How to Know When or If You’re Ovulating

There are a few reasons why you might be checking in on your ovulation, or lack of.

  1. To check one-time for (some) peace of mind if you want to get pregnant. Although, it’s best to try over a minimum of 3 cycles.
  2. To check month over month to time intercourse and/or fertility treatment. This can be on your own or with a doctor or fertility coach.
  3. To understand your body better.
  4. To attempt to avoid pregnancy. This method is not foolproof and has pregnancy risk for a lot of people.
  5. Other reasons, like you’re just curious. Nothing wrong with that.

If you’re trying to get pregnant, then learning about if or when you’re ovulating can help ensure you’re giving yourself the best chance to conceive on your own or with some assistance like timed intercourse (TI) with or without medication or with an IUI or less medicated embryo transfer.

If you’re investigating potential or diagnosed infertility, then this can start to feel like you’re playing detective or like your body is a lab experiment. It’s common to second guess each step. Be gentle with yourself. I didn’t know until I was neck deep into my fertility journey.

Your family doctor or fertility doctor or OBGYN will probably ask if you have regular periods that come predictably like every 23-35 days (28 is the average), if the flow is normal, if they’re accompanied by mild or painful cramps, and if the duration is around 5 days to 7 days. I have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) so you’re not alone if you don’t fall under this ‘normal’ category.

If you’re not ovulating on your own and need it for conception then your doctor will talk to you about options such as oral medication like Letrozole.

If you are checking at home or are weighing options, I’m here if you need some support.

Fast facts about ovulation

Here are some fast facts surrounding ovulation, but talk to your doctor about your body.

  • Not everyone ovulates on day 14 or on the same day every month.
  • Sperm can live from 3 to 5 days inside you/your significant other/surrogate.
  • You usually have a 6 day fertile window including 4 days before, the day of ovulation and 12 to 24 hours after ovulation but if you’re timing it with an embryo transfer it’s a different strategy.
  • The highest likelihood of getting pregnant is highest on the day-of and 3 days before ovulation.
  • Your most fertile day is the day before ovulation with 42% chance of pregnancy and day-of ovulation is 20% chance of pregnancy, all according to the results of a large study over 5 years.
  • The chance of conception is very low in the days following ovulation
  • If you have a short time between ovulation and your period, you may have luteal phase defect or another issue that you’ll want to talk to your doctor about.
  • Even if you have regular periods, it’s possible you aren’t actually ovulating or you ovulate at a different time. This is uncommon.
  • Stress, diet, exercise, low body fat and other lifestyle and environmental factors such as smoking and medications can affect ovulation.

Here’s an important fact: Ovulation issues are the most common causes of infertility, around 30% of people with infertility and is one of the most treatable. There are many methods to attempt to bring on ovulation again.

But first, let’s see if you are ovulating.

Ways to check if you’re ovulating*

Here’s an overview of some ways to check ovulation that is my subject interpretation.

*The many exceptions to this below this table.

TypeDescriptionAccuracyChance of making errorsCost and easy
Progesterone blood test
-done in a lab
A standard blood test is done at a lab or clinic (around on day 3 of your period) to see if your progesterone increases, which strongly suggests or confirms that you ovulated.High accuracyLow chance of error-Can cost money

-Depends how close you live to a lab
If you’re in a public system like Canada or the UK you need a prescription to cover it but most doctors won’t unless there’s an issue.

If you’re in the US, you can pay or insurance might cover it.
Transvaginal ultrasound
-done at a clinic or hospital setting
A tech or physician uses the ultrasound probe trans-vaginally to check if your follicle has released  by monitoring on days 8, 10, 12, etc. until a mature follicle is seen and ovulation is detected, often together with a progesterone blood test.High accuracyLow chance of error-Costs money

-Depends how close you live to a clinic

Can be ongoing monitoring if you’re working with a fertility doctor or a one-time check.
Progesterone blood test
-at home
Using an at-home kit to see if your progesterone increases on day 3 of your period suggesting you ovulated.High accuracyMedium chance of an error-Easy to do at home

-Costs a lot to check monthly
It’s not available everywhere and it’s easy to do it wrong. You must follow the instructions carefully.
OPK – Ovulation Predictor Kits
-done at home or on the go
Using at-home ovulation strips you dunk in pee to see if your LH (Luteinizing Hormone) surges and then decreases may mean you’re ovulating. You want to start testing early in your cycle to ensure you don’t miss early ovulation, so checking 10 to 20 times a month is common.Medium accuracyMedium chance of an errorLow to medium cost. A divide like Mira isn’t cheap, but the strips on their own are.There’s room for human error and if you have ovulation issues it can be hard to understand if that’s the cause or you’re doing it wrong. You can use an app to help track.
It can give false hope because with PCOS you can have a surge and it’s not ovulation.
Vaginal discharge
-at home
Check your vulva multiple times daily for discharge and monitor as it changes in consistency and appearance throughout the monthLow to Medium accuracyHigh of making an errorNo equipment or appointments requiredIt’s can be confusing at first to understand the different consistencies, appearances and textures but over time it’s easier to get the hang of it it. It’s free, but not very reliable.
Basal body temperature (BBT)
-at home
Check your temperature daily with a thermometer or special devise like TempDrop to look for a slight (0.5 F), sustained increase that might indicate you’ve ovulated.Low accuracyHigh chance of making an errorMedium –
a thermometer isn’t expensive; devices can be.
There are devices that make it easier but if you just check your temperature at the same time daily, there are so many ways to miss it. Plus, you could have a cold or other virus that affects your temperature and not know it.
Feel pain or ovary pulling
-your body
Some people can feel when they ovulate, sometimes mild or even intense pain. It’s very individual.Low to Medium accuracy
Low to High chance of making an error
No equipment or appointments requiredIn my experience, if you’re someone who can do this, it’s close to foolproof but difficult to feel before you ovulate, so it only helps for a smaller window of time than other ways. If you haven’t been able to do this, it’s usually hard to start.
Increased sex drive
-your body
Some people feel a stronger desire for sexual contact during their LH surge and ovulation. It’s very individual.Low accuracyHigh chance of making an errorNo equipment or appointments requiredIf you’ve found this to work, it’s probably been helpful. But other external factors can impact sex drive, such as medication.

If you haven’t noticed this, it can be challenging to start.
-your body
Some people feel more tired during their LH surges.Very low accuracyHigh chance of making an errorNo equipment or appointments requiredThere are so many other reasons for fatigue but some people can feel the difference and find this is a helpful method.
Laura Your Fertility Coach, 2023

Reasons why ovulation kits might not work

Some people find ovulation kits challenging because they aren’t right for your personal or current needs. If you do, it’s not just you. Here are some times when they might not work for you.

  1. If you have irregular periods and/or PCOS. It can be especially challenging if you have ovulation issues or a syndrome like PCOS and don’t know it, which make these kits unusable or need adjustments. It can cause needless stress. For example, with PCOS the LH serge can remain high, so the test for LH or estrogen doesn’t usually work.
  2. Some fertility medication. Some medication side effects include making your ovulation hormones wonky and render these kits unusable.
  3. If you’re entering into peri-menopause or menopause such as if you’re 40 years old or older. Your hormones are changing and it could affect your LH surge.
  4. If you’ve had a pregnancy or baby loss. Your hormones might not have settled and affect how your body responds.

When checking ovulation does work

On the other hand, if you find a system that works then getting to know your body can be empowering and also necessary if you’re about to or are trying to conceive. One way is the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). One reason is to know if you have a reason to think you’ll have difficulty getting pregnant or if you know you need assistance to get pregnant, then of course see your doctor.

When did you start tracking your cycles?

Reference from study of 225,596 menstrual cycles from 98,903 women over five years.

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