A few days ago, one of my client’s confusion about symptoms of ovulation inspired me to offer this brief refresher on the female ovulation cycle and the common signs of ovulation. If getting pregnant is the goal, identifying your most fertile day is without a doubt an eminently useful piece of information.
The essence of the woman’s cycle is to prepare the body for potential pregnancy.
Since we spend so many years of our lives trying to avoid pregnancy, it takes a bit of doing to shift our focus when we are finally trying to conceive.
In our teenage years, we considered the main event of the female ovulation cycle to be the arrival of our period. But, of course, the main event of our cycle is—you guessed—ovulation. Whether or not we become pregnant depends on many, many factors; one of which is what happens after ovulation.
Some time ago, I interviewed Toni Weschler, the author of Taking Charge of Your Fertility. One of the first things she said was how important it was to get rid of two numbers: number 14 as the day of ovulation, and number 28 as the duration of a normal female ovulation cycle. I can’t agree more. In my and counseling practice, what often happens is that as women begin to use the Fertile Heart™ tools to tune in to their inner fertility specialist and pay closer attention to symptoms of ovulation, they discover that their production days schedule needs to be adjusted.
Some women ovulate earlier, some later. Some women have shorter cycles, others have longer cycles. Having said that, on a physical level, the length of the woman’s cycle can also be a clue to impaired thyroid function, or low progesterone levels, leading to what in medical jargon is known as luteal phase defect. (Learning about specific ovulation boosting foods and herbs could be a helpful step toward repair.)
On an emotional level, the length of cycles or annovulation could be a clue to what in the Fertile Heart™ program we call our inner Orphans. Our ovulation charting will be most useful if we can simultaneously take this frightened Orphan’s hands gently off the wheel.
Such symptoms physical and emotional need to be addressed if pregnancy, or for that matter, a healthy body, is the goal. But with all that taken into account the length of the female ovulation cycle can fluctuate from woman to woman and from month to month.
If you can’t rely on general numbers, how do you identify your most fertile days?
Before answering that question, I’d like to clear up the confusion around basal temperature as a symptom of ovulation to look for, when planning your baby making time.
The rise in basal temperature happens 2 to 3 days after ovulation. If you wait for your temperature to rise before you make love, you have most likely missed the baby boat. Once the temperature rises, what it means by definition is that the egg has already been released. Since an egg can only live for 12 to 24 hours, by the time the temperature rises, which could be 2 to 3 days later—the egg is gone.
The shift in basal temperature is useful in that it will let you know whether you’re ovulating. You may also want to know the length of time from when your temperature rises until you usually get your period, commonly referred to as the luteal phase. The luteal phase needs to be long enough for a fertilized egg to go from where it was fertilized in the fallopian tubes to the uterine lining, which is about a week or so. And then it could take up to a few more days for the egg to burrow in.
Again the shift in basal temperature is not the indicator for timing intercourse.
So how do you identify when your ovulation is approaching?
Here is a simple way to think about it: Men produce sperm every day, which is why they also produce a substance, semen, that they are able to release every single day. Semen allows the sperm to live in their body every day. Women, on the other hand, release one egg, once in an ovulation cycle. And they produce a substance similar to the man’s seminal fluid, around the time when the egg is released.
So when you’re trying to get pregnant, you want to look for a substance that looks very similar to a man’s seminal fluid, which, as we know, looks like egg white: Stretchy, clear and slippery. (Some women report perfectly healthy, less stretchy cervical mucus after ovulation, but clear and slippery is a sign to look for.)
So when trying to get pregnant the idea is to transfer the sperm through this slippery, clear cervical mucus without any break, in order to keep the sperm alive and well. After all, it has to make the date with the egg intact.
The other point to remember is that there is always a single day that is more fertile that any other day in the cycle and, that day is the last day of this slippery quality cervical mucus.
How do you know when the last day is? You don’t. At least much of the time you don’t.
Say you had this egg white slippery cervical mucus Monday, and you had it on Tuesday. You know the egg must be getting ready for takeoff. It’s time to slip on that red silky something you got at Victoria’s Secret last month. Tomorrow you might wake up dry and you’ll be glad you did what was needed the day before. If your cycles are pretty regular and your man needs a little break in between production times, save the love making for the last day. But if your sweetheart is ready and willing, then I say have as much fun and as often as your body and heart tells you to.
If production time has become synonymous with failure and tedium and observing the signs of ovulation fills you with anxiety rather than excitement, the Fertile Couplehood article on my blog might be fun to peruse as you prepare to light the flame that feeds the baby dream.
A special thank you to Toni Weschler, the author of the wonderful book Taking Charge of Your Fertility, for her input for this article.
© 2011 Julia Indichova and Fertile Heart™. No portion of this document may be reproduced without permission from the copyright holder.