How To Use An Ovulation Calendar

When I was TTC (Trying To Conceive) I soon realised that understanding how my body worked was a crucial part of the process. Yes, you can just succumb to the romance but if you don't fall immediately pregnant, you might have more luck with a little bit of planning.

Working out when you ovulate is a key part of your planning to get pregnant. Ovulation is the part of your menstrual cycle that anchors what’s known as your ‘fertile window’ – the time when you’re most likely to get pregnant, because sperm can survive long enough to reach the egg after it’s ovulated, and while it’s still viable.
 Pile of eggs Photo by 青 晨 on Unsplash

Sperm have a lifespan of around five days inside a woman’s body, while the egg survives up to twenty four hours after it’s ovulated. This means if you know when you’re going to ovulate, you can count back five days to find the beginning of your fertile window, and forward a day to find when it ends.
Outside this time you stand a much reduced chance of conceiving, relying on a small number of unusually long lived, fast moving sperm or an egg that remains viable for longer than average. If you’re identifying and targeting your fertile window, you boost your chancing of conceiving considerably compared to people who don’t know when they’re fertile.
The key to success here is using an ovulation calendar – tracking when you ovulate each month, or rather when in each menstrual cycle – to help you predict when you’ll ovulate in the future. 
You can use any calendar for this purpose, though specialist apps are available and if you buy an ovulation monitor it may come with one built in. Start by marking the date your period starts. This is also when your menstrual starts, so it’s a useful landmark for what’s going on in your body. 
calendar and mobile phone Photo by Jealous Weekends on Unsplash

As you track the dates your period starts, you will see both how long your cycle is and whether it’s regular. Some women have an extremely regular cycle, and can rely on it being the same number of days long each month, be it 28 or 35. This helps when you’re calculating your fertile window. If you have an irregular cycle, it might be a symptom of a condition like PCOS, it could be caused by stress, or it could simply be a quirk of how your body works. Whatever the cause, you’ll need to factor that in when you’re working out when you’re fertile.
You can use tests to confirm when you’re ovulating – OPKs check for hormones in your urine, while the Serum Progesterone testis a simple blood test, and Basal Body Temperature tracking relies on you taking your temperature each morning to chart the results. 
If you have a regular cycle, once you’ve identified how many days after your period you ovulate, you can rely on it fitting the same pattern each time, and you can confidently mark out your fertile window on the calendar in future.
If you have an irregular cycle, you may need to keep taking those confirmatory tests each month to help you identify when the best time is to try to conceive!

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