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Tracking ovulation helps you determine when you’re fertile, but methods aren’t one size fits all. There are many different ways to track ovulation–from tracking your ovulation symptoms to using an ovulation tracker, but what is best for one person may not be for another. If you’re wondering how to track ovulation, you’ve come to the right place.
I was so overwhelmed when I started learning about ways to track ovulation. Information overload set in, and seriously, how do you choose between ALL the options?
Here is all the information in one place so you can choose the best way to track ovulation for YOU!
This article answers questions like:
- How do you track ovulation? How do I track my LH surge?
- What is the best ovulation tracker?
- How can cervical mucus help me track ovulation?
- How long after a positive ovulation test are you fertile?
Plus, I’ve created this awesome comparison chart of all the different methods to help you decide what’s best for you. Because I’m serious: the best option is different for everyone!
Why Track Your Fertility?
Ovulation tracking is a great fertility awareness method.
If you have a regular cycle, it can allow you to take control of a largely uncontrollable situation.
If you have irregular cycles, there are still options available for knowing when you release an egg, but there are fewer of them.
While the average cycle lasts 28 days, many of us are NOT average.
If you have the perfect menstrual cycle, then ovulation tracking and natural family planning may be easy for you.
But how many of us really have it that easy? We are’t robots!
By tracking ovulation, you can achieve a number of great outcomes, including:
- Learning about our bodies and our hormones, which can really help us understand ourselves better!
- Discovering if we have any potential irregularities about which we should consult a doctor, such as extremely irregular periods that could indicate PCOS.
- Understanding when we are most fertile during each month, which can help us increase our chances of getting pregnant when trying to conceive, or decrease our chance if we’re actively avoiding pregnancy.
How To Track Ovulation
Tracking ovulation is all about what works for you, your lifestyle, your budget, and your body!
Let me explain with a quick story.
I learned after a-year-and-a-half of not getting pregnant that I don’t ovulate between the usual Cycle Days (CD) 12-14. I ovulate between CDs 15-18.
I hadn’t gotten pregnant because I kept missing my fertile window!
Here’s what happened.
Generally, the LH hormone peaks 24-48 hours prior to ovulation, so having sex as soon as you get a positive read on an OPK can increase your chances of pregnancy.
Here’s what I didn’t know. An LH surge does not guarantee ovulation, even though it’s a strong indicator for most women. But that alone was not enough of an indicator for me.
Once an ovulation test is positive, you’re told to stop testing and get to baby making. So that’s what I did. What I didn’t realize is that I have 2 LH surges each month, and I only ovulate on the second one.
What I learned from this experience is that there is no one-size-fits-all method for tracking ovulation.
Ovulation predictor kits had steered me wrong, but I know tons of women who they work for.
So let’s talk about the many ways you can track ovulation and help you determine what’s best for you!
Ways to Track Ovulation
Track ovulation by charting your cycle, but there are so many ways to do that. Here’s a basic rundown of all the ways you can track ovulation:
- Using period tracker apps or ovulation tracker apps
- Track cervical mucus
- Testing basal body temperature (BBT)
- Ovulation test strips
- Fertility monitors
When Will I Ovulate? How to Chart Your Cycle to Find Out
Charting your cycle is essential for tracking ovulation, and there are many ways to do it.
Your “cycle” refers to your fertility cycle. Specifically:
- How many days do you have between the beginning of two periods?
- When, during those days, do you ovulate?
Understanding this information is key to learning about your body and taking control of your fertility.
By tracking your cycle, you’ll learn when your ovulation window is. This is critical because you cannot get pregnant outside of your ovulation window!
What’s An Ovulation Window?
When you ovulate, meaning an ovary releases a mature egg, you’re only fertile for 12-24 hours after ovulation. Time to have some sex, y’all!
And here’s the kicker, which is what makes ovulation tracking so important: It takes time for the sperm to travel to the egg.
In other words, you need to start having sex (or artificially inseminating) 3-5 days BEFORE you ovulate. Sperm can live in the fallopian tube for a maximum of 5 days.
As USC fertility puts it, this means “the sperm should be waiting for the egg.”
So, you want to aim to have sex 5 days before ovulation, 3 days before, and 1 day before.
I also recommend again the day after, just in case you’re off on your charting. That’s not based on research; just on my experience that sometimes cycles are off and even charting can be confusing.
What If Tracking Doesn’t Work?
For some women, it’s possible you’ll discover an inconsistent cycle.
It’s also possible you’ll be confident about when you ovulated, but you still will go for months without getting pregnant.
Dr. Samantha Butts of Penn Medicine recommends talking to your doctor if you’re unsuccessful in your attempts to conceive after:
- 1 year trying to conceive for women under the age of 35
- 6 months trying to conceive for women 35 or older
If you have unique circumstances, like fibroids, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or very irregular periods, Dr. Butts says, you can talk to your doctor immediately to determine whether you need to see a fertility specialist.
Choosing the Best Ovulation Tracker for You
We’ve made it clear that there are different ways to track ovulation.
Here’s a quick rundown on each major method, which will help you find the one that works best for you.
Want to make figuring it out even easier? Download our comparison chart to quickly determine which method best fits your body, budget, and lifestyle!
There are tons of fertility apps out there to track ovulation. Glow, Fertility Friend, and Ovia, just to name a few.
Simply log your cycled details in the app and it will spit out monthly predictions for when you’ll ovulate.
Fertility apps compile all of this information to help you determine your fertile window. The more information you give it, the better the app can learn about your specific cycle.
Pros: These apps are usually free or very inexpensive. They’re east to use and integrate well into daily life. Using an App is a great first step if you’re new to tracking ovulation.
Cons: It takes them time for the apps to learn your cycles, so the first few months may not be very accurate. You also get no proof of LH surge or ovulation.
(2) Cervical Mucus
Research suggests many women experience an increased sex drive during ovulation, a necessary part of evolution. Along with a potentially increased sex drive, you’ll experience changes in your cervical mucus around ovulation.
In other words, that gooey stuff you find on your underwear and when you wipe? It’s called cervical mucus, and it has a different consistency, color, and even smell throughout your cycle.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, cervical mucus is “a fluid secreted by the cervix, the production of which is stimulated by the hormone estrogen.”
As your hormones change leading up to ovulation, your cervical mucus changes to become more ripe for sperm.
If you track your cervical mucus throughout your cycle, you can actually see this change take place.
During your most fertile days, you’ll experience what is often called “egg white cervical mucus” or “EWCM.”
Watery cervical mucus is not fertile. Neither is mushy cervical mucus that looks like cottage cheese. You’re looking for a slightly thick, stretchy cervical mucus that feels like an egg white.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, eggwhite cervical mucus “is clear and stretchy, similar to the consistency of egg whites, and is the perfect protective medium for sperm in terms of texture and pH.”
How Do I Track My Cervical Mucus (CM)?
Oh, dear reader. This is so fun. You ready for this? Go step by step here.
- Thoroughly wash your hands. Nobody wants bacteria in their vagina. That’s how UTIs and kidney infections happen.
- Dry your hands well. No need to confuse yourself about the consistency of your CM by still having water on your hands.
- Insert your middle or index finger into your vagina. I recommend the middle finger because it’s the longest. And because it’s easy to show your anger to the world if you don’t see fertile mucus.
- Move your finger up your vagina as close to your cervix as possible, preferably touching cervix. I actually wondered what my cervix felt like and Googled to find out. Let me simplify it for you. If you hit something with your finger so it won’t go further, that’s your cervix.
- Note: Your cervix actually lowers around the time of ovulation, making it easier to collect mucus, and giving you another indication that it’s time for sex or insemination.
- Move your finger around to collect mucus. Gotta make it fun, right?
- Remove your finger from your vagina. Finally!
- Place the mucus-filled finger against your thumb and rub the two fingers together. This is where you start to learn about your fertility window.
- Slowly move your fingers apart, noticing the consistency of your cervical mucus. Watch to see if the mucus stretches, or if it stays on one finger.
Fertile cervical mucus will have a consistency much like that of an egg white. This means that, during your most fertile days, your cervical mucus should be relatively clear and should pull between your fingers, creating a line of mucus.
Is Testing Cervical Mucus Right for You?
As you can see, this form of ovulation prediction is very, eh hem, personal.
To really understand what fertile cervical mucus looks like for your body, it’s best to check your cervical mucus regularly throughout your cycle and notice the changes.
But this method makes lots of other women totally squeamish, and I get that. If it’s not for you, that’s cool. You’ve probably scrolled down to the other methods by now anyway.
Pros: Free, easy, reliable
Cons: Invasive, involves learning, requires your discretion (there’s no tech support to help you here, folks. Although I have seen hundreds of cervical mucus photos on fertility forums with women desperate to know if they had the golden egg–egg white cervical mucus, that is.)
(3) Basal Body Temperature Charting (BBT)
Basal body temperature (BBT) refers to your body temperature when it is at rest. Ovulation generally causes a slight increase in BBT. People who talk about “temping” in reference to cycle tracking mean that they check their BBT each morning.
When I say the increase is slight, I mean EXTREMELY slight. It’s not something you can see on a regular thermometer.
To test your BBT, you need a special basal body temperature thermometer. Leave that thermometer on your night stand and test your temperature before getting out of bed each morning.
Once you have a reading, you can put it into a BBT tracker (there are tons of apps for that!) Or, you can keep it old school and have a paper chart.
Over time, you’ll notice a slight spike in temperature, which indicates ovulation. This is because the hormone progesterone, which increases at ovulation, causes a slight temperature rise.
Your temperature will stay slightly elevated throughout the rest of your cycle, which is why this is the best way to confirm ovulation.
A sustained temp spike = ovulation.
You continue to produce progesterone throughout pregnancy, so many women hope to see a sustained increase in BBT without getting their period, a potential indication of early pregnancy.
Note: There are also fancy BBT thermometers, like this one, which sync with your phone to save you the tracking hassle.
Pros: One of the cheapest and most reliable ways to track ovulation, and it allows you to confirm ovulation, so you won’t wonder if you actually ovulated when you thought you did.
Cons: It’s VERY timing specific; you have to do it first thing in the morning, like before you even move. It also takes a few months to learn your cycle, so you won’t know your fertile window ahead of time until you’ve been temping for a few months.
Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPKs) are another cheap, easy way to track ovulation. You can buy a pack of 50, plus 20 pregnancy test strips, on Amazon for next to nothing.
To use an ovulation test, follow the instructions on the box, as each works differently. Generally, you start peeing on a stick (POAS–though that acronym is usually reserved for pregnancy tests) around 7 days into your cycle.
You’ll have a test line and a control line. Each day, using your first morning urine, you’ll wait for the test line to be as dark as the control line.
When that happens, you’re experiencing an LH surge, which suggests you’re in your most fertile window and will ovulate within the next 24-48 hours.
If you struggle with colors, there are digital OPKs, but that negates the whole inexpensive thing.
Pros: Inexpensive, fits easily into daily life, easy-to-use.
Cons: Cannot confirm ovulation; provides only moderately advanced notice of fertile window.
Fertility monitors bring us into a whole new, high-tech ballgame. I, for one, LOVE them, if they’re in your budget.
Here’s my experience. (Keep in mind, I had multiple miscarriages, so I had a lot of pregnancies to practice on.)
Tracking ovulation with an app or OPKs took me a year-and-a-half to get pregnant. After I lost that pregnancy, I was determined to get pregnant faster next time.
I bit the bullet and splurged on an Ovacue Fertility Monitor.
I was pregnant within 2 months (2 cycles). After that, I was always pregnant the first month of trying.
And while I can’t guarantee such results for you, I’m clearly sold. It’s also thanks to my Ovacue that I understand my cycle and know why apps and OPKs weren’t working for me. If you have a standard 28-day cycle, you may not need anything so high tech.
There are tons of different fertility monitors available now–they’ve surged even in the 3 years since I was trying to conceive (TTC). The most common include:
I’ll discuss 2 of these monitors:
It contains two test pieces, plus a main unit, and connects to a base unit. They’re in beta for a version that will sync with an app on your phone.
There are two parts to this monitor:
- A round piece that you place on the end of your tongue first thing each morning before talking or brushing your teeth. It reads hormone levels in your saliva to help determine ovulation.
- A vaginal probe that is thinner than a regular tampon. That’s the biggest downside to the OvaCue–a vaginal probe. It’s smaller than putting in a tampon, but still, it’s not everyone’s favorite way to start the day.
As you near your ovulation window (follow the instructions for the exact day), you use both the saliva probe and the vaginal probe first thing each morning.
Measuring a combination of hormones, OvaCue alerts you ahead-of-time to your fertile window, marking a calendar with different colors to help you know which days are best for trying to conceive.
Even after ovulation, Ovacue encourages you to continue probing in case you have a unique cycle and it needs to shift and give you a second potential ovulation day.
Once your readings reach a certain level, a day on your calendar will change colors again, confirming that’s the day when you ovulated.
Pros: Accuracy, confirms ovulation, tech support to help you read your charts, early notification of fertile window
Cons: Expensive, requires vaginal probe
The Ava Bracelet is EVERYWHERE now. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s a fertility monitor that you wear on your freakin’ wrist!
Talk about the easiest way to track ovulation–no vaginal probes or thermometers.
So, I’ve never tried the Ava bracelet. Husband and I are still undecided on whether we want to try for another baby, but if we do, I have every intention of giving Ava a try.
Because, I repeat, it’s a bracelet that predicts ovulation! How is that even a thing?
Pros: Accuracy, confirms ovulation, tech support, non-invasive
So What Is The Best Ovulation Tracker?
I hope it’s clear by this point that the best way to track ovulation depends entirely on YOU!
But early in the process, when I wasn’t concerned about becoming pregnant quickly, fertility apps and OPKs were the way to go.
BBT testing is cheap and accurate, but I didn’t have the patience to learn to read my chart over time. Plenty of women do, and it’s budget friendly.
I used cervical mucus as a way to learn and confirm what my OvaCue said.
Still not sure what’s best for you, your circumstances, and your budget? Click here to download our super simple comparison chart of ovulation methods. It’s like your own personal pro-con list, but better!
What was your favorite method of ovulation tracking?
There are various ways to track ovulation, but the most common are using apps, ovulation test strips, basal body temperature, tracking cervical mucus, or using a high-tech fertility monitor.
Every woman’s cycle is different, but with the ideal, “perfect” cycle, you will ovulate 14 days after the beginning of your period.
To track your basal body temperature, use a special basal body temperature thermometer first thing every morning before getting out of bed. Log your results either on paper, or in an app on your phone.
The most accurate way to track ovulation is with your doctor. The most accurate at-home method is to use a fertility monitor in combination with basal body temperature testing. Some fertility monitors inherently test your BBT and do not require that extra step.
Katy Huie Harrison, PhD, is an author, mom, recurrent miscarriage survivor, & owner of Undefining Motherhood. She lives in Atlanta with her husband (affectionately known on the internet as “Husband,”) son (Jack), and dog (Charlotte). She believes our society puts too many expectations on women that make womanhood and motherhood restrictive. Her goal is to shift the paradigm about what it means to be a woman and mother, giving all women a greater sense of agency over their own lives. You can find Katy and her work featured in places like CNN’s Headline News, Romper, Scary Mommy, Demeter Press’s Motherhood and Social Exclusion, & more.