Before exploring fertility care and services, couples should first try everything they can to increase their chances for natural conception. In the fifth part of our series on how to get pregnant on your own, we offer this tip.
Step 5: Ovulation tracking methods
While this natural fertility window is optimal during certain days of the female menstrual cycle, ovulation is often difficult to track with precision. According to a study from ASRM and the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (SREI), ovulation tracking methods can accurately predict when ovulation is occurring, but there is little evidence that ovulation monitoring during the menstrual cycle increases the chances of achieving pregnancy. Women who track their cycles by using observations of several factors accurately predict their ovulation about 50 percent of the time.
Ovulation tracking is quite difficult because menstrual cycles vary in length, and irregular menstrual cycles are not uncommon in women. Though 25 percent of infertility cases involve ovulatory disorders, irregular cycles are not always an indication of infertility. A medical evaluation can determine if irregular menses are actually within the normal range or the result of an underlying condition.
When used properly, ovulation tracking methods can help predict when ovulation is occurring for many women with some accuracy. Though ovulation tracking does not significantly increase the chances of pregnancy, it can help couples better predict when the “fertile window” will occur and determine the best days to have intercourse.
Popular ovulation monitoring techniques include the following:
- Smartphone apps. Smartphones can help users calculate when ovulation will begin. Most apps estimate approximate ovulation dates with information the user provides and average cycle length information. These are no more accurate than counting the days on the calendar manually.
- Tracking changes in cervical mucus. During each menstrual cycle, vaginal secretions change consistency and can be used to somewhat reliably determine what stage of the menstrual cycle a woman is in. Research conducted by ASRM found that tracking changes in cervical mucus can be more effective than tracking menstruation and ovulation on a calendar. However, the practice is still quite limited.
- Measuring basal body temperature (BBT). Basal body temperature may rise after ovulation has occurred. Measuring BBT can determine that ovulation has already occurred but it cannot predict when ovulation is going to happen.
- Urine analysis kits. These measure the level of luteinizing hormone (LH) in the urine. LH levels in the urine surge 12-36 hours before ovulation begins. When used properly, LH tests can identify whether ovulation is occurring over 80 percent of the time. Research shows that though relatively effective in determining ovulation, LH testing can result in false positives and provide unreliable results if the user is taking ovulation induction medications, has POCS (polycystic ovary syndrome), or has unknowingly entered menopause.
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