywhere between 10 to 16 days. If your Luteal Phase is less than 10 days, you may have trouble sustaining a pregnancy since the fertilized egg may not have time for implanting. By tracking your ovulation, you can determine the length of your Luteal Phase.
Eg 1. A woman has a 32 days cycle. Her Pre-Ovulatory Phase is 18 days long and Post-Ovulatory Phase is 14 days long. Another woman also has 32 days long cycle but her pre-ovulatory phase is 20 days long and post-ovulatory phase is only 12 days long. Thus ovulation can vary even though the cycle length is the same.
Eg 2. A women has a 28 days cycle one month. Her Pre-Ovulatory Phase is 14 days long and post-ovulatory phase is 14 days long. Her next cycle is 32 days long. Her Pre-Ovulatory Phase has varied and is 18 days but post-ovulatory phase is somewhat consistent at 14 days.
How can you track your Ovulation
Whether you have regular or irregular Menstrual Cycles, you can track your ovulation using the following techniques:-
- Tracking Your Primary Fertility Signs – You can learn when you are ovulating by observing the 3 primary fertility signs on a daily basis – Cervical Mucus, Cervical Position and BBT (Basal Body Temperature). There are different methods to track your fertility and these are known as Fertility-Awareness Based Methods.
- Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPK) – These kits test for the LH (Luteinizing Hormone) surge that precedes ovulation. These are urine based tests similar to Home Pregnancy Tests. OPKs normally give a positive result 1-3 days before ovulation.
- Saliva Ferning Tests – You can find out approaching ovulation using ferning patterns in your saliva seen under a specially designed microscope.
- Fertility Monitors – These are electronic devices which indicate your Ovulation based on urine, saliva, BBT and so on.
- Ultrasound – An ultrasound can detect approaching ovulation depending on the size of follicles present on the ovaries.
- Secondary Fertility Signs– As ovulation approaches women may notice one or more of these signs :
- Midcycle or Ovulatory Spotting
- Pain near the ovaries
- Increased Sexual Feelings
- Breast Tenderness
- Abdominal Bloating
- Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPKs) can be expensive and may not be available in all countries. You can find cheap OPKs on Amazon.com. These are similar to Home Pregnancy Tests.