Getting pregnant can be such a hit and miss scenario. It’s supposed to be so easy, so natural, and yet for some women, it takes literally months to happen. If your period is irregular, which in itself is a mighty inconvenience at the best of times, when you’re trying to conceive, it can be very difficult trying to work out when you’re most likely to do so based on your cycle. It becomes crucial to determine when you are ovulating so that you can have the very best chance of taking advantage of optimum timing. But how do you find out?

There are two main ways of doing this. One involves taking note of physical indications such as your basal body temperature and your cervical mucous changes. The first requires you to keep a daily record of your body temperature taken upon waking. A woman’s body temperature elevates right after ovulation.

You need to draw up a chart or you may be able to obtain a ready-made one from your doctor, pharmacist or the Internet and take your temperature daily, starting with the first day of menstruation. That is Day One of your cycle. Don’t even get out of bed or use the bathroom before doing this. Mark down the result on the chart. Always use the same thermometer, and while a regular one is fine, you can buy special ones called basal body thermometers. On your chart, note down any unusual circumstances such as feeling unwell, sleep disturbances or fever due to illness. You might also like to keep notes about your mucous discharges. Keep this chart daily and you will find that roughly a couple of weeks after Day One, there is a slight rise in your body temperature, usually about 0.4 to 0.6 degrees Fahrenheit. It will climb a little higher over the following two or three days. The chart will begin to show evidence of temperature fluctuations and once you have completed a couple of menstrual cycles, you will be able to see when you have ovulated. Over several months, you’ll be able to determine an average based on the results and pinpoint with more accuracy, when you are likely to ovulate.

Observing cervical mucous changes entails examining the mucous secreted by your cervix and once you understand the various consistencies, you will be able to determine where you are in your cycle. This method doesn’t require keeping records over a few months as your body produces mucous of different consistencies in accordance with the changes in your hormones as your cycle runs its course.

What you need to do is take a sample of your cervical secretions with your clean fingers, from the outer lips of your vagina and stretch it between your thumb and index finger. This is made easier if you are able to bear down a little to encourage it to exit your body. If there is little to no discharge present, you should feel fairly dry around your vulva and will probably be unsuccessful at conceiving. This is the pre-ovulation phase. Upon nearing ovulation, you’ll notice that the discharge is more moist and sticky and creamy in color. Stretching it between your fingers, it will tend to break easily at around the 1cm mark. There is a slight chance of conception. Over the next few days, the mucous will increase in quantity. When you notice the discharge is thin and clear and resembles egg whites, and when you can stretch the mucous for several centimetres before it breaks (if it breaks), you are likely ovulating and there is an excellent chance you will conceive. The consistency of your discharge is optimum to allow the sperm to travel to meet the egg you have released. At this stage, sperm can survive for up to 72 hours in the cervical mucous, much longer than at any other time during your cycle. After ovulation, your mucous will return to the non-stretchy phase again and you will notice that dryness reappears.

One thing to consider is that cervical secretions can change due to various things such as vaginal infections or whether you are taking medication and also, if you have had unprotected sex, there may be residual semen in your vagina.

If My Period Is Not Regular, How Do I Know When I’m Ovulating?