When couples look for tips for conceiving, many pieces of advice that they find tend to be about how to calculate and track ovulation. Ovulation, the monthly process by which an egg is released from one of a woman’s ovaries to potentially be fertilized, is a cornerstone of family planning. Without a woman’s ovulated eggs, conception each month is simply not possible.
Unfortunately, misinformation about the ovulation process can make trying for a baby much more difficult than it needs to be. To help address these false ideas about ovulation, our team intends to answer the most common questions women tend to have about ovulation in the coming weeks. The following are 12 questions you may have – and which we’re ready to answer for you!
Question 1: How can I find out when I’m ovulating?
Ovulation tracking and calculating admittedly takes a lot of work. This is because women often need to invest in multiple ovulation tracking strategies that will allow them to study and track their body and its monthly fertility cycle.
To calculate and track their ovulation dates, women can use the Calendar Method, the Basal Body Temperature Method, the Cervical Mucus Method, and even OTC tools. However, it’s typically advised that women use multiple methods in combination – not just one at a time – to track ovulation, as combining tracking methods provides a more complete picture of a fertility cycle, and allows women to identify their ovulation date more accurately. And the more accurate an ovulation date prediction can be, the better, as The American Pregnancy Association estimates that ovulation may occur anywhere between 11-21 days after the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period – or 12-16 days from when she expects her next menstrual period to start.
Question 2: But don’t women just ovulate 14th days after their period begins each month?
We wish! Unfortunately, the idea that all women will ovulate 14 days after their period is based entirely on the average numbers taken when analyzing women’s’ menstrual cycles. In this scenario, women ovulate on the 14th day because the average fertility cycle (which lasts from day one of a woman’s period until the day before she begins her next period) is 28 days long. In reality, many women have shorter or longer cycles than 28 days – and since women also tend to ovulate on different days of their cycle from month to month, there is actually an entire window of opportunity where their body may ovulate.
Question 3: How long am I fertile after I ovulate?
This is a tricky question to answer, because a woman should technically plan on being fertile before she ovulates. Keep in mind that it takes sperm time to swim from the vagina to a woman’s fallopian tubes, where an egg will be fertilized and conception will occur. Then there’s the fact that an egg is really only viable for about a day after being released during ovulation. Because of these factors, and because sperm can live 3 to 5 days after sex, women are considered to be fertile 3 to 5 days before they ovulate – and maybe one or two days afterward, in the right circumstances.
Question 4: Can I Ovulate During My Period?
No – by definition, ovulation and menstruation are two different parts of a woman’s menstrual cycle. In fact, menstruation is the follow-up process to ovulation, as it’s meant to take place if a woman’s ovulated egg is not fertilized.
That said, some women do bleed around the time of ovulation, but this is simply spotting, or light ovulatory bleeding. Spotting is not menstruation, as no endometrium is shed during the spotting process. Unfortunately, if a woman experiences light or irregular periods, it’s easy for her to confuse her period with ovulatory bleeding. This possible scenario is just one example of why ovulation tracking can be so beneficial for women who are trying to conceive, as ovulation tools can help women identify what type of bleed they’re dealing with.
Question 5: Can I Ovulate Right After My Period?
This is a question where we’re forced to give the ambiguous answer of “it depends!” Here’s why: your ovulation date is determined by the length of your overall menstrual cycle. According to the American Pregnancy Association, “If you have a short[er] cycle, for example 21 days, and you bleed for 7 days, then you could ovulate right after your period. This is because ovulation generally occurs 12-16 days before your next period begins, and this would estimate you ovulating at days 6-10 of your cycle.” So, depending on the length of your cycle, the answer to this question could be yes, or it could be no.
It’s noteworthy that a “short” menstrual cycle – where a woman experiences a period every 21 to 28 days – is generally considered to be healthy and normal. While stress and some lifestyle factors may contribute to a shorter cycle length, it’s often just a natural hormonal pattern that some women’s bodies develop. If you experience bleeding more frequently than every 21 days, however, you may want to speak to a doctor to make sure there isn’t an underlying problem behind the bleeding.
Question 6: Can I Get Pregnant During My Period?
Yes and no. While conception cannot occur during an actual period itself, it may be possible for a woman to get pregnant as a result of engaging in intercourse during her period. Since healthy sperm can live for up to five days after sex within a woman’s body, if a woman ovulates shortly after her period ends and the timing works out in the sperms’ favor, it’s entirely possible for a woman to conceive in this scenario. Just like with question #2, it all comes down to how long a woman’s menstrual cycle is.
Question 7: Can I Ovulate Without Having A Period?
The short answer to this one is, yes indeed. In fact, this is a likely scenario for women who experience irregular periods. Unless they’re using ovulation tools that track physical symptoms of ovulation, a woman in this scenario may get no indication of when she ovulates at all. If you are having trouble getting pregnant, and you do not experience regular periods, we (and the American Pregnancy Association) highly recommend charting your basal temperature and cervical fluid changes, to ensure that you have some idea of when you may ovulate – this, and working with your doctor, will increase your chances of conceiving and help you track your ovulation date, in spite of a lack of a period.
Question 8: Can I Have A Period And Still Not Have Ovulated?
Unfortunately, yes (“unfortunately” because so many women use their period dates to help track ovulation). While ovulation and menstruation usually go hand in hand, if something is off in a woman’s reproductive system one month, it’s entirely possible for her body to not ovulate. Keep in mind that during a cycle, different hormone levels determine when a woman ovulates and menstruates. A rise in certain hormones triggers ovulation, while a drop in these hormones triggers menstruation. But if adequate higher levels of follicle-stimulating hormone and estrogen are not present, and do not trigger the release of an egg, a woman will not ovulate. And hormone production can be affected by anything from stress to a major lifestyle change to an illness – so it’s entirely possible for a woman to not ovulate on a short- or long-term basis, but still have a period.
Because of this, it’s important to track ovulation in some way in addition to simply tracking your period dates if you’re trying to conceive. Doing so will help you take steps to overcome any difficulty conceiving that you might otherwise experience if you did not know that – despite your monthly bleeding occurring on time – no egg is being released to be fertilized.
Question 9: What kind of ovulation kits are available?
There is a bit of variety when it comes to predictor tests, which can make choices that much more difficult. Most of these various ovulation home tests focus on detecting the luteinizing hormone (or LH) in the body, which is the chemical your body releases that trigger ovulation. These various tests are similar to pregnancy tests, in that they measure the chemicals in your urine. Additionally, most of these come at different price points, so your budget could very well be a deciding factor for you when choosing which ovulation monitoring tool to use. Here is a brief breakdown of the different kinds of tests and s you can consider using:
Ovulation strip tests
These disposable tests measure the amount of luteinizing hormone (LH) in your urine and display results on a cardboard stick with various colored bands. They look a lot like basic pregnancy tests and for the most part, come in larger packages of 30-100 that range from $7-25 in price.
Digital ovulation tests
These tests also measure the LH in your urine and are disposable, but the results read out digitally and are typically easier to decipher. Tests come in packages of 10-20 that cost around $15-25.
These systems can get really advanced. Some monitors only read the LH in urine like the disposable tests, but will also help to track your entire cycle. Others read the amount of estrogen in your saliva in addition to your LH levels! These can run you anywhere from $250-500, and some versions require you to purchase separate urine test strips.
Question 10: Should I consider using an ovulation predictor test to find out when I’m ovulating?
It’s difficult to give a hard-set answer to this question. We can’t necessarily recommend just any ovulation predictor tests to anyone, particularly to women with irregular periods, or women who don’t typically monitor the build-up of their fertile-quality cervical mucus. Additionally, if you are not watching for the signs that you may begin to ovulate, then you could waste strips for up to two weeks waiting for it to start. Because of this, we suggest learning about the different stages of your cervical mucus so that you can be better prepared to take an ovulation predictor test without squandering more than one.
Question 11: If an ovulation predictor test says I’m ovulating, that means I for sure am…right?
Yes and no. The purpose of the ovulation predictor test is to measure your body for the spike in LH that precedes ovulation. When these tests are used correctly, they can provide 99% accuracy in their predictions. However, keep in mind that when you read that positive result, it means your body is about to begin ovulation – and that you want to engage in intercourse with your partner soon to ensure that their sperm has a chance to reach your egg within 24 hours after it’s been released!
Question 12: Can I replace ovulation predictor kits with a mobile app?
No. Ovulation kits and apps measure two very different parts of your cycle. When you use the at-homes, you’re measuring the hormones in your body to hopefully get as accurate of an estimate as possible on your specific ovulation dates. With most mobile apps, you’re typing in dates of your menstrual cycle in order to guess when your body might start to ovulate. The algorithms that the app uses can often provide a good calculation, but they can’t replace the potential precision of hormone detection.
With that said, some fertility monitors actually come with a downloadable app that you can use in conjunction with the physical monitoring. If you feel that these monitors are the right choice for you than the app can serve as a handy tracking tool that you can keep on your person at all times.