When we talk about planning for a baby, we say we’re “trying.” But for most of us, once we’ve decided we want to get pregnant, we’d like to get pregnant as soon as possible. Especially if you’ve waited ‘til you’re very ready—financially, emotionally, and all that—and you’re in your mid-30s and don’t want to wait long. Assuming you or your partner do not have any obstacles health-wise impeding your ability to get pregnant, one sure-fire way of being able to time your pregnancy and get pregnant as quickly as you want is ovulation calculation; or, knowing your fertility cycle and understanding when you are fertile and ovulating.
That means more than making assumptions based on when you had your last period or unfortunately, in many cases, relying on the suggestions of your doctor. Women have just six days per cycle in which we can get pregnant, and these six days aren’t the same every cycle as ovulation can be delayed by stress, diet changes, illness, or lack of sleep.
4 ways to know when you’re ovulating
Get in tune with your body so you don’t miss that window of opportunity and have to wait another whole month for it to come around again. It can also help you feel more in control and less stressed about baby planning. Knowledge is power, after all.
Take your basal body temperature
All women get a little hotter when we ovulate—literally, as in our basal body temperature rises! This means taking your basal or waking temperature every morning after a night’s rest (or just a few hours rest, really) can help you calculate your fertile window. Women who do this manually will take their temperature and add it into an app like Kindara, then study up on charting those temps into a graph that will reveal their fertile days only after the temperature shift has happened. However, there are now tech-supported ways of doing the same thing without the studying or the graph, like the Daysy fertility tracker or the Ava bracelet.
Look for your cervical fluid
That white discharge you see in your underwear or that slightly slippery feeling you get a few days every month is cervical fluid. Sperm needs cervical fluid to travel, to survive, and to reach your egg. By observing its presence (sometimes you won’t have any at all) and by touching it between your fingers to test consistency, you can know your fertile and super fertile days every month. Cervical fluid that looks and feels like raw egg whites and can be stretchy to the touch indicates your body is at its most fertile. You can read up on getting to know your cervical fluid with the fertility Bible, Taking Charge of Your Fertility, or join the private Facebook group “Fertility Awareness Method of Birth Control,” where women share their own personal photos for educational purposes.
Say hi to your cervix
Your cervix, at the opening of your uterus, changes throughout the month. When your body isn’t ready to be pregnant, your cervix will literally close off, and when your body is ready to get pregnant, the cervix will open up. When your cervix is soft, high, open, and wet (often described by the acronym SHOW) you are at your most fertile.
So, how can a woman know what’s going on with her cervix? To start, you can explore it with your fingers similar to how you might when inserting a menstrual cup, or you can use a speculum and flashlight. Classes in self-examination of the cervix are popping up all over the place, and doulas, midwives, fertility awareness practitioners, and women’s health coaches often offer one-to-one teaching sessions. Get started by scrolling The Beautiful Cervix Project which presents images of the cervix at all times of the month—from during a period to during pregnancy.
Check-in with your desires
Around ovulation, your hormones collide in such a way that you’ll likely feel more interested in sex than you do the rest of the month. That’s right, your body wants you to have sex when you’re fertile (although some women also experience peaks at other times, like right before their period). The more in touch you are with your body, the more likely it is you’ll notice this shift. Behind this shift is a rise in testosterone (yes, women have testosterone too!) and it can mean a higher libido as well as higher energy in general.
The ovulatory phase of your cycle can feel quite different to the other phases—you might feel more outgoing, social, articulate, extroverted, and want to spend more time with your partner—and every woman is different, so for some this will be more pronounced. It’s good to be aware that as well as understanding the science of your body, there’s also an intuitive sense to knowing when you’re fertile and how that makes you feel.