Our bodies are composed of beautiful events and signs to let us know what is naturally occurring, which gives us key insights into where we are in our cycle and its health.
Most of us were taught that the main event of our cycle is our period, the days that we bleed. It is also easy to identify because of the physical sight of blood. However, although our periods are extremely important (all 4 phases plays a major role in our health/fertility) the main event of our cycle is actually Ovulation.
Everything our body goes through during our cycle is to prepare us for Ovulation and the potential of conception. Ovulation is our fertility, as without it we can not conceive.
Fertility depends on so many factors, and there are so many natural ways to help improve our fertility and in this increasing our likelihood of conceiving. But for right now, let’s just focus on the different ways to tell when you are Ovulating and when your Fertility Window is.
The actual event of Ovulation is when your ovaries release an egg into your fallopian tube. After it is released, that egg has about a 24 hour lifespan of traveling from your ovary, through the fallopian tube and into your uterus. When the egg makes it to the uterus, a fertilized egg will implant and the pregnancy journey begins, if not the egg is absorbed into the uterine lining to be shed during menstruation.
Ovulation is only 24 hours, but your fertility window is actually 4-6 days. Sperm can live in a healthy vaginal environment for up to 5 days. Meaning that for the 5 days before you ovulate and the 24 hours following ovulation, you have the possibility of conception.
Unlike your period, Ovulation and your fertile window can be trickier to pinpoint since there are not many clear external signs, however your body changes to let you know. You just need to know what to look for.
Each of these signs builds a part of the story, but regardless of what someone or an app tells you one of these signs alone can not 100% confirm that ovulation has occurred. But the more you can check off, the more you are able to pinpoint ovulation and your fertility window!
I can remember growing up having discharge, but no one ever explaining to me what it was or why it was there. I remember noticing that it could be absent or in surplus and look different, but had no idea that it was a way that my body was trying to communicate with me.
Each phase of your cycle will cause your cervical mucus and your discharge to change in amount, color, texture and consistency.
After your period your cervical mucus transitions from bleeding to a creamy consistency, turning more clear and watery as you approach ovulation. Your ovulatory phase should be filled with clear, slippery, egg-white consistency mucus that you can stretch between your fingers. After ovulation your Cervical Mucus will start to dry up and become more of a tacky sticky consistency.
To test your Cervical Mucus the best way is to touch it - either look at your discharge or with a clean finger, you can reach in and swab the inside of your vaginal canal, specially up towards your cervix. Like an egg white the discharge should hold instead of being watery and you should be able to use two fingers to stretch it between almost like slime.
Estrogen spikes right before Ovulation and our Cervical Mucus responds by changing in texture to make our uterus a more friendly environment for sperm to swim in, increasing the likelihood of conception. This type of Cervical Mucus also helps Sperm survive in the acidic environment of the vagina. Low estrogen levels can be an effect for poor quality and amount of fertile cervical mucus.
If you are trying to conceive, when you spot this type of mucus now is the moment to have some fun, if you are using the natural family method and trying to avoid a pregnancy, abstain or use protection during sex.
Your cervix changes and moves throughout your cycle. During ovulation its positioning is high and the cervix itself becomes more soft, wet and open. This is known as SHOW: Soft, High, Open, Wet.
To track your cervical position, you are going to want to use the method and position every same time. A few of our favorite ways are either while sitting on the toilet, squatting, or by placing one leg on the edge of the bathtub.
Gently insert a clean finger and feel around to touch your cervix which is going to be in the upper front or top of your vaginal canal.
During menstruation your cervix will typically be low and hard feeling like the tip of your nose. Menstruation will allow for your cervix to be slightly open for the blood to be able to flow out, but as you enter into the follicular phase it will close.
During your follicular phase as you approach ovulation, your cervix will start to rise to the top of your vagina and will start to soften and become wetter. As you reach Ovulation your cervix will be at the height of its positioning and it’s softest and moistest, it will feel more like your lips then your nose. It also will be slightly open to allow for sperm to enter. Sometimes the cervix can feel like it has completely disappeared… This is because it has become so soft that it blends into the vaginal walls or it becomes so high that a finger can not reach it. This is a good indicator that your body is at the height of its fertility window.
After ovulation your cervix will start to become more firm and start to lower in position to prepare for menstruation and repeat the cycle. If you become pregnant, the cervix will rise up and become soft but will continue to remain tightly closed.
The Luteinizing Hormone also referred to as LH is produced in the pituitary gland and is one of the main hormones that control the reproductive system. As all hormones, it fluctuates throughout the 28 day cycle.
Throughout Menstruation and the Follicular phase it is low, but helping to stimulate the ovarian follicles in the ovaries to produce oestradiol, the female sex hormone which in return helps to spike LH right before Ovulation. A spike in your LH is what signals to your ovaries to release the egg.
This LH spike typically occurs 24-48 hours before ovulation and is easy to test with at home LH or ovulation strips.
This is a great way to track ovulation before it occurs, and a simple way to check to see if you are approaching ovulation so that you can try to start conceiving if you are trying to get pregnant, with the natural family planning method this is a great indicator for you to track your fertility window to avoid conception.
You want a spike in your Luteinizing Hormone, but high levels can be a sign of infertility. It also can be commonly seen in women with PCOS where the imbalance of the Luteinizing Hormone and the Follicle Stimulating Hormone can cause unwanted higher production of testosterone.
The opposite can be true where a lack of the LH hormone often means that Ovulation is not occurring and is typically seen with irregular periods.
Basal Body Temperature
Your Basal Body Temperature, is the temperature your body is when at complete rest and your body's lowest temperature. It is a great signal to watch to see when ovulation has occurred.
After your LH hormone spikes and your body ovulates, the hormone Progesterone is produced to help aid your uterus and prepare it for a potential pregnancy. Progesterone can be known as the pregnancy hormone, because without it a fertilized embryo would not be able to implant and then grow.
The increase in progesterone also causes our BBT to increase as well, which will show a spike in temperatures after ovulation. This “Spike” is minor however with a temp change of 1-1.5 degrees.
For example, my temperature will be around 96.4 the day before ovulation and then rise to about 98.0 after ovulation.
This method however can be tricky to track. Your temperature has to be taken every day over a period of time before you can see the reliable data. You also need to make sure that you are taking your temperature every morning within the same 2 hour window. You need to take your temp by holding the thermometer in the same placement under the back of your tongue. And you need to reach for your thermometer before even really opening your eyes, let alone getting out of bed in the morning. If you have slept weird, drank alcohol or are sick you also need to exclude that data point as these are all things which could cause an unreliable temperature spike.
There is wearable technology that can make this process easier such as the Oura ring which will measure your temperature throughout the evening and give you the most accurate BBT.
With that there are also many apps that will allow you to log your temperature so that you can keep track of the data and see the graphs (They also will track other metrics such as your Period, Moods, Cervical Mucus…) I personally use the Natural Cycles app, but there are also a lot of great other ones out there!
These 4 are the most reliable ways to form an idea of when you are ovulating and your fertile window, however there are also secondary signs and signals that might also signal that you are in your window and about to ovulate due to the rise of estrogen before ovulation.
An increased Libido is one of the first tell tale signs - during week two of our cycle both estrogen and testosterone are rising which in return is also increasing your natural libido, it is nature's way of helping you reproduce. When you are in a relationship, if your partner understands your natural ebb and flow with your cycle, they will start to be able to figure out when you are ovulating because of this increased drive.
You also might have increased energy and a higher vibration towards being social as you approach ovulation. The high levels of estrogen trigger more endorphins while also making you more confident and braver. Typically we are the most outward in energy during ovulation and the week leading up to it then we are during the rest of our cycle.
Estrogen is also boosting your self confidence, I don’t know about you, but I never feel as self assured as I do during my fertility window. The increase in estrogen can also be boosting your attractiveness causing subtle shifts in your soft tissue to make your features more symmetrical.
All in all, our bodies clearly speak to us when we are ovulating, we just need to be taught what to look for and start to consistently show up for ourselves to learn the different rhythms and routines that each of our different phases follows. Remember that this is something that is learned over a period of time by observing and being aware and intune with what is consistently going on with your cycle.