Should I Check My Ovulation?

And what is the best way to know when I’m ovulating?

Many women who are trying to conceive want to know if, and when, they are ovulating. As a rule of thumb, if you have cycles every 21 to 35 days, you are ovulating (unless you are taking hormones like birth control pills).

A more difficult question is “when am I ovulating?”

Let’s start with a definition of “period” or “menses.” This refers to the first day of heavy flow. So if the first day of heavy flow is January 1 and the next day of heavy flow is January 31, this is a 30-day cycle. Day 1 is the first day of full flow.

Most women ovulate about 14 days before their next period. This means that women who have 30 to 32-day cycles are ovulating around day 16 to 18. If your cycles are less regular, it can be hard to tell when that will be.

If you have irregular cycles, checking for ovulation may be very useful. There are various ways of doing this, but the simplest and most reliable is the “pee on a stick” method, otherwise known as urinary LH detection. LH (luteinizing hormone) is the hormone made by a woman’s pituitary gland one or two days before her egg is released. It shows up in her urine about 12 hours later, and this can be tested easily. The tests are about 85% accurate, but some women seem to have difficulty reading the color development on the test stick.

Taking your temperatures is another good way to know that you have already ovulated. With a basal thermometer, temperature goes up about half a degree Fahrenheit one to two days after ovulation. This can be helpful if you can detect a pattern over several cycles, but it doesn’t work to predict ovulation.

Women want to know that they are having sex at the right time to conceive. The best time for conception is the day before or the day of ovulation, but even two to five days prior to ovulation can work.

If a couple is having intercourse three times a week, spaced fairly evenly, this should be adequate. No testing should be needed. Turning sex into a “command performance” can get very difficult for many couples.

If you have very irregular cycles, you are less likely to conceive, even if the timing is perfect. Other hormones might also be out of whack. If you are not conceiving in spite of trying at the right time for a year (six months if you are over age 35), seek expert advice. It’s important to check on other hormones, female anatomy and sperm function.