Monday, 22 September 2008

How to find out if you are ovulating

Xbox asked me in the last set of comments how I predicted ovulation with such long and haphazard cycles.

I thought it was worth a whole post. (I'm filling time until the hysteroscopy on Wednesday)

It is a complex mix of research, testing and chance, all the while being thrifty, canny and optimistic.

So at the start of each cycle I assume that is it going to be a regular 28 - 30 day cycle. Foolish? Maybe. Optimistic? Definitely. Likely? Not very.

I therefore start to pee on ovulation predictor kits from day 11. However, as I may well get through a fair few of these I use the cheap ones. The bulk-bought pack of fifty, low-tech strips of card that, in theory, show a positive when the second stripe is darker than the first.

I rarely get a second stripe and it is never darker than the first. However, this is where all my guile and cunning come into play. If I get even an inkling of a second strip I switch onto the mega expensive digital tests with the smiling face that tells you if you really have ovulated. This way I can eek out their use over a few weeks.

Now after about 20 days of testing between day 11 and 31 I'm pretty sure that I haven't ovulated but I am then technically late. So this is where the pregnancy tests come in. Again I use the cheapo ones (there is a shop near where I live that does two for a pound). Now I certainly don't expect to be pregnant, but this is where my natural optimism creeps in again and I get a little excited (no, not in that way) about maybe, possibly, being preggers. But I've blogged about that before.

So by this time I'm fucked off. I haven't ovulated, I'm not pregnant and clearly my cycles are screwed.

This is where self-awareness comes in.

I have read that when a woman ovulates they undergo a subtle change. We release a smell more attractive to the opposite sex. Unconsciously we start to wear lower cut tops or body hugging clothes, we are far more likely to start an affair at this point. And it makes sense, for these few days a month you are fertile so you do more to make yourself more attractive to the opposite sex and hope to procreate. So I watch myself.

If I get chatted up, or even a bit of mild flirtation with a gentleman who is other than my life-partner. I test for ovulation.

If I feel like wearing my wonder bra. I test for ovulation.

I have a pair of trousers that are a bit too tight, but make my butt look a little perter and more obvious. I reach for them, I reach for the pee-sticks.

If I have a vaguely sexual dream about the dork from computing. I test for ovulation.

If the husband gets frisky I don't turn him down, maybes he can smell some pheromones that I can't, (and guess what? I test for ovulation).

And then there is the cervical mucus. Oh yes, you didn't think I'd gloss over that one did you? (Xbox, are you regretting the question now?)

Before you ovulate there isn't much going on in the whole discharge front. If you are ever going to reuse yesterday's knickers, now is the time.

A few days before ovulation it starts to appear. But it fails one crucial test. The finger test. Namely you pinch a finger and thumb full and as you bring them apart it will stretch between your fingers but break when they are over about a centimeter apart.

Now ovulation, and we have the ever mentioned egg-whites. Its a snail trail in your pants. The technical terms is, I believe, a mucus peak. (A phrase that also puts me in mind of egg whites but more in the meringue making context). As this point the finger test will allow you to bring them pretty far apart. And this isn't coincidence the moist, glutenous stuff will keep his sperm warm happy and alive for a good few days. It all matches up nicely.

Post ovulation your cervix will return to the barren dry desert that we all know and love as my womb. Nay, mucus in this flange.

The other methods beloved of many is the basal body temperature (BBT).

I've never got on with this. For a start when I tried my temperature never once reached the normal living temperature of a healthy human, which threw me into panic. Then when I wrote down the temperatures that I had to take at EXACTLY the same time every morning there didn't seem to be a pattern. I know I should have drawn a chart and shown something significant over the weeks, but I just couldn't be arsed. And at some point I decided I need to hang on to the remnants of a life not obsessed with trying to have a baby. So the BBT I didn't do.

Now a word of warning for those taking down notes and nodding keenly.


So take all my advice with a Dead Sea's worth of salt and happy ovulating.


  1. nicely documented! I dont know how you do it, but I commend you none the less!

  2. It certainly was a post in itself. You must be exhausted trying to work out when you ovulate. Hope everything goes alright tomorrow.

    P.S. I'm right there with you about the BBT - I can't be arsed with all that charting.

  3. Hello,

    I've been lurking on your blog for a while - you write really well and your photos are always great!

    I'm just going to jump in with my two pence-worth. I'm not, nor have I ever been, pregnant, but we are trying, and one thing I've learnt recently is that while cervical mucous and OPKs are all well and good, they don't prove anything other than your body is getting ready to ovulate. Some people get the signs several times and nothing. Apparently the only way to be sure is with taking your temperature.

    I can vouch for the fact that this is utterly addictive and not necessarily in a good way - but it might help because you can then print the chart to show your GP.

    I have my fingers crossed for you!

  4. PS - I use It does all the charting work for you. All you do is add the temp daily. I would NEVER do it if I had to work it all out myself.

    Plus, I'm crap at doing it at the exact same time each day. I'm more relaxed about it now and it seems to be working anyway ...

  5. I'm going to follow Claire and jump in with some assvice!

    I think that Claire has a point when she suggests that keeping an eye on cervical fluid and using OPKs is only part of the picture. You will get a more accurate sense of what is happening if you combine this with BBT charting. Charting is pretty straightforward once you get the hang of it, and should enable you to pinpoint exactly when/if you are ovulating (it is also cheaper than shelling out for OPKs and HPTs every month). If you are interested in pursuing this, then I would wholeheartedly recommend Toni Weschler's book "Taking Charge of Your Fertility", which really does tell you everything you wanted to know about your menstrual cycle, but were afraid to ask! Once you get the hang of it, I think you can afford to be a little more relaxed about charting. Although I started off taking my temperature religiously every morning, after a while I only really bothered around the time I was ovulating.

    As Claire says, it can be helpful to take the charts along to doctors' appointments - if only to prove that you do actually have some understanding of how your body works! It may also prove helpful to share them with your acupuncturist - although they do interpret them differently, they are interested in whether or not a clear thermal shift takes place in your cycle, and if it doesn't, can tailor your treatment to try and encourage it to take place.

  6. As always, you made me laugh out loud. I definately find a correlation between h*rny dreams and ovulation time. I have been known to wake in the morning and literally jump him. (Sorry, probably tmi!)

  7. Sarah, You don't know how I do it?! Did you read the post. ;)

    Secret D, Yeah once I started writing I couldn't stop.

    Claire, Thanks for de-lurking, I think. But noooo don't tell me to temp take Ok maybe fertility friend will make it easier.

    Ms Heathen, You too? Damn, whose side are you on? Maybe I'll start.

    Jane, I think we got beyond too much information a looong time ago.

  8. haha, yea yea...I get how you physically do it. I meant mentally ya goof ball!

  9. oh, and I am dreading taking my temp. BOO!!

  10. I always knew I was getting close by how "skinny" I felt suddenly. I felt more attractive, definitely.

  11. I do the same thing as you, and it's started to slowly become apparent. I'm usually fairly sure now when it's coming and almost positive after it has happened. Unfortunately, it happens rarely. I'm lucky in that my BBT is very very good at noting it when it does happen. Perhaps you should be suspicious if you aren't showing any temp shift at all about bad progesterone. :(

  12. I don't know if I was ever happier than the day my RE told me to toss my thermometer. What a great thing that was. All that peeing on sticks sounds tiring. And expensive.

  13. wow...

    seriously how have you not gone totally batty?

    On the OPKs though, you say at about CD31 you switch to pregnancy tests.

    If your cycles are so long, is it possible (i really dunno) that you ovulate on day 86 of a 100 day cycle?

  14. Fertility awareness is a a behavioral method of birth control. Regardless of what method you fallow it is still subject to a high degree of error. It is really hard to predict when you are going to ovulate. Seeing as how even the most advanced science can only detect ovulation after it has happened (and after it is already too late), these methods are unreliable. In addition this is self control, you will have to be abstaining or remember to use another form of birth control before, during and after ovulation. You will be most likely to want to jump in bed during the "unsafe time." It would be very easy to forget to use one a back up method in the heat of the moment. Moreover keep in mind sperm can live inside of you for a week before ovulation, so you'll have to factor that in too I also have many suggestions about the ovulation through this


I've resisted word verification for ages but I'm getting so many spam comments at the moment that I think it is time. Sorry!