When you are trying to get pregnant there are many thoughts that can run rampant through your head. Can I get pregnant? What if I have infertility problems? Unfortunately, until you try for several months, you won’t know. Most doctors will not run fertility tests until there is a good reason to suspect there is an actual problem. But there are a couple of things you can do to find out if you are indeed ovulating.
There are many myths about ovulation. The main one is that ovulation always occurs on day 14 of your cycle. The truth is many women will ovulate sooner or later than day 14, and some may actually ovulate on day 14 – but this is not carved in stone. It is perfectly normal for a woman to ovulate as early as day 8 or as late as day 28 or later. And another myth – just because you have “menstrual” bleeding every 28 to 30 days doesn’t necessarily mean that ovulation has occurred. Sometimes the bleeding is simply breakthrough bleeding, caused by hormones. There are ways you can tell, usually within a month or two if you are ovulating or not.
The first thing you can do is to chart your basal body temperature. This is an excellent way of confirming ovulation. Purchase a good basal body thermometer – either glass or digital – both work really well. Download a fertility chart from the internet – www.fertilityplus.com or www.babycenter.com have them as well as others. Start the charting at the beginning of your cycle on the first day of menstrual bleeding.
Take your temperature at the same time every day. Take it before you move around or get up or speak. Record this on your chart noting anything unusual such as too cold or too hot or sick. The rule of thumb is for every half hour early you rise add .1 a degree and for every half hour late you rise subtract .1 a degree.
The first half of your cycle – from day 1 of menstrual bleeding to ovulation, your temperatures should remain in the low range – anywhere from 96.0 to 98.0. This is due to the hormone estrogen which prompts the body to produce fertile quality cervical fluid – and to aid the luteinizing hormonal surge in helping the ovaries to release the egg(s). Occasionally, right before ovulation, a large amount of estrogen is released, thus causing the temperatures to dip a little lower. This is not always the case – but some women can tell on their charts by this dip in temperatures that ovulation is imminent.
One the temperature shifts upward for approximately 3 days, you can safely assume that ovulation has occurred. The shift should be roughly .4 a degree upward from the day of suspected ovulation. Occasionally a woman will be a “slow riser” meaning that it may take several days for the temperature to jump up. You can draw a cover line by counting back 6 days prior to the upward shift and drawing a line .1 a degree from the highest of the 6. This line serves as a point at which the post ovulation temperatures should not fall at or below.
Some women may spot a tiny bit of blood during ovulation. This is perfectly normal. It happens when the egg pops out of the ovary. Be concerned if the bleeding lasts for more than a day. Also, judging from the cervical fluid, before ovulation there should be an abundance of it. Once thought of as infection, this fluid is normal and essential in aiding fertility. After ovulation, the fluid should dry up.
After you see the rise in temperatures, they should stay “high” until your next menstrual cycle begins. This is due to the hormone progesterone, which prepares the uterine lining for possible implantation of a fertilized egg. This period is known as the luteal phase and should last from 10 – 17 days. If you are pregnant, your temperatures will remain high. You count a cycle from the first day of bleeding until the day before the next cycle’s bleeding begins.
If you never notice a rise in temperatures and yet still have “menstrual” bleeding every month – you are probably not ovulating. This is known as breakthrough bleeding, caused by high levels of estrogen. If you see this pattern in your temperatures – jumping all over the chart – with no definite rise and no definite luteal phase this is known as anovulation. There are a number of reasons why this occurs and you and your physician will need to come to a diagnosis and possible treatment.
Another way of determining if you are ovulating is through the use of ovulation predictor kits. While these kits are fairly accurate, you will have better results from determining ovulation from charting. If you choose to use ovulation predictor kits, be aware that each brand has different instructions. For example, the time of day you urinate for the test, whether or not the result line is the same or darker than the test line are a few of the differences. And if you are anovulatory, you may see a surge (positive result) for days. Using them in conjunction with charting insures the best results.