Tracking your fertility and ovulation (otherwise known as fertility awareness) can increase your chances of becoming pregnant, or help you avoid your most fertile days if not. For more than a century, researchers have been working to advance fertility awareness methods (FAMs), and as a result, we’ve seen many improvements in ovulation and fertility tracking. Today, we have more reliable methods, devices, and apps to make the act of pinpointing (or avoiding) our most fertile days much easier.
A Brief History of Fertility and Ovulation Tracking
The initial discovery of an ovulation cycle was made in the 1920s by Dr. Kyusaku Ogino and Dr. Herman Knaus. This information was used as a way to naturally prevent pregnancy by avoiding your most fertile days, and is still practiced today under the more common name – the “rhythm method.” In the 1950s scientists started focusing on the role that cervical mucus plays in determining your most fertile window. And in the 1960s we saw researchers combining multiple methods for even more accurate results. Although these methods were all created with the idea of preventing unwanted pregnancy, we learned to utilize this same information to increase your chances of becoming pregnant when trying to conceive.
Advancements in Fertility Tracking Methods
We’ve come a long way since the discovery of the cycle-length method of family planning when determining how to track ovulation. There are now multiple fertility tracking methods:
- Calendar Method- This method uses the typical length of your menstrual cycle and the date of your last period to predict when you’re most likely to ovulate. By charting your average cycle length, the length of your luteal phase (typically 14 days), and the first date of your last period on a calendar, you can then predict when your fertile window will most likely fall. It’s recommended you utilize this method for 6 months to get an accurate representation of when you’re ovulating.
- Basal Body Temperature Method- Your basal body temperature (BBT) is your body temperature when you first wake up in the morning. Your BBT changes throughout your menstrual cycle and is usually lower before ovulation (between 96-98° F) and higher after ovulation has occurred (between 97-99° F). The rise in temperature is related to the rise in progesterone levels that occur with ovulation. By creating a chart that tracks your temperature each morning, you can detect changes in your BBT that might signal ovulation. It’s recommended you utilize this method for at least 3 months to get an accurate representation of when you’re ovulating.
- Cervical Mucus Method- The cervical mucus method (also known as the Billings Ovulation Method®) tracks the changes in color, texture, and amount of cervical mucus you secrete throughout your menstrual cycle to determine when you’re ovulating. Cervical mucus has two jobs; to prevent things from entering your uterus during your non-fertile window, and to help sperm travel into the uterus during your fertile window. By pinpointing when your mucus is in the “nourish and transport” phase, you can increase your odds of becoming pregnant. The CDC estimates this method to have a 97% efficacy rate.
- Symptothermal Method (STM)- Works by combining the first three methods listed (calendar, BBT, and cervical mucus). Because each of these methods relies on different tells, using a combination of all three has been shown to have an efficacy rate of 99.6%
- Cervical Position Method- This method requires you to check the firmness, openness, and position of your cervix throughout your cycle with your fingertip. At the beginning of your cycle, your cervix should be firm, closed, and lower into your vagina when you reach in to touch it. Signs of ovulation with this method would be a softer cervix that is open slightly, and sitting higher, making it harder to touch when you reach in to check it.
- Ovulation Predictor Kits- One of the most accurate methods is the easy at-home ovulation test (approximately 99% accurate when used correctly). Similar to how an at-home pregnancy test measures levels of HCG hormones in your urine, ovulation test strips measure the luteinizing hormone (LH) levels in a urine sample. Many of these kits work by using a control and test strip with colored lines that darken when LH levels surge and become lighter when LH levels recede. Some more advanced versions show a flashing smiley face on ovulation tests when you’re most fertile.
- Saliva Ferning Method- This method is named for the fern-like crystals that appear in your dried saliva sample during your fertile window. Saliva ferning kits include a lens that you place a drop of saliva onto. After five minutes, you use the provided viewing scope to see if fern-like crystals are present. You’re most likely to ovulate during the 24-72 hour window following the detection of these crystals. Its reliability rate falls around the 85% mark.
Using Technology to Track Fertility
Additionally, there are many free ovulation tracker apps and paid devices that can make tracking your cycle a breeze:
- Premom Ovulation Tracker
- Flo Period Tracker & Calendar
- Ovia: Fertility, Cycle, Health, available on Apple and Android
- Femometer Fertility Tracker
- Glow: Fertility, Ovulation App
- Ava Fertility Tracker- Worn while you sleep, this device tracks 5 physiological signals to determine your 5 most fertile days each month.
- Inito Fertility Monitor - Provides real numerical values of fertility hormones detected in your urine.
- Apple Watch Series 8 or Apple Watch Ultra - Uses wrist temperature data to estimate the likely day of ovulation.
Ways to Increase Fertility
Your fertility is directly tied to your overall health. The best ways to increase your fertility are to:
- Take Prenatal Vitamins: Our Total Prenatal + DHA is a great choice whether you’re planning, prepping, or pregnant with 100% of the daily values of essential nutrients for a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby.
- Eat A Balanced Diet: Eating a healthy balanced diet is important to maintaining good health.
- Utilize Fertility Supplements: Our strawberry-flavored Fertility Gummies are the first ever fertility gummy supplement to hit the market. With Inositol, Folate, B12, and more to help prepare your body for conception and support hormonal balance. Taking supplements like our gummies or our Fertility Support capsules helps to boost the body’s ability to conceive and can increase your odds of becoming pregnant.
- Exercise Regularly: Regular physical activity, such as walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, and hiking provides significant benefits for your overall health and fertility.
- Avoid Smoking, Drinking Alcohol, or Taking Illegal Drugs: All three are linked to reduced fertility.
Tracking ovulation is critical to identifying your fertility window. Understanding your most fertile days each month can help you maximize your efforts when trying to conceive. Thanks to the scientific and technological advancements made through modern fertility research –determining your fertility window is now easier than ever.
If you’re having difficulty determining your ovulation cycle, or if you discover through these methods that you’re not ovulating at all (otherwise known as anovulation), seeking the help of a fertility specialist can streamline your journey into pregnancy.
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