How You’ve Been Tracking Your Ovulation Wrong And How To Fix It

We’ve been taught that menstruating women have a 28-day cycle, and although this may be an average, it is simply not the case for most women. Healthy cycles can generally range from 21-35 days, which means that not every woman ovulates on day 14 like you learned in sex-ed. So, if you have been assuming you are always ovulating on day 14, using only LH strips to determine ovulation, or relying on an app to let you know when you are ovulating, then you could be missing your true ovulation and therefore missing your chance of making a baby each month.

 

Many women experience variations of the typical 28-day cycle and day 14 ovulation and this is completely normal. Fluctuations and deviations in a woman’s cycle are as nature has intended. A woman’s cycle will likely fluctuate from cycle-to-cycle, season-to-season, and year-to-year based on a multitude of factors. Just as we don’t have the same exact weather patterns every summer, we may not always have the same ovulation day every cycle. Just think of how many variables are at play in your life from month-to-month: stress, lifestyle, diet, season, hormones, sleep, and many more factors that can all adjust your cycle up or down in a given month.

 

Step #1 when you are trying to conceive (TTC) is to accurately be able to predict and confirm your fluctuating ovulation so you can time sex accurately each month you are TTC for the best chances of getting pregnant.

 

 

The Problem With Ovulation Apps And Those Strips You’ve Been Peeing On

 

Both LH strips and cycle tracking apps are based on predictions used to estimate when you are most likely to be fertile using the unrealistic 28-day cycle calculation. 

 

When TTC, it’s more important to understand how to identify your unique fluctuations which is why relying on just LH strips or an app can not lead to the best success rates. Most apps will likely predict a day of ovulation which is likely to be inaccurate because of the fluctuations from cycle-to-cycle, as mentioned above, and may cause you to not time sex properly within your true fertile window. 

 

Luteinizing hormone (LH) strips are used at home to test urine for surges of LH to predict ovulation will occur sometime in the few days after a positive LH test, since LH is used to signal the release of the eggs from the ovary. However, for women who already have irregular cycles or hormonal imbalances such as PCOS, these strips can be inaccurate and lead to a heck of a lot of confusion. For example: women with PCOS can produce multiple LH surges in attempts to ovulate which can yield multiple positive results or a high LH for most of their cycle. 

 

LH strips also cannot confirm ovulation. They can predict that it might happen … but can’t actually let you know that you did in fact ovulate. Instead of this headache, I highly recommend that you save your money and invest in learning the language that your body uses to tell you each month if and when you are about to ovulate, what is the best time to have sex to have the highest chance of conception, and confirm that ovulation indeed did take place. So, if you are tired of guesstimating when you are ovulating and feeling in the dark during your fertility journey, it’s time to start using the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM).   

 

What is FAM?

‘Fertility Awareness Method’ (FAM) is an easy yet powerful tool for couples to determine a woman’s “fertile window,” which are the five days in her cycle leading up to and including ovulation where she is the most fertile. Having sex within a woman’s “fertile window” will give her the best chance of conceiving. FAM can empower couples to understand the woman’s body and plan precision baby making! By using FAM a couple will gain insight into the rhythms of a woman’s cycle that is unique to their fertility journey. What makes FAM the most accurate method to determine your fertility window is tracking all three fertility signs:

  1. basal body temperature
  2. cervical mucus
  3. and optional cervical position

Basal Body Temperature (BBT) 

Your BBT is the temperature of your body when you’re at rest, which is usually taken first thing every morning before getting out of bed via a digital thermometer (that has 2 decimal points) or a wearable monitor like Tempdrop (use this link for a 10% discount). You can then use a free app, like Kindara, to record your results each day and map out your temperatures each cycle. 

 

The menstrual cycle is typically divided into halves: the follicular phase (before ovulation) and the luteal phase (after ovulation). BBT helps to determine where a woman is at in her cycle based on her waking temperatures. Generally, follicular phase temps should consistently be no lower than 97.2- 97.4°F (36.1- 36.3°C). 

 

Then, after ovulation occurs there is a slight shift in temperature (usually ½-1 degree) due to a rise in progesterone. This confirms ovulation has happened and the luteal phase has begun and that the fertile window has closed for that month. Until you see that thermal shift, you should assume you are still fertile and have not yet ovulated.

 

A woman’s BBT will generally stay elevated during her luteal phase – temperatures should be closer to (or over) 98.0°F (37.0°C) – and will drop back lower again when menstruation occurs. If a woman’s temperature continues to remain high, this would be an indication of pregnancy. A pregnant woman’s BBT will remain high until a few months before childbirth. 

Cervical Mucus (CM) 

CM is the second step to charting your fertile window and is considered the star of FAM. CM is a normal, natural, healthy bodily function with a very specific purpose of supporting fertility. It follows a very predictable pattern of changes that align to specific phases of your menstrual cycle and can be a tell-tale sign for when to do the “baby-dance” for best chances of conception. 

 

Typically right after menstruation, the vagina may appear to have a dry sensation. Cervical fluid begins appearing as slight moisture a few days after the end of your period, indicating that your fertile window has opened. As you approach ovulation and estrogen rises, the amount of cervical fluid produced increases and its consistency becomes wetter, morphing from a creamy lotion into an elastic egg white. Eggwhite cervical fluid is the most fertile and most easy to identify CM because it resembles raw eggwhite. 

 

When you first begin to track CM, it might all be a bit confusing, and that’s okay. It may take 2-3 cycles to get the hang of it. There are many CM charting resources, like those found in our ‘Ultimate Fertility Guide’ which is included in all Fertility Optimization programs that can walk you through predictable patterns of CM to look out for. 

 

Here is a great chart from fertilitycharting.com.au to get you started… 

Cervical Position (CP)

CP is a third and optional fertile sign to chart for ultimate fertility. CP helps to confirm the fertility window marked by CM in step two. The cervix is known as the security guard to pregnancy because it is a biological valve that only opens during the fertile window to let sperm through; it remains closed during the rest of your cycle. Turns out getting pregnant is not as easy as it sounded in highschool lectures…

 

To check CP, insert your clean pointer and middle fingers (make sure your nails are trimmed) to feel the position of your cervix. CP changes throughout your cycle, so ideally you want to check at the same every day – just make sure not to check after sex/sexual arousal. What are you feeling for? As you approach ovulation, your cervix will feel soft (like your lips), high, open, and wet – which you can remember with the acronym SHOW. As you approach menstruation, your cervix will feel firm (like the type of your nose), low, closed, and dry.

 

CP is one of the hardest fertility signs to get the hang of, so it may take a few cycles to master.

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When Is The Best Time To Start Using FAM? 

 

Really – now.

By bringing FAM into your TTC journey from the very beginning you are taking the first step in taking control of your fertility. I recommend to chart for at least three months before you want to conceive in order to get the hang of the process and actually find your unique patterns from month to month. 

Women who begin to get the hang of FAM charting tend to find a fun challenge in predicting their own unique patterns in BBT and CM shifts. Ultimately, FAM teaches couples body literacy that is unique to each woman and a couple’s fertility journey. Individual patterns help couples to better predict and utilize timed fertility windows and increase opportunity for pregnancy. 

Practicing FAM is also a fantastic way to find obstacles in your hormonal fluctuations like anovulation (lack of ovulation), low body temperatures which may indicate a thyroid problem or low progesterone, a short luteal phase (under 10 days) and more. Armed with this information you are in a much better position to speak with your healthcare provider about next steps to take or work with a Functional Fertility Dietitian who can help you bring lifestyle and dietary changes to address these obstacles and get you on your way to a healthy pregnancy as soon as possible.

 

How to learn more and optimize your fertility

 

If you are interested in learning more about FAM and how to get started, visit my Amazon store for fertility reading recommendations and tools to get you on the right path.

To find out more about working with a Functional Fertility Dietitian take a look at how we work with couples to optimize their fertility and get pregnant here 

If you have been practicing FAM for three months and are not yet pregnant, schedule your free discovery call here to see which Functional Fertility program is best for you. 

Selected Bibliography:

(1) Taking Charge of Your Fertility, Toni Weschler. Page 3, 62, 55

(2) Weschler, Toni. Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health. Rev. ed., 1st Quill ed. New York: Quill, 2002. Print.

(3) Woman Code, Alissa Vitti. Page 213.