Did you know that 1 in 6 couples in Canada have difficulty with getting pregnant? Understanding the science behind how your reproductive system works, specifically the ovulatory phase is one key to optimizing your chances.

Every month your body goes through a full menstrual cycle, assuming you have a “regular” cycle, this happens every 28-32 days. This cycle does not just include your menstruation phase but also an ovulatory phase; all are a series of changes that your body goes through to prepare for a potential pregnancy.  One of the most natural ways you can optimize your chances to conceive is by understanding your cycle and learning how to track it. This can add an additional step to your “trying” efforts to get pregnant, however just by knowing your cycle you can pinpoint the most important days of it to have sex with your partner in efforts to conceive!

The Ovulatory Cycle

To understand your cycle, the term ovulation needs to be clear. Ovulation is when a mature egg is released from the ovary, pushed down the fallopian tube, and is available to be fertilized. The window of time between ovulation and the egg no longer being viable is estimated between 12-24 hours. If you are trying to get pregnant, identifying the “signals” your body sends when it is preparing to release an egg, and after it does is the first step on your pathway to parenthood.

If a successful conception occurs, the fertilized egg will need to safely implant along the endometrium (the lining of the uterus), where the egg is given the right environment to develop from a tiny egg into a baby. However, if the egg is not fertilized within the fertile window, the lining of the uterus will shed and be released from your body (menstruation). Your body then begins a whole new cycle.

If ovulation occurs on average once a month and the time between releasing the egg and reaching the uterus is only 12-24 hours, the fertilization window is very small. If you don’t know when you ovulate this can make trying to conceive much more “trying” than you would like it to be.

Tracking Ovulation

A woman’s cycle begins with the first day of a woman’s menstrual period and for the average woman, the cycle lasts for 28-32 days. It is not uncommon for a woman to have abnormal menstruation or irregular cycles, and therefore make pin-pointing time of ovulation quite difficult. To help you find your fertile window of ovulation, there are a few options to choose from that include natural tracking methods, the use of ovulation test kits, and/or using an ovulation app on your mobile or tablet.

  • Natural Family Planning (NFP) Method(s):These are the natural ovulation tracking methods that can help narrow down which days in your cycle are optimal for conception.
    • Calendar/Rhythm method: This method involves using a calendar to record any fertility patterns. Looking over the patterns of previous cycles can help to narrow down and predict when your most fertile days are going to be.
    • Basal Body Temperature (BBT): This method involves taking your temperature each morning before you get out of bed to track the temperature spike which occurs after ovulation. After a few months of tracking your basal body temperature, you may see a pattern of spikes, which can then help her to predict the next time she will ovulate. To properly track your BBT you will need a special thermometer (don’t worry, this can be found at many drugstores or pharmacies). A basal thermometer has the ability to record small changes in your temperature. When you ovulate, your temperature increases slightly (by about 0.2 degrees) for a streak of more than three days. This increase in temperature for at least three days can signal ovulation.
  • Ovulation Predictor Kit:An ovulation predictor kit is similar in appearance to a “pee-on-stick” pregnancy test. Ovulation predictor kits (OPK) detect a rising level of Luteinizing hormone (LH) which occurs when an egg is soon to be released within one to two days. For women struggling with tracking through a natural family planning method, OPKs can help to take out some of the guesswork.
  • Apps:In the word of growing technology, there seems to be an app for almost everything. There are now many different fertility tracking apps available that can assist in narrowing down and predicting a woman’s most fertile window. These apps may not have a higher accuracy level than other methods, however the apps can be useful for those couples who prefer to have all of their planning and fertility charting in one convenient spot.

Side note:These fertility awareness methods can be used independently, however in combination, a woman may be able to gather more information for a better understanding of her cycle.

Using any of these methods to track fertility is one of the best ways to optimize your chances when trying for a baby. With just the right tools and combination of tracking methods you may be able to achieve your pregnancy goals.