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How to Chart Ovulation

By Joshua U. Klein, MD ; Updated July 18, 2017

Knowing when you're ovulating has several benefits. You can only get pregnant by having unprotected intercourse from about five days before to one day after ovulation. Pinpointing when ovulation occurs can help both with natural family planning -- a non-hormonal method of avoiding pregnancy -- and conception -- getting pregnant when you want to. Some women just want to track ovulation as part of their understanding of their general health and well-being. Others track ovulation as part of a medical evaluation of health conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome. Charting ovulation requires a calendar and a method of determining when you ovulate.

Writing It Down

Any calendar will do for keeping track of ovulation, although you may want to keep it private. A calendar that shows up on your work desktop is probably not the best choice. While you may use good old-fashioned paper and pencil to make your own calendar, you may also use more modern methods of charting. Commercial manufacturers produce an increasing number of software programs and smartphone apps to help facilitate your recording process.

Basal Body Temperature

One of the most basic home health tools, a thermometer, can give an accurate determination of when ovulation occurs, but you've got to be diligent about your recording efforts. Starting around the day after ovulation, your body produces the hormone progesterone. Progesterone causes a slight rise in body temperature, typically between 0.5 to 1 degree Farenheit when measured by a sensitive thermometer first thing in the morning (even before getting out of bed). It is important to note that tracking your basal body temperature helps detect if/when ovulation occurred, but it will not help you recognize ovulation before it occurs, which is essential if you're trying to get pregnant or avoid pregnancy.

Theoretically, any thermometer can be used, but a thermometer specifically made to detect ovulation gives the most reliable results. A rise in temperature that lasts two to three days in a row reliably indicates that ovulation has occurred. While many women use and like this method, it has drawbacks. It doesn't work for everyone, it's labor intensive and it can only confirm that you ovulated, but it can't predict ovulation in advance.

Checking Cervical Secretions

You can use cervical secretions to help determine when ovulation is approaching and to help pinpoint ovulation, especially if you use this method in conjunction with recording your temperature. Cervical secretions change in a predictable pattern during the course of your menstrual cycle. Cervical mucus ranges from scant right after menses to abundant, clear and stretchy prior to and immediately following ovulation. While this method isn’t for everyone and takes a little education to master, it does correlate quite well with ovulation. Many women find it to be an easy, convenient, and reliable way to track ovulation

High-Tech Monitors

Commercially available monitors and kits that detect hormones in the urine, saliva or cervical fluid that indicate ovulation provide a high-tech way to detect ovulation. While urine kits differ slightly from one another, they all appear very similar to urine pregnancy tests in that they utilize plastic sticks with an indicator. While most urine kits predict ovulation only one to two days in advance by detecting luteinizing hormone, at least one brand predicts ovulation even further in advance -- as much as three to five days before ovulation -- by measuring a metabolite of estrogen. You may purchase even more high-tech, and typically more expensive, monitors to track ovulation, although these haven't proven more beneficial than basic systems in reliable clinical studies. Some of these other monitors include mini-microscopes and monitors for cervical fluid and saliva as well as wearable thermometers and skin monitors. One notable new product integrates the basic basal body temperature measurements with compatible fertility charting software.

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