How to Detect Ovulation: 5 Ovulation Detection Methods-image

How to Detect Ovulation: 5 Ovulation Detection Methods

Medically Reviewed by Hertility on March 28, 2024

Ovulation tracking can be a great way of either avoiding or planning sex during your fertile window. There are lots of ovulation detection methods, each with varying degrees of reliability. Read on to find out which could be right for you.

Quick facts:

  • The fertile window is the 5 days before you ovulate and the day after.
  • This is the time during your cycle when you’re most likely to get pregnant. 
  • Ovulation detection kits are the most accurate way to track ovulation each cycle. 
  • Other methods like BBT, cycle, discharge and saliva tracking are not as accurate but can still be useful.

What is the fertile window?

The fertile window is 6 days around the midpoint of your cycle when you ovulate. It includes the 5 days before ovulation and the day after. 

Ovulation is when you release an egg from one of your ovaries, and it travels down the fallopian tube to the uterus where it hopes to reach a sperm and be fertilised. 

If you have regular periods, it is a good sign that you are ovulating (releasing eggs), every month. Your egg is capable of being fertilised 12 to 24 hours after ovulation but sperm can survive in the female genital tract for up to five days. So it’s possible to get pregnant if you have sex in the days leading up to ovulation.

Ovulation tracking methods

Lots of people choose to track ovulation, either to avoid or to plan to have sex during their fertile window. There are a few different methods available to predict your fertile window each month, but not every method will work for everyone—so it’s useful to try a few to find your fit. 

Cycle tracking

Tracking your periods is a helpful starting point for finding your fertile window. If your cycle is like clockwork and lasts 28 days, the chances are you’ll ovulate halfway through your cycle on day 14.

Everyone’s cycle is unique and often not 28 days. It’s important to keep track of how long your cycles last, how long your periods are and any symptoms along the way.

Ovulation generally occurs 11 to 16 days before your next period but this can also vary from cycle to cycle. You can use cycle tracking apps, some of which will predict your fertile window based on your previous cycle data—but these are not always 100% accurate. 

Ovulation detection kits

Ovulation detection kits involve a pee stick, which you use when you’re around the time in your cycle when you’re approaching ovulation. Ovulation sticks are considered the best way to identify if you are ovulating 

From the start of your cycle, your oestrogen levels will increase to thicken the lining of your womb in preparation for pregnancy. When oestrogen levels reach a certain point, it signals the release of luteinizing hormone (LH), which triggers ovulation.

Although LH is always present at a low level, it significantly increases 24-36 hours before you ovulate, known as the LH surge, which is what the kits detect.

Changes in cervical mucus 

The consistency of your cervical mucus (discharge) changes throughout your menstrual cycle. Just before ovulation, your discharge becomes clear and stretchy, a bit like egg whites. This is to help the sperm swim through the cervix and towards the egg. 

Although this can be a good indicator of when you’re nearing ovulation, remember the appearance of discharge can also be affected by many other factors. This includes infections, sex and medications, and can also naturally alter within each cycle.

Basal body temperate tracking

After you ovulate, your basal body temperature (BBT) increases by 0.4-1°C. It is unlikely you’ll be able to feel this change, but it can be monitored with an accurate thermometer. 

To use this method effectively, you must take your BBT first thing every morning before getting up, to get an accurate reading. 

Again, there are lots of things that can cause your resting temperature to vary, such as sleep changes, alcohol consumption and fighting off a cold. This means using temperature changes alone may not be the most reliable.

It is also important to consider that this method will only tell you that you have ovulated and won’t be able to predict your fertile window ahead of time. 

Changes in saliva

Your saliva can also vary throughout your cycle. High levels of oestrogen just before ovulation can cause there to be more salt in your saliva, which can be tracked using a testing kit.

A specific pattern is seen in the saliva at ovulation which is called “ferning”, but this can be quite difficult to identify. 

Similar to BBT tracking, saliva testing is not always reliable, as it can be easily influenced by the things you eat and drink, so shouldn’t be used alone. 

Ovulation pain 

Ovarian pain, also known as Mittelschmerz, is a fairly common symptom experienced by around one in five people who menstruate. Ovulation pain can be caused by stretching of the sac of fluid which contains the egg (the follicle) during its development, or by ovulation itself (when the egg is released from the follicle). 

This isn’t a reliable method of fertility tracking and isn’t usually recommended as it can also vary from cycle to cycle. If you’re experiencing pain that’s disrupting your daily activities, speak to a specialist about treatment or pain relief options.

Understand your cycle

As ovulation is controlled by your menstrual cycle hormones, testing your hormones can give you insights into whether you’re ovulating regularly or not. 

If you’re experiencing any symptoms like irregular periods, long or short cycles, it’s a good idea to get your hormones tested to understand what’s going on with your cycle hormones. 

Check out our at-home Hormone & Fertility tests to find out more. 

Eloise Burt BSc (Hons) MSc

Eloise Burt BSc (Hons) MSc

Posts that author Eloise Burt has created for the Hertility Blog.

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