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Healthy and fertile young couples can easily take up to a year to get pregnant. Are you trying to conceive and hoping you'll see a positive pregnancy test in less time? Finding out when you are fertile can really boost your odds. Here's how.
Why Track Your Ovulation?
Healthy women in their reproductive years who are not taking birth control that prevents ovulation usually release one egg per month. This egg matures from one of the follicles in the ovaries, and the point at which it is released is called ovulation. Following the release of the egg, it remains viable for around 24 hours. Ovulation day and the (approximately) five days before it make up the woman's fertile window — the days during which sexual intercourse can lead to pregnancy.
Determining the day on which you ovulate allows you to plan intercourse to get pregnant, to plan when to avoid intercourse so you do not conceive, or simply to keep track of what is going on with your body.
Why do the days before ovulation count as well? Sperm can survive within the female reproductive system for five days — in some cases even seven days — so doing the deed during these days is certainly not wasted for couples who want to get pregnant.
There are several methods you can use to determine the date of your ovulation. Which method you choose depends on your personal preferences. Some women use more than one way in which to keep an eye on their menstrual cycle.
Ovulation tests, also called ovulation predictor kits (OPKs), are the ovulation equivalent of the pregnancy test. An ovulation predictor kit is an at-home urine test to determine whether you are ovulating. Ovulation tests have a few distinct advantages over other ovulating-tracking choices, but they also have some drawbacks.
Women who choose to use ovulation tests give themselves access to the single most reliable way to find out when they are ovulating. Using ovulation tests is simple and not very labor intensive. It can, however, be pricey. You still have to find a way to work out approximately when you ovulate, if you don't want to test every day after your period ends — which would be a waste of money.
OPKs are right for you if you are hoping to find out if you ovulate at all, how long your luteal phase (the second stage of the menstrual cycle) is, or if you are an organized person who just needs to know everything for sure. Ovulation tests are much more user friendly than charting to conceive, for instance.
How do ovulation tests work? You “pee on a stick”, just like you would if you were using a pregnancy test. Luteinizing hormone, the ovulation hormone for which the OPK tests, is most strongly present in the urine in the early afternoon. That is the time at which you want to test. If the ovulation test comes back positive, your fertile window will last approximately another 24 hours.
Ovulation calendars are a very practical tool that can easily be combined with using ovulation tests. An ovulation calendar uses a mathematical calculation to predict the day on which you may ovulate during your next cycle. You can find ovulation calendars online, but it's also possible to make the same calculation yourself.
What information do you need to get an ovulation calendar to give you results that are likely to be accurate? You'll need to know the date on which your last period began, and the average length of your menstrual cycles. Those women who have used ovulation tests or other ovulation-monitoring techniques may also be able to enter information about the average length of their luteal phase. Knowing the amount of days between your ovulation and next menstruation in previous cycles really helps predict what will happen during future cycles.
Online ovulation calendars usually calculate the date the next menstrual period is due, and then count back 14 days — unless the user also specified a luteal phase length. You can, of course, do this in the comfort of your own home with a piece of paper and some basic arithmetic. It's easier to use an online ovulation calendar service. If you are lucky, they'll even send you emails on your ovulation day and three days beforehand. This will remind you to get ready!