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If you're trying to conceive, one of the best things you can do is track your ovulation. This will help you time sex for when you're most likely to get pregnant. There are several ways of tracking ovulation, including using a fertility monitor like OvuSense. In this article, we'll discuss how to track your ovulation and get pregnant!

uterus diagram showing ovaries

In this article:

What is ovulation and why is it important to track it when trying to conceive?

The process by which a woman's ovaries release an egg is called ovulation. Ovulation occurs due to hormonal changes that also help control other aspects of the menstrual cycle. After one ovary releases the egg, it then travels down the fallopian tube, where it may be fertilized by sperm. Ovulation typically occurs once a month, and for around 30% of women it will occur in the middle of the cycle, that's around day 14 of a menstrual cycle counting from the first day when your period begins if you have a 28 day cycle. Ovulation tracking is a key component in understanding women's health.

According to Hurst and Davies (2022), one of relatively few peer reviewed studies which assess ovulation tracking methods, there are three main goals in the working out when you ovulate if you are trying to improve your chances of getting pregnant: "1) to confirm the presence or absence of ovulation (anovulation) in a reproductive cycle, 2) to confirm the day on which ovulation occurred, and 3) to use this ovulation day in one reproductive cycle to predict the date of ovulation and the 'fertile window' for the subsequent cycle in order to improve the chances of natural conception or timing of intervention." 

Your fertile window are sometimes called your 'fertile days' and that's the time when you can conceive during each typical menstrual cycle.

We can add two more important goals to this: 4) use the current cycle information to predict ovulation for this cycle, 5) monitor continuously throughout the whole cycle to understand reasons for why you may struggle to conceive.

How to track ovulation in your menstrual cycle: the methods available

You can track ovulation using a fertility awareness method (FAMs). FAMs are also referred to as "natural family planning" or “rhythm method”. These are sometimes used for birth control as well as trying to conceive. Basically the idea is to avoid sex during your fertile windows, but the method can be unreliable if you want to prevent pregnancy, and best used only if you have regular cycles.

The different FAMs you can use for ovulation tracking are:

Cervical mucus method

You track changes in your cervical mucus, which along with other important functions is fluid that helps sperm travel to the egg. Cervical mucus that is similar in consistency and color to raw egg whites can be a sign that ovulation is about to occur. Not everyone gets this raw egg white mucus, it doesn't always appear on the same day of the cycle, and it can be a problematic method of tracking for women that have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or other conditions that affect your ovulation timing. So, good cervical mucus tracking can help you with tracking goal 1, but without other methods doesn't really help with the other goals. Cervical mucus should not be confused with other types of vaginal discharge and if you are concerned about what you're seeing you should seek professional medical advice.

Calendar method/ Fertility and Period tracker apps

You track your menstrual cycle starting by marking your last period on a calendar and look for patterns like the expected time of your next period to try and predict when you’ll ovulate. If you're doing it manually, these calendar methods involve a bit of math and only predicts days you are most likely to be fertile and doesn't work if you have irregular cycles. This is the method most ovulation calculator, fertility tracker and period tracker apps use to produce an ovulation calendar, and clinical studies suggest they are only around 21% accurate for predicting ovulation. So, in reality, this method relies on indirect observations only and doesn't really achieve any of our tracking goals. However, it's still a valid way of understanding your basic cycle statistics, and can work well when combined with other methods.

Urine Luteinizing Hormone

This is a method many women start out with to understand their monthly cycle. A "pee on a stick" ovulation predictor kit can be used to look at the level of Luteinizing Hormone (LH). A positive test predicts ovulation is about to occur in 24-48 hours based on the LH surge - so it achieves goal 4. Unfortunately even if you use the 2 tests a day, and use a LH monitor (which sometimes shows the level of other hormones too), these tests are not able to accurately detect when you ovulate so they cannot help with goals 1-3, and because they only provide a snapshot in time they can't help with goal 5. Added to this you will struggle with ovulation predictor kits if you have one of the main issues that causes variable ovulation like PCOS - that's because LH tends to peak at a different time in the month if you have ovulatory issues. So a positive result for LH does not necessarily mean you are about to ovulate.

OvuSense App showing ovulation chart

Temperature method

This involves charting your temperatures on a graph or other charting tool. After a few months of consistent charting, you will begin to notice patterns in your temperatures. These patterns can be used to predict when you are likely to ovulate. That's because temperature rises and falls in line with Progesterone, and as progesterone is released during the process of ovulation we can look for that rise to know ovulation has occurred. The temperature method is more effective than the methods mentioned already because it allows you to look at a real marker associated with ovulation - progesterone - rather than relying on identifying physical changes which are not consistent for all women. Temperature is also sometimes used for understanding whether you're pregnant, as a second progesterone rise is sometimes seen after successful fertilization. This method is not as reliable as home pregnancy tests, and ideally you should always wait at least two weeks before testing for pregnancy.

Understanding the different ways of measuring temperature

Basal body temperature method

Basal body temperature (BBT) is the lowest temperature the body reaches during rest. To get as close to this as possible, it is usually measured using an oral thermometer immediately after waking and before any physical activity has been undertaken. By understanding how this varies from day to day and charting this manually or using an app you can see if you have ovulated. Although it is often used as a marker for ovulation, BBT is not a foolproof method, as factors such as illness or even room temperature can raise or lower the temperature reading. Don't forget that measuring with an oral thermometer and only once a day also means that it can easily get the temperature wrong, so using it to detect the really small rise in temperature associated with ovulation can be tricky. So, BBT can help us with goals 1, but clinical papers show it is only around 78% accurate for confirming ovulation so only partly achieves goal 2, and is only useful for goal 3 if you have regular cycles. That accuracy means it can't help with goal 4. Good BBT charting might help with a basic understanding for goal 5. BBT is sometimes combined with other fertility signs in the symptothermal method, and the use of multiple signs certainly helps improve the usefulness of the method.

Skin temperature

Measuring temperature on the surface of the skin eliminates some of the problems associated with BBT as it allows you to measure multiple times overnight. However, most skin temperature sensors either measure in convenient but not particularly accurate locations like the top of your wrist (like an ovulation tracking bracelet or a wearable ring does), and/ or the sensors themselves are not particularly accurate. So, as with BBT they can help us with goal 1 in confirming ovulation, but clinical papers show they are also only about 78% accurate at confirming the date of ovulation so only partly achieve goals 2 and 3. That accuracy means this skin method can't help with an accurate prediction using current cycle data (goal 4), although some devices may help with goal 5 simply because they allow for continuous monitoring over time. Some of these devices look at breathing rate as well though no clinical data has shown this to be useful.

Core body temperature

In contrast to BBT, core body temperature (CBT) is the temperature of the deep structures of the body, as reflected in the actual blood temperature. That blood temperature reflects the thermal state of the body's internally regulated environment and is much less variable than BBT or skin temperature.

CBT can be continuously measured using the OvuSense vaginal sensor and while BBT and skin temperature may fluctuate due to external factors, CBT remains relatively stable, making it a more reliable way of confirming the exact date of ovulation.

OvuSense measures continuous core body temperature (cCBT) throughout the night while you sleep, making it much more effective than devices using the basal body temperature or skin temperature. Clinical studies show cCBT is around 99% accurate for confirming the exact ovulation date.

That means cCBT fully achieves goals 1, 2 and 3. Because cCBT is showing the action of progesterone on the body so accurately it is also able of being used to predict the onset of ovulation using current cycle data - meaning it's capable of achieving goals 4 and 5 as well. If you notice 2-3 unusual consecutive cycle patterns that's the point at which you should seek professional medical advice. The cCBT patterns may indicate you have a medical condition which needs confirmatory diagnosis and treatment.

Using the OvuSense fertility monitor to track ovulation and get pregnant

The OvuSense fertility monitor has a sensor that is inserted into the vagina before going to sleep at night. The sensor then collects core body temperature readings every 5 minutes. These data are then downloaded to the OvuSense App in the morning, and the specially designed AI is used to predict when ovulation will occur from the very first cycle of use and confirm with 99% accuracy that ovulation happened. This ability to predict using current cycle data (goal 4) means that OvuSense can be used even if you have irregular cycles. Only OvuSense can both predict and confirm ovulation, making it effective for all cycle types.

What are the benefits of OvuSense over other methods of ovulation tracking?

In summary - we're trying to track two hormones to understand ovulation Luteinizing Hormone and Progesterone.... these chemical changes in your body help you to ovulate

Urine strips measure luteinising hormone. Timing and levels can vary in the cycle, so you can get false ovulation results.

Urine and blood tests only give you one result at a single moment in time. So you can get the wrong picture.

Studies show progesterone rises the same way during ovulation for all women and cycle types. So it’s a more reliable indicator of ovulation.

OvuSense tracks progesterone using continuous Core Body Temperature (cCBT). Only cCBT shows you the whole cycle picture at every phase.

What other methods should I know about?

Although the ovulation predictor kit and temperature methods are the most common ways of tracking ovulation, other methods have been used for a number of years. They also try to track hormones associated with tracking your ovulation.

Saliva ferning tests use your saliva to help you understand when you're ovulating by looking at the fern like crystals formed by traces of progesterone. Unfortunately theses tests are not calibrated and the timing and appearance of the crystals varies considerably for each woman. So this method really can't help with any of our ovulation tracking goals.

Some tests rely on chloride or electrical changes measured either in saliva or the vagina where changes in the alkaline environment may help to understand what is happening during ovulation. These tests can be useful in adding information for goal 2 but often don't help with the other tracking goals.

There are other physical signs such as 'Mittelschmerz' (from the German literally meaning 'middle pain' which is a slight pain you may feel around the middle of the month in your lower abdomen), you may also notice breast tenderness and other signs such as light spotting. These signs vary in intensity and timing for many women and studies show they are not particularly reliable indicators of when you are ovulating.

Will OvuSense work for me?

OvuSense is clinically proven to work for all cycle types, and is the only method which is able to achieve all 5 tracking goals. It is particularly helpful if you have irregular cycles or PCOS, and if you're already talking to a medical professional then adding OvuSense Pro with its AI-powered advanced cycle analysis is an ideal way to screen for issues and help track any medications or supplements you're taking. Get started with the OvuSense fertility monitor today.

OvuSense Advanced Fertility Monitor