One of the most FAQ’s from young women who are either trying to conceive or trying to delay pregnancy (while avoiding modern contraceptives) is:
“How can I know the ovulation day?”
Knowing the length and dynamics of your cycle will guide you in planning conception and contraception, as well as early detection of abnormalities in your menstrual cycle in general. Ovulation is the process of release of the egg from the ovary and transfer into the fallopian tube where it will be available for fertilization, in the presence of viable sperms. It normally occurs once in a monthly cycle and the egg (in rare cases more than one egg can be released at a time) remains valid for only less than 24 hours. This is why couples are advised to have intercourse at least 3-4days in a week if they want to “catch up” with the ovulation window.
Here are some tips…
1. Note the length of your cycle. This is the interval between the FIRST day of one menses and the FIRST day of the next. eg. If you start your menstruation on January 1st (this is called the last menstrual period – LMP) and then the next on January 29th, that’s a 28-day cycle. Your ovulation should occur on the 14th of January. This is the average duration but it can be as short as 21 days, and as long as 32 days.
2. It’s quite straightforward for a regular 28-day cycle. But if yours is shorter or longer, just count 14 days backwards from the first day of the next expected menses. These last 14 days after ovulation are always constant. For example, if your cycle is 30 days and your LMP is January 1st, then you’re going to ovulate on the 16th.
3. Target this day. Add 4 days before and 2 days after. All other factors being normal, ovulation, hence fertilisation should occur somewhere around these days. If you’re avoiding pregnancy, you should avoid sex around these days too (up to a week) or, use a backup contraceptive such as condom.
4. If the cycle is irregular, this might be difficult to calculate. You may need to see a doctor who may give you some medications to “regulate” your cycle. Ovulation can also be unpredictable at extremes of reproductive age: first 5 years after puberty and before the onset of menopause.
5. Other options include:
- Checking the vaginal fluid. It becomes more sticky, stretchy and copious around ovulation period (not accurate)
- Checking your body temperature. It rises about 1 degree Celsius around ovulation (not reliable)
- Ovulation tracking using ultrasound and blood tests (cumbersome)
- Use of ovulation prediction kits, eg. Predicte™ (available in pharmacies)
- The ovulation pain. Certain inflammatory enzymes mediate the process of ovulation. This subtle inflammation can cause mild lower abdominal pain but, again, you can’t rely on this as many people don’t feel the pain as such.