Ovulation takes place once each month in a healthy, fertile woman. However, a woman’s fertile period extends for several days prior to ovulation and up to one day afterward. If you’re trying to avoid pregnancy, keep track of your cycles to monitor your unsafe and safe periods. If you’re trying to conceive, monitoring your cycle helps you to maximize your window of opportunity each month.
Ovulation generally takes place approximately 14 days prior to the start of a woman’s next menstrual cycle, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. In an average 28-day cycle, ovulation takes place around cycle day 14. However, this is only an average, and a large number of women veer from the norm.
If you’re trying to avoid pregnancy, you can use the lengths of your menstrual cycles to calculate your safe and unsafe periods. Subtract 18 days from your longest cycle to mark the beginning of your unsafe period, and subtract 11 days from your longest cycle to mark the end of your unsafe period, explains the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. For example, subtract 18 days from a short cycle of 27 days, and then subtract 11 days from a long cycle of 30 days. Your unsafe period would begin on cycle day 9 and end on cycle day 19. Abstain from sex or use an alternative form of birth control during this period.
Basal Body Temperature
Take your temperature in the morning -- before getting out of bed -- and record the information to help you pinpoint ovulation. You may notice a dip in temperature on the day you ovulate, followed by a sustained temperature rise of 0.4 to 1 degree Fahrenheit, advises the American Pregnancy Association. Just prior to menstruation, you might also notice a fall in temperature to pre-ovulatory levels as your body prepares for a new cycle. Keep in mind that a fever from a cold or flu can provide a false high temperature any day throughout your cycle.
Sympto-Thermal Fertility Awareness Method
Take note of a variety of other symptoms to make recognizing ovulation easier. A woman’s cervical fluid changes throughout each cycle, starting out dry, sticky or tacky after menstruation ceases. As ovulation approaches, cervical fluid becomes increasingly clear, slippery and egg white in texture, explains the American Pregnancy Association. This type of mucus is provides a less hostile environment for sperm, increasing the likelihood of conception. Egg white cervical fluid is generally most abundant on the day of ovulation, following which it begins to dry up again and returning to a sticky or tacky texture.
Your cervix also changes during ovulation, softening and opening slightly to allow easier passage for sperm. You may notice a brief, one-sided pain in your lower abdomen where your ovary is releasing an egg. It's possible to experience breast tenderness during ovulation and even experience mood swings in response to hormone fluctuations.
Ovulation Symptom Charting
Keep track of your basal body temperature and other fertility symptoms on a chart each month. Make one yourself on paper or look for an online fertility charting system. Some of these will monitor your symptoms to recognize ovulation and even predict a possible pregnancy based on your temperatures, cervical mucus and other symptoms you record. If you find it difficult to keep track, consider an at-home ovulation predictor kit that tests for hormones that signal when ovulation takes place.