Ovulation

Determining the date of ovulation can be very straightforward if you are one of the majority of women who have relatively regular cycles, and if you are willing to chart your fertility signs and/or use some other ovulation predictor kit. If you are less regular, have anovulatory cycles, and/or are peri-menstrual or peri-menopausal, it may be much more difficult to pinpoint the day of ovulation, although you can generally predict it within about 5 days.

Ovulation is the process when an egg is expelled from an ovary in response to hormonal changes that encourage egg maturation and release. The egg then is captured by a fallopian tube and either becomes fertilized within 24 hours of ovulation, or dies and is expelled in the menstrual fluid approximately 2 weeks after ovulation occurs.

Because ovulation and egg viability only last for 1 day and because sperm can only exist in fertile cervical secretions for about 5 days, there is a combined 6-day window each cycle during which a woman is fertile. Therefore, it becomes very important to pinpoint the fertile days leading up to ovulation if your goal is pregnancy achievement. In addition, if you are trying to avoid pregnancy, knowing with certainty that you have already ovulated means that you can have unprotected intercourse without any chance of pregnancy. (Of course, you are still susceptible to STIs during that period.)

For women who are trying to pinpoint ovulation, the basal body temperature method is often successful and only requires an investment of about $10 for a thermometer. This method involves taking your waking temperature at the same time each morning and plotting it on a graph. The determination of a group of high temperatures following a group of low temperatures indicates that you have almost certainly ovulated. Importantly, you cannot use a basal body temperature chart to determine when to have intercourse because by the time you notice the sustained temperature rise, the egg is already gone.

Ovulation can also be predicted using an ovulation detector kit, which measures the LH surge in your urine, saliva ferning, or some other indicator. The LH surge suggests that ovulation is imminent within the next 2 days, although it is possible to surge without subsequent ovulation. Saliva ferning is a process of viewing your saliva daily under a microscope for a fern pattern that is indicative of increased estrogen leading to ovulation. Either of these methods is best read in conjunction with a basal body temperature chart.

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