Ovulation occurs when the egg is released from the ovary after it reaches maturation. Conception is only possible during the fertile window which extends from about 4-5 days before ovulation through 24 hours after ovulation. When you’re trying to conceive, there is a lot of emphasis on timing efforts around ovulation, but you may be missing the mark if you wait to try until ovulation!
How long does it take to ovulate?
When does ovulation occur?
The term Mittelschmerz refers to “mid cycle pain” that often occurs during ovulation. While ovulation occurs during the middle of the cycle if cycles are about 28 days in length, in longer cycles ovulation may not be in the middle of the cycle. Calendar prediction methods often fail to correctly identify ovulation and the fertile window as they rely on the average length of cycle. Numerous factors influence when ovulation occurs, and as cyclical human beings, we don’t function according to a calendar-based method.
How can you pinpoint your ovulation?
Due to the hormonal changes of the cycle that occur before ovulation, there are some key signs to lookout for to both recognize your fertile window opening and impending ovulation.
Cervical mucus tracking
The start of your cycle begins with menstruation. While cervical mucus is not typically observed during this time, you can indicate that you had period bleeding on your calendar for the amount of days it lasted. After the period ends, there is typically very little cervical mucus to observe and it tends to be sticky, tacky, dry, or paste-like. As the cycle progresses, the cervical mucus will slowly become more creamy or lotion-like. Both sticky and creamy cervical mucus are typically considered non-fertile mucus types, as they both hinder the sperms’ ability to navigate. Note: creamy cervical mucus can sometimes be fertile.
As the fertile window approaches and opens, the cervical fluid becomes more abundant, slippery, stretchy, and wet in sensation. The increasingly wet and lubricative cervical fluid indicates the opening of the fertile window. Egg white cervical mucus or EWCM is often discussed among women trying to conceive. While EWCM is fertile cervical mucus, watery cervical mucus is also fertile. It is possible to ovulate and never observe EWCM, and conversely, many women experience EWCM multiple times per cycle even when ovulation is not happening, particularly in those with PCOS.
After ovulation, the rising progesterone results in a thickening of the mucus, which works to create a barrier to protect the entrance to the uterus by preventing foreign substances from entering. This shift to a more sticky cervical mucus is indication that ovulation has likely passed and the fertile window is closing.
While tracking your cervical mucus may be beneficial for tracking your fertile window, it is not for everyone. For some, it is added stress on an already challenging journey towards getting pregnant. Others find it uncomfortable and burdensome to frequently check their cervical mucus throughout the day.
The LH surge
Problematically, LH does not surge until 2-3 days of the fertile window have passed. When waiting for the LH surge, you may miss it, as LH often peaks overnight, and unless you check it multiple times days, you may miss the peak. Women with PCOS may observe sustained LH rises or multiple LH surges throughout their cycles as well. While tracking LH can be frustrating for multiple reasons, some women find it is helpful in recognizing when ovulation may likely occur. It is important to note that a positive LH surge does not guarantee ovulation will take place.