Like many women, I spent years actively trying not to get pregnant. I wanted to focus on my career, but as the years passed, those baby pangs did hit me hard. My husband and I decided that we were ready to have a baby, but it was embarrassing for me to admit that I knew so little about my menstrual cycle. I had no idea how to chart my ovulation, and I needed to Google questions like, "are you most fertile when you're ovulating?" But with a lot of research and some tips from my OB, I figured things out and we eventually had a healthy baby girl. Looking back, I wish I could tell my younger self what she should've known about her fertility — and how to take advantage of it.
Contrary to what you might have heard, women are typically the most fertile on the day of ovulation and the five days preceding it, according to Parenting. This means that if you're trying to get pregnant, you and your partner need to get busy before your ovary releases a mature egg — otherwise you might be too late. To make sure that you don't miss out on your fertility window, it'll take a little work on your end to figure out your menstrual cycle and pinpoint when your body ovulates.
This is where an ovulation chart can come in handy. While an ovulation chart might sound fancy, it's simply a calendar to keep track of your cycle. To kick off your chart, make a note on your calendar when you get your next period and count this as Day One. Parents recommended repeating this step for three or four months to get a good sense of how long your cycle lasts and how regular it comes. On average, ovulation occurs between days 10 and 17 of a cycle, but this range fluctuates from woman to woman and from month to month, which is why charting your fertility can feel overwhelming.
There are ways, however, to get a more accurate picture of your cycle. Along with your ovulation chart, you can check for changes in your vaginal secretions. Just before you ovulate, your body may produce more clear and wet discharge, but just after you ovulate, your discharge tends to thicken and decrease. The Mayo Clinic also suggested charting out your basal body temperature (your temperature at rest) because it goes up slightly when you ovulate. If you want to try this method out, use a thermometer every morning before you get out of bed, and keep in mind that you're usually the most fertile two or three days before your temperature increases.
As a kid, I figured that getting pregnant was pretty straightforward — and it can be for some people — but as an adult I learned that it's not always so simple. Sometimes the conception process involves kits and charts and thermometers, but I'll be the first to admit that learning about my cycle not only helped me get pregnant — it was also empowering to better understand my body. And so, if you're trying to conceive, you might find it helpful to chart your fertility and get to know your cycle a little more.