I have so many friends that have been trying to get pregnant, for what seems like a long time, and it is a really emotional, embarrassing, and frustrating. You don’t know if you should talk about it, not talk about it….and how to do you fend off those nosey people asking when you are going to start a family? Believe me: been there, done that. It is always in the back of your mind, no matter what else is going on, and it is a constant stress. After talking to one of my good friends a few weeks ago, I realized that she was trying to get pregnant without luck. When we were talking she was saying how she didn’t understand why she was never ovulating (after peeing on tons of those sticks) but nothing was wrong with her, per labs tests, etc. And what did she realize? She was miscalculating when she was supposed to be ovulating. This is a common misconception (no pun intended) among women, and there are some tricks of the trade to know when you are ovulating. Having sex (unprotected…I hope goes without saying) when you ovulate drastically increases the chances of making a baby! Plus, it is important to keep in mind that healthy couples in their 20’s and 30’s only have a 20% chance of getting pregnant each month….with those odds, it makes those “oops” pregnancies seem like such bad luck.
What is ovulation?
Basically, ovulation is when a mature egg is released from your ovary, into the fallopian tubes (helps carry the egg to the uterus) and is ready and available to be fertilized. The lining of the uterus thickens to help to prepare for the egg to be fertilized so that it can embed in the lining once the egg is fertilized, that is where it will thrive and grow and turn into a little baby! If fertilization does not occur, then that thickened uterine wall sheds along with the egg and that is when you have menstruation. Now, figuring out the perfect timing of all of this is the trick! A mature egg lives usually 12-24 hours after leaving the ovary and it is only that timeframe that it can be fertilized, but sperm can live three to six days inside of the uterus (so that gives us a fighting chance!!). When you think about it in those terms, it seems really hard to get pregnant, yet some people breed non-stop….which I know is frustrating for those of you who are having a difficult time with this.
How do I know if I am ovulating?
1. Ovulation usually occurs in the middle of your cycle, Ideally, you would be like a calendar on a 28 day cycle, so day 13-15 would be our fertile period. Fun trick? Most women aren’t so clock work about their menstrual cycles and the average cycle is 23 to 35 days. So one good way to start here is to figure out your cycle: mark on a calendar when you get your period, when it ends, and do this for a couple of months, so that you can kind of have a better idea of how long your cycle is: then have sex a LOT during the middle of that timeframe, and hope for the best! Plus there are cool online trackers like this Ovulation Calendar.
2. Pay attention to mittleschmerz (German for middle pain). Many women have a light pain/twinge in their ovaries when their egg is released, like a quick cramp. Now a bunch of you are thinking “doesn’t happen to me” but pay attention next month, and I bet you feel it. And that is the exact moment that ovulation occurs…kind of cool if you have time to think about it.
3. Take a basal body temperature. There are specific basal body temp thermometers that you can use to check your temp FIRST thing in the morning, the second you wake up, before you sit up, pee, do ANYTHING. You check your temperature and it will let you know when you are ovulating. The first half of your cycle, yoga re driven by estrogen, so you have a lower body temp, then after ovulation, progesterone takes over and your body temp increases (because if you get pregnant, it helps to keep the fertilize egg in that lining of the uterus wall and thrive). So, the day that your body temp is the LOWEST, then abruptly spikes up, you are ovulating! This is a tough one to get correct, and it is so super sensitive, but people who are Type A and very routine oriented seem to do well with this.
4. Increased cervical mucous. MMMMM, a yummy thought, I know. But as your body gets ready to get pregnant, your cervix loosens up, gets ready to help that sperm swim on up into the uterus and start making some babies, so the normal discharge that you might have, becomes more sticky, clear (instead of cloudy) and more the consistency of an egg white. This helps to point the sperm in the right direction and get them to the right place. You can sometimes notice this change in discharge in your underwear or it may come out of you when you are using the bathroom. I know, I am full of fun stuff this morning…sorry!
5. Ovulation prediction kits (OPK) are your friend! You might feel like you are going to lose it if you pee on another stick, but these kits are really accurate, and while expensive (they range from $6-$30) and annoying (when you don’t ever see a fertile period) they can help you to know when you are ovulating without worrying about the calendars, temps, looking for changes in discharge! They are quick and easy, and done with the first pee of the day. You can use on every day of your cycle to find out the length of your cycle (from when your period begins to the start of your next period) to find out the length and help you to know when you ovulate.
IF you have none of these changes, and an OPK never gives you a fertile period, don’t wait, go see your HCP and get referred to an infertility specialist. Some states cover all infertility treatments by insurance and some don’t. So it can be frustrating and expensive, but know that there are others out there facing what you face and we are all in the battle for babies together. Plus, if things don’t work out for you, there are always other options. If you are worried there is something wrong with you or your partner, go get checked out, there is no harm, and you might be able to take medications that are cheap that might help increase your chances of pregnancy.
The good and bad news is that there are SO many people having trouble getting pregnant right now: we live in a stressful society where people work WAY more than 40 hours a week, don’t have time to do everything to make their bodies and their own needs their priorities. So, please let’s make a deal that we will not bug other people about when they are going to have babies and start making a family, as it is such a sensitive and personal issue, and let’s also make time to care for ourselves and nurture our bodies during a stressful time when we need to care for us, and make things as stress-free as possible.
Yours in Good Health