Are you trying to conceive? Did you know that there is only a small window of opportunity every month? This is why cycle tracking can be a useful tool in optimizing conception.
While sperm can last anywhere from 2-5 days within the female reproductive tract, an egg can only be fertilized for up to 24 hours after ovulation. This means that pregnancy is possible between 5-days prior to ovulation and 1-day afterwards. The trouble is that many women don’t know exactly when they ovulate. This is where cycle tracking (AKA the family awareness method) comes into play.
There are several ways to predict and/or detect ovulation. Below is a basic outline of some tracking options. When in doubt, it is always best to consult with a healthcare practitioner for information that is specific to you and your body.
- Calendar method – generally ovulation happens around days 10-14 of your cycle, with day 1 being the first day of bleeding. This is only an estimate and cannot be used in women with irregular cycles.
- Cervical mucus changes – ovulation usually coincides with a “raw egg-white” mucus that is stretchy. This form of mucus is favourable for sperm motility and egg fertilization. Pay attention to the different textures and appearance of cervical mucus throughout your cycle to determine when ovulation is nearing. For more information on cervical mucus tracking, check out this link
- Basal body temperature (BBT) – using a basal body temperature thermometer upon waking every morning, you can track the daily measures to identify ovulation. If you have consistent daily temperature readings, ovulation can be assumed when there is a slight increase of 0.2°C from your baseline.
- However, if the readings fluctuate by more than 0.2°C daily (often described as a saw-tooth pattern when charted on a graph), there may be an underlying hormonal imbalance that needs to be addressed. While measuring BBT can be a helpful tool, it can be inconvenient if tracked long-term. For example, to ensure optimal readings, the temperature should be taken at the same time every morning, before getting out of bed. Waking up later on weekends is one example that could create variability in temperature readings.
- NOTE – prediction is more reliable when BBT and cervical mucus are tracked together. Cervical mucus changes before ovulation, while BBT changes during/after ovulation.
- LH strips – LH is a hormone that spikes to promote ovulation. These strips measure the levels of LH in urine and can be used for several days leading up to the estimated ovulation time. They are inexpensive and available in pharmacies, online, and at the dollar store.
- Ferning – using a daily saliva sample, you can detect the optimal fertility window through a change in the crystal pattern caused by increased estrogen during ovulation. The name “ferning” comes from the resemblance of a fern leaf created by the salt crystals in the saliva. A small microscope (Geratherm Ovu Control, Health Canada approved) is needed to see the ferning, and works best when tested first thing every morning to minimize error caused by food or drinks. While there is an initial cost to buying the microscope, it can be used long-term at no additional cost.
Unsure how to get started with tracking your cycle? There are many phone apps that record data and can help predict your fertility window.
For more guidance, click HERE book a consultation with our team of Naturopathic Doctors to optimize your health preconception and have a worry-free pregnancy!
Have a happy, healthy day!
Dr. Meghan McNaughton, ND