Whether you are looking to learn about your cycles for overall health or for fertility, then this blog is for you!

Get to know your menstrual cycles

An average menstrual cycle length are typically 28 days (i.e. the time between your last day 1 of bleeding and the next day 1 of bleeding).  A menstrual cycle can be divided into 2 phases, called the follicular and luteal phase. The transition from one phase to another is marked by ovulation.

Ovulation is the process in which a mature egg is released from the ovary. After it is released, the egg moves down the fallopian tube and stays there for 12 to 24 hours, where it can be fertilized by sperm. An egg can survive in the fallopian tube for about 24 hours after ovulation. Once released, sperm can survive inside the body for about 3 days (and sometimes up to 5 days) after sexual intercourse. You can become pregnant if you have sex anywhere from 5 days before ovulation until 1 day after ovulation.

Tracking when ovulation occurs can help you time intercourse to optimize your chances of getting pregnant. There are various methods to help track ovulation, and these are termed Fertility Awareness Methods (FAM). Let’s go through them together.


Fertility Awareness Methods

The days near ovulation are your fertile days (i.e. when you’re most likely to get pregnant). There are a few different FAMs that help you track your fertility signs. It’s most effective to combine different methods to help with a more accurate prediction.

Please note that FAMs are not the most effective way to prevent a pregnancy. Please speak to your medical practitioner about your options.

The Calendar Method: you chart your menstrual cycle on a calendar

This is simply tracking your periods using an app or calendar. My favourite apps are: Flo and Clue.

Tracking a minimum of 3-4 menstrual cycles will provide sufficient data to track patterns like cycle regularity, flow, premenstrual symptoms etc. Based on this information, the app will provide a suspected ovulation date.

The Temperature Method: you take your temperature in the morning every day before you get out of bed.

When an egg is released, the body starts producing progesterone, which raises your body temperature. Thus, your basal body temperature (BBT) increases after you ovulate, and tracking this can be one way of verifying ovulation.

If you perform BBT tracking every day, you should see an increase at least by 0.72 °F (0.4 °C) the day after you ovulate. It is helpful to track for 2-3 cycles to see an average of when your basal body temperate tends to go up.

The Cervical Mucus Method: you check your cervical mucus (vaginal discharge) every day.

Just before ovulation, you might notice an increase in clear, wet and stretchy vaginal secretions. Just after ovulation, cervical mucus decreases and becomes thicker, cloudy and less noticeable.

LH Tracking (Ovulation Strips)

The Fertility Awareness Methods can be a great way to track and understand your cycles, and help some couples achieve pregnancy. However, if your cycles tend to be more irregular, or you are unable to track some of the changes above, then it may be helpful to transition to using Ovulation Prediction Kits (OPK). Ovulation testing kits detect the presence of the ovulation hormone called the Luteinizing Hormone (LH).

Individuals with a uterus always have levels of LH, but there is a surge in levels just before ovulation.

Tracking this surge may help predict if and when ovulation is happening, and when to have intercourse.

There are many brands out there like OVRY, Mira, Advanced Clear Blue to name a few. Please see what works best for you. 

Timing intercourse – how to apply all this information

 People who are trying to get pregnant often believe there is an ideal moment when they must have sex or they need to have sex every single day of the month. If you and your partner are happy to have sex every single day of the month, that’s great. But you don’t need to. You don’t want to put so much pressure on yourselves that sex becomes stressful or unenjoyable.

As mentioned previously, the window of fertility is about 6 days each cycle (up to 5 days before ovulation until 1 day after ovulation). This is because sperm can live in the body for as long as 5 days, while an egg can survive for about 12 to 24 hours after ovulation.

When to reach out for additional support

You may want to think about a fertility assessment if you are:

  • Younger than 35 and have been trying to get pregnant for at least a year
  • 35 or older and have been trying to get pregnant for at least 6 months
  • Trying to get pregnant and you have irregular, very painful or no periods, or have been diagnosed with PCOS, endometriosis, diabetes, thyroid disease or other health conditions.

If you have any questions about how to track your cycle and/or fertility optimization, then please feel free to reach out and set up a discovery call to see how I may be able to help you.

Link to book with Dr. Olivia Leung here.