Having spent over two years trying to get pregnant, I spent a lot of time doing research and am sharing what I found out.
Why is it Important to Know When You Will Ovulate?
The reason that you need to know this is because you can only get pregnant if you have sex at around the time that you release the egg from your ovaries.
Eggs do not last very long once released so you need to either have sex slightly before the egg is released (as sperm can live for up to 4 days) or else or when, or very shortly after, the egg is released.
How to Tell When You Are Ovulating
That is why one of the most important things that you need to know when you are trying to get pregnant, is when you are ovulating. Unless you actually have sex at the right time in your cycle, then the chances of conceiving are pretty much out of the window before you even start.
A lot of women who have a regular 28 day cycle will assume that they will just ovulate in the middle of that cycle and work with those dates when trying to conceive. However, this is not always the case and women often have different ovulation patterns. Although the majority of women have a very similar luteal phase each month (the number of days between ovulation and the start of the next period), the amount of time before ovulation can vary from month to month.
So let's have a look at some of the ways to figure out when you are ovulating - then you can use any or a combination of these to pinpoint your ovulation date.
I will cover 4 of the main ways to check and these are:
- Cervical Mucus
- Cervical Position
- Ovulation Tests
- Taking Your Temperature
In the days before ovulation the cervical mucus changes form to what is known as egg white cervical mucus (EWCM). This is stretchy and stringy and is particularly good at carrying the sperm to the egg, and hence it appears near to ovulation.*
If you notice egg white cervical mucus then you are entering your fertile period and this is a good time to start getting busy!
Often you will get EWCM a few days or even 5-6 days before ovulation so it can appear quite early on.
If you don’t have much EWCM (and this is the case for some people) then it is possible to help it along in a few ways. You can take a supplement like Evening Primrose Oil, which is something that I took for the first 10-12 days of my cycle. Evidence that this works is anecdotal and not clinical for this particular use.**
You should only take this before ovulation as it can cause cramps in the second half of your cycle which can prevent the embryo from implanting.
Another tip is to drink a lot of grapefruit juice near ovulation. As I am not a fan of grapefruit I didn't try this but I did hear good reports of the results from fellow TTCers!
Checking your cervical mucus is a cost free and easy way to check on where you are in your cycle.
* It is widely known that the state of your cervical mucus is a good indication of where you are in yoru cycle. For more info you can check WebMD.
** There are many reports that EPO is used to enhance cervical mucus, including on Livestrong, but no actual studies have confirmed this.
If you monitor the position of your cervix during the month then you may notice changes in the position of the cervix around ovulation time. This can be quite tricky for some women particularly if you are not used to feeling your cervix, so it may take a few months to figure it out.
During ovulation your cervix will be soft, high, open and wet (you can use the acronym SHOW to remember this), and after ovulation it will be low and closed.
If you are using one of the other methods to test for ovulation then you could also check the position of your cervix so that you know what it feels like at a particular time in your cycle.
However, some women (myself included) find it difficult to monitor the cervix as it may be hard to reach or just be difficult to tell which position it is in, so this is not something that I was able to do!
Ovulation Test Kits
Ovulation test strips can be a really useful way of telling when you will ovulate and this is the main method that I used*.
Just before ovulation the body produces Luteinizing Hormone (LH) which indicates that the follicles are attempting to produce an egg and that the egg should be released in the next 24-48 hours. You can buy the same ovulation test strips that I used that will check for the level of LH in the urine at any given point in the cycle (see image below of what these look like). All that is required is to dip the test in the urine and a control line will appear.
During most of your cycle you will get a second line on the test and if the LH level is high, which indicates that you may be just about to ovulate, the second line will be as dark as the control line.
As the LH surge can last up to 48 hours you can then get a good warning of when ovulation will occur. As soon as you start getting a positive 2nd line it is advisable to start trying as the most fertile time can be any time up to around 4 days before ovulation.
As well as the simple (and cheap) ovulation test strips which enable you to tell when you are ovulating, there are also more complex (and expensive) ovulation predictor kits which can pinpoint ovulation even more accurately.
Personally I have always found that the cheap test strips have picked up my ovulation but once you get close to ovulation time you need to test more than once a day. Some people recommend testing with first morning urine (FMU) but I have found that I get my positive at different times of the day each month so I keep testing once the test starts to change colour.
* A study concludes that "Urine LH testing every evening is a reliable method of predicting ovulation within the ensuing 48 hours" - see https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8532248
How Dark Does the Ovulation Test Line Get?
In the picture above I started testing on day 9 of my cycle (Monday) as I ovulate between day 11 and 14 normally and I don't want to miss my surge. As you can see from the tests they don't start getting darker until the morning of day 13 (Friday) at which point I start testing more often.
The next test (at about 1pm) is a positive test - as you can see the test line is darker than the control line and so at this point I stop testing (it doesn't matter if the tests continue to be positive as it is the first positive test that counts).
So even though my test is positive, I don't always get a line as dark as this. This may be because there is a narrow window to catch a test this dark or else maybe sometimes I don't produce as much LH.
If you are wondering how dark the test line should be then sometimes it does not get as dark as the control line - perhaps you missed the best moment of your surge if you didn't test often enough or maybe your LH surge is not strong enough to get a test that dark.
Just because your test line is not so dark does not mean you didn't ovulate. However, if it is not even close to the colour of the control line then you may need to have some tests done by your doctor to check that you are ovulating.
If you have irregular cycles then it can sometimes help to use a monitor like the ClearBlue as this means you will be able to pinpoint your ovulation without having to rely on lots of ovulation tests.
Taking Your Temperature
As the hormones in the body change throughout your cycle, so this causes changes to your body temperature. It is normal for the body to experience higher temperatures post ovulation so that you can tell when you actually ovulated.
This is why a lot of people (including myself) use temping as a form of determining their ovulation date. You will need a basal body thermometer which gives you temperatures to 2 decimal places. You have to take your temperature every morning at the same time, before you get out of bed, so that you can get an accurate and steady picture. You can see an example of my body temperatures in the chart below, but everyone has a different base rate so yours may not look the same.
If you use this together with the other signs of ovulation then you will get a good idea of how your body is working.
During the first half of the month the temperatures will stay lower and then increase after ovulation. You can usually determine ovulation date by 3 straight rises in temperature afterwards.
When Will I Ovulate?
Hopefully this will give you some kind of answers to help you with the question 'when will I ovulate?' so that you can pinpoint your own ovulation date and hence get a better chance of conceiving.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2011 Jackie Grant
Shamdai1112 on May 19, 2019:
I truly understand the struggle in trying to get pregnant and trying to figure out exact time of ovulation. I did it the old school way, and let my body let me know when it was the right time to have sex. I did not open myself to drugstore testing ovulation kit. I guess, I didn’t educate myself well enough at that time. And to add, fuel to the fire, my ob-gynecologist did not inform me of many things, knowing my struggle. After three long years of trying and finally a girlfriend told me about a fertility specialist, we got pregnant. So I wanted to add, that today compared to 15 years ago, women having problems conceiving, have more information, are better aware and have much more tools out there. This is now an advance society, and help is out there just ask for it. I was to caught up in my time, and didn’t ask for help, and I waited too long.