Written by:

Dr Aynsley Cresswell

BA (Oxon), BMBCh, DRCOG, DFSRH, MRCGP

Dr Cresswell is a general practitioner in the North East having recently moved to Yorkshire from Oxford. Aynsley has a special interest in women's and sexual health, and she has gained diplomas in both of these specialist areas. She has a keen interest in teaching and also enjoys caring for patients with long-term health conditions in her day-today practice.

The signs of ovulation

In this article:

  • When is the best time to get pregnant?
  • Length of cycle
  • Using body temperature
  • Cervical Mucus
  • Main points

The signs of ovulation

When is the best time to get pregnant?

If you are trying to conceive, it is important to have knowledge of the length of your menstrual cycle and an idea of the hormones which are contributing. In the first instance, it is advised to have regular sexual intercourse 2-3 times per week throughout your cycle. However, if you want to work out when is the best time to get pregnant and calculate the date of ovulation, you may want to use an ovulation calculator, or you can identify the signs and symptoms of ovulation yourself. You may wish to monitor ovulation by using ovulation sticks (where the level of Luteinizing hormone (LH) during the LH surge with ovulation is detected on a urine sample). Otherwise, you can calculate ovulation by the length of your menstrual cycle, daily readings of body temperature, and changes to your cervical mucus.

Length of cycle

Your cycle starts on day 1 of your period until the day before the next period starts. On average, this is 28 days, and ovulation occurs around 10-16 days before your next period. The egg released can only survive for 24 hours, and for conception to occur, sperm must meet the egg within that time frame. You can get pregnant up to 2 days after you ovulate, but because sperm survive for 7 days, it is possible to get pregnant up to 7 days before you ovulate if you have sex during this time. Therefore, by tracking your cycle you may be able to predict your most fertile days.

Using body temperature

There is a small rise in body temperature after ovulation and a digital thermometer (or a specific family planning thermometer) can measure when you have ovulated. (Normal ear or forehead thermometers cannot detect the small changes in temperature so cannot reliably be used). An early morning temperature, before you get out of bed or have anything to eat or drink, must be taken and ovulation can be detected by three consecutive days of a higher temperature compared with the 6 days previously. This increase will be very small (approximately 0.2 °C), and for some it does not give a completely accurate indication of ovulation due to the strict circumstances under which measurements have to be taken.

Cervical Mucus

There is a change in the texture and volume of discharge during different points in your menstrual cycle. At the beginning of the cycle, there will not be much mucus at all, but as hormone levels rise in preparation for ovulation, you may find that discharge becomes thicker, creamier and sticky, which can indicate the most fertile stage in the cycle. Right before ovulation the mucus will become wetter like raw egg white, and this is when you are at your most fertile.

Tracking all of this can be useful. Fertility charts can be downloaded from the internet, and there are now several smart phone apps and period trackers to record this information.

Read more information on issues with ovulation and hormones and the monthly cycle.

Main points

  • If you want to work out when is the best time to get pregnant and calculate the date of ovulation, you can use an ovulation calculator, or you can identify the signs and symptoms of ovulation yourself.
  • You can predict ovulation, and therefore the best time to get pregnant, by tracking factors such as the length of your cycle, your body temperature, and the texture and volume of cervical mucus.
  • There is a small rise in body temperature after ovulation and a digital thermometer (or a specific family planning thermometer) can measure when you have ovulated.
  • The texture and volume of cervical mucus changes during different points in your menstrual cycle, becoming thicker at the most fertile stage of your cycle.