Many of us grew up being told we can get pregnant whenever we have unprotected sex. And we often hear about many couples who ‘accidentally’ fall pregnant without trying. But there is actually only a small chance each month to conceive, and several conditions need to be right to fall pregnant. It’s normal for it to take up to 12 months for healthy couples to fall pregnant.
The most fertile time (‘fertile window’) of your cycle is a few days before ovulation, and your fertility peaks on the day of ovulation. The timing of ovulation is different for each woman and can change between cycles.
Understanding ovulation and determining when you’re likely to ovulate can help you time sex to increase your chances of conceiving each month. Having sex at least every 2-3 days during the fertile window increases your chances of becoming pregnant each month.
Cycles are usually 28-days, but can be shorter or longer, and anywhere between 21 to 45 days. Ovulation is usually 14 days before your next period. For example, in a 28-day cycle, ovulation is on cycle day 14. My average cycle is 30 days so ovulation can be between cycle day 14 to 18.
Here are some tools I used to help pinpoint my fertile window and ovulation day, from my favourite to least-favourite. I prefer using a combination of the first 3 tools, although there were some months where I skipped ovulation tests because it was making me too stressed.
It took me about 3 months to start noticing patterns and really understand my cycle
1. Urine ovulation tests
Ovulation tests detect the level of lutenising hormone (LH) and/or oestrogen which increases 1-2 days before ovulation. Urine ovulation tests are used just like a home pregnancy test and can be purchased at a supermarket or pharmacy without a prescription.
2. Mobile apps
There are so many fertility apps available, many are free too. I tried Dot, Clue and Ovia, which was a helpful way to record days of my period, symptoms I felt at different stages of my cycle, and results from ovulation tests or temperature checks. I started using these apps about 6 months before we starting trying so that I could get an idea of my cycle length.
Apps use the information you put in and their specific algorithms to predict your fertile window and estimate when your next period is due. They also usually have daily tips and information about fertility and trying to conceive.
Here are some trends about my cycle I learnt from using apps about several months:
- Period length averaged 6 days
- Ovulation day ranged from cycle day 16 to 20
- Cycle length averages 30 days (ranges between 28 days to 32 days)
- Luteal phase length ranged from 10 days to 13 days
- Top luteal phase symptom is acne
3. Cervical mucous changes
Vaginal discharge usually changes during the month. It’s more clear, slippery, runny and looks like raw egg white just before ovulation. This type of ‘fertile’ mucous helps nourish and protect sperm so it can make the long journey through the female reproductive tract to fertilise an egg. Learning to pay attention to the consistency and amount of cervical mucous signalled to me each month when I was in my fertile window.
4. Charting your basal body temperature
Basal body temperature (BBT) is the temperature at rest which is measured every morning before you get out of bed. There is a slight increase in basal body temperature (BBT) 12-24 hours after ovulation which can be detected with a sensitive thermometer. Although this won’t let you know when you’re about to ovulate, it will let you know that you have ovulated. So using your BBT, ovulation test results and cervical mucous changes, you can determine the day you ovulated during the cycle.