How Do I Know When I’m Ovulating?
A Primer for Lesbians Who Want to be Mommies

by Judith E. Beckett, R.N.

While you are keeping a calendar to track your monthly menstrual cycle and to determine the days when you are most likely to get pregnant, you will also be using three other methods to further pinpoint the day you ovulate.

During the first part of your normal menstrual pattern, the hormone estrogen keeps your body temperature low (96°F – 98°F). Then, immediately after you ovulate, progesterone causes your temperature to rise (97°F – 99°F) and remain high until just before your next period.

So, the first thing you are going to do is to begin charting your body temperature at rest (basal body temperature or BBT). It’s pretty easy. You will need a special BBT thermometer from your pharmacy or internet drug store because the temperature changes occur in small fractions of degrees (from 0.1 – 0.8 degrees). You will also need a BBT chart. Leave them both at your bedside before you go to sleep at night.

Fertility ChartIn the morning, beginning on the first day of your next cycle, before you sit up or even talk to your honey, take your temperature for five minutes – orally or rectally but in the same way (and at the same time) every day. Read the thermometer to within 1/10 of a degree and plot it on your BBT chart.

You will know your ovary has released an egg when you see a rise of 0.4 - 0.8 degrees over a period of 48 hours. This should be higher than the highest temperature recorded in the previous six days and should last for at least three days. It may last until your next period. Because this temperature peak occurs after your ovary releases an egg, insemination must occur within the next 12 to 14 hours, the lifespan of the egg.

Monitor your temperature for several months and study it in combination with all the other information you are gathering. A fever, emotional upset, lack of sleep, or the use of an electric blanket can affect your BBT.

You will also be checking and charting the position of your cervix. Cervix means “neck” in Latin - it is the neck of your (pear-shaped) uterus. It is the muscle that opens a little to let sperm in, prevents the baby from falling out, and then stretches wide over your baby’s head when you give birth.

If you have never felt your cervix before, you can find it by inserting two fingers gently into your vagina until you encounter what feels like the tip of your dog’s nose. It may be easier to find your cervix sitting on the toilet than squatting or lying in your bed. Whichever position you choose, always check your cervix in the same way.

During the first half of your menstrual cycle (before you ovulate) your cervix will feel firm and dry. You will be able to reach it easily and it will be firmly closed. Later, just before your ovary releases an egg, it will lift up higher into your vagina and feel soft and moist or very wet. Note the position of your cervix along with your BBT.

Knowing about your mucus pattern is the third method of determining when you ovulate. Examining the mucus on the toilet paper after you wipe yourself is possible but it is better to collect mucus from your vagina. Wash your hands carefully to prevent introducing infection. Collect the mucus by circling your fingers around your cervix several times. Withdraw your fingers and notice the quantity, color and consistency of the mucus you’ve obtained. You may want your partner to do this for you sometimes.

You’ll find that for a few days after you stop bleeding, your vagina and cervix will feel dry. No mucus is present. Then, as your eggs start to ripen, glands on your cervix begin to secrete sticky mucus that is cloudy and white or yellow. Gradually, the amount of mucus increases. Immediately after you ovulate, the mucus will become clear and slippery like a raw egg white. It is now called spinnbarkeit, a German word that means stretchable.

Try to stretch the mucus between your thumb and your index finger. Early in your cycle, the mucus will not stretch. As ovulation approaches you should be able to stretch your fingers farther and farther apart. You have the greatest chance of getting pregnant when the mucus becomes thin and clear and can be stretched several centimeters before it breaks. Sperm can survive in this mucus for up to 72 hours.

After ovulation, the mucus will again become dry and sticky or creamy. Chart your findings on your BBT chart as dry days (D), tacky days (T) and slippery days (S).

Remember that vaginal infections, sexual arousal, lubricants and medications such as allergy pills or decongestants can all alter cervical secretions.

How can you tell when you’ve ovulated?

  • Your temperature has risen 0.4 -0.8 degrees and has stayed elevated for at least three days.
  • Your cervix is high in your vagina and feels soft and wet.
  • The mucus around your cervix is clear, slippery and stretchable – spinnbarkeit.

Some experts believe the best time to inseminate is just before ovulation so that the sperm is waiting for your egg when it bursts from your ovary. Others recommend inseminating in the hours immediately after the egg is released. It is also possible to do both.

There is one more method for detecting ovulation. Ovulation predictor tests are available at pharmacies and online without a prescription. They detect the surge in luteinizing hormone (LH) that occurs just before ovulation. Because they can predict ovulation 24 to 36 hours before you ovulate rather than after, they can increase your chances of getting pregnant. Simply hold the absorbent tip of the indicator under your stream of urine or urinate into a container and dip the indicator into it. Follow the directions that come in the package exactly to determine when you should begin testing and for how long. That will depend on the length of your cycle.

Unfortunately, a surge in LH doesn’t always insure that an egg will be released. There is also a possibility of a false surge before the real one takes place. The kits are fairly expensive ($20-$30) and if you have an irregular cycle (28-40 days) you may have to buy two kits each month.

Information published on The Rainbow Babies website is not a substitute for proper medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or care. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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