3 Ways to Detect Ovulation

Proving to yourself that you ovulate is easy to do and there are a few options out there.  Before I go any further into describing them, please head the advice I gave in the last post.  If you are having regular cycles every month then you are almost always ovulating, and timing sex to the very minute that you ovulate is not necessary.  But for those of you out there that need proof, here are three methods of ovulation detection.

This method will only tell you after the fact that you have recently ovulated.  The theory behind it is that after ovulation a hormone called progesterone rises, and this causes your body temperature to rise very slightly.  To detect this rise, you should take your temperature first thing in the morning, before getting out of bed, or your readings will be inaccurate.  You will need a special thermometer called a “basal body temperature thermometer” which will detect your temperature to a tenth of a degree Celsius (eg. 36.5 oC).  Your temperature can be taken by mouth, rectum, axilla (arm pit) or vagina, but should be the same method every time.  Your readings can then be plotted on a chart and you will notice a rise in your temperature for about a week to ten days after ovulation.

2.  Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPK)

You can buy ovulation predictor kits at the drug store in the same aisle as the pregnancy tests, condoms, lubricants, etc….You know the aisle – it’s the one you try not to be spotted in by your co-workers or family members.  These kits are created to detect a hormone in your urine called lutenizing hormone (LH).  This is a hormone from your brain that tells your ovary to release an egg when it is ready.  It spikes briefly (approximately 24-48 hours) and then goes back to normal levels.  When this hormone rises, the egg takes about 35-40 hours to release.  You should start testing your urine 3-4 days before your expected ovulation (refer to blog post #1 to figure this out).

3.  Cervical Mucous

This method is a little less reliable than the other methods mentioned about because it is subject to interpretation.  However, the upside is that it is completely free.  The cervix is the opening to the uterus and sperm must navigate through the cervix to meet the egg.  As your egg gets closer to being ready to release, your estrogen levels will climb and this will change the amount and consistency or your discharge.  During the first part of your cycle you may notice a small amount of sticky white discharge.  As ovulation approaches this will change to a more watery, slippery consistency, and this change helps sperm to get to where they need to go.

A word to the wise…. do not let your ovulations run your life.  I have met so many patients that have charted their temperature every day for the last year, or who have spent hundreds of dollars on ovulation predictor kits.  Be kind to yourself.  If the first thought you have every morning when you wake up is to take your temperature because you are not pregnant yet, you will be starting every day on the wrong foot.  Do it once or twice if you need evidence of ovulation but it is not necessary every month.  If you think that you are not ovulating regularly you should consult your family doctor to start the process of figuring out why.  There are many explanations, and it is a problem that is often easily remedied.

12 thoughts on “3 Ways to Detect Ovulation

  1. Hi,

    Does a positive result on an ovulation test (method 2 above) “guarantee” ovulation taking place? In other words, does one always ovulate following the LH spike detested by the ovulation test?

    Thank you!

    • I would say “almost always”…. there are unusual situations where it may be wrong. For example, some women with polycystic ovarian syndrome have high baseline leves of the LH hormone and their kit always reads positive. However, if you have regular cycles and an ovulation kit that starts out negative, turns positive, and then you get your period a couple of weeks later, you can be reassured that you are ovulating.

      • Thank you, that’s rassuring! However, how would (suspected) diminished ovarian reserve factor into the mix, if at all?

        • This would be similar to someone with polycystic ovarian syndrome, where LH hormone may be chronically high and always read positive on an ovulation detector kit. However, if it starts out negative and becomes positive during mid-cycle, then you can be reassured that your ovulation is being detected properly.

  2. Hello myself and husband have been trying to get pregnant and my menstrual is regular every month and I ovulated in January but in February and March no lunch and I took ovulation a test what would you recommend I do

    • Hi Karine,
      If you are having regular menstrual cycles (every 21-35d) then you are almost always ovulating. Ovulation predictor kits do not always detect your surge but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are not ovulating. You can have your doctor test your progesterone level approximately 1 week after your expected ovulation. If it is elevated, this will reassure you that you are ovulating.

  3. Hi. I am currently pregnant and I seem to have a pretty normal 28 day cycle, it could possibly vary from 27-29 day though. I have traced it back to June and since then it has fallen every 4 weeks. So I got pregnant december, and Im pretty sure my period was decemeber 9/10. Now with a regular cycle, what are the odds that I ovulate on cycle day 8 or 9? My doctor says its not likely because the egg isnt fully developed so I most likely ovulate around mid cycle

    • Ovulation on day 8 or 9 would be very early. In your particular case, given that you have 27-29d cycles, it is more likely that you ovulated somewhere around the 13-15d mark. Good luck with your pregnancy!

      • I ask because my ultrasound at 12weeks 3days. Said i was 13weeks 4days instead puttin me to conceive december 16…but im pretty sure my lmp was december 9, not the first week of december. Its stressful cuz then that cycle would have been About 21-24 days long instead which is random.

  4. I ask because at my first ultrasound I was dated to be 13 weeks 4 days, when I should been 12 weeks 4 days by LMP, putting me to conceive on cycle day 8.

  5. Is there a chance I am not ovulating if OPKs are always negative? The first month, I thought perhaps I missed the surge, so this month I am testing with clear blue digital twice a day, first morning urine and evening urine. Still no positive results. My periods are irregular… ranging from 28-50 days… and I am beginning to wonder if I ovulate at all. Is there any other way to know for sure when ovulation is happening or has happened? We have been trying to conceive for a year and a half.

  6. With irregular cycles and negative ovulation tests it is quite possible you are not ovulating. The other way to test for this is to do a blood test to see if your progesterone rises, indicating that you have ovulated. Even if you do ovulate, I suspect it is not regularly. I would suggest you seek assistance from a physician to help figure out why, and to offer you solutions to help you conceive.

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