As always, if you are partnered up, it is important to include your partner in your cycle tracking, at the very least letting him know when your fertile window is each month. Trust me, it will make both of your lives much easier! There will be less confusion and more understanding if you both are on the same page.
Let’s get into the action steps you can take to track you cycle! This post will cover the following three methods:
Taking your Basal Body Temperature
Checking your Cervical Mucus
Testing your Urine LH Levels
1. Basal Body Temperature (BBT)
This is the process of taking and recording your temperature every morning upon waking up.
To ensure your temperature is accurate, you'll want to:
Use an oral thermometer that reads to the hundredth decimal (2 decimal points).
Take your temperature the moment you wake up, before doing anything else (before sitting up, before getting out of bed, before taking a sip of water, before kissing your partner, etc.)
Take your temperature at the same time every morning to the best of your ability. In general, it is best to wake with the sunrise. This connects you to your circadian rhythm, which is important for overall hormone health and regulating your cycle, a blog post for another day ;)
Record your temperature in you cycle tracking app or your cycle tracking notebook daily.
During your Follicular phase, your BBT will be lower (usually in the 97-degree F range).
During your Luteal phase, your BBT will be higher (usually in the 98-degree F range).
Ovulation is confirmed by a rise in temperature, aka a “temperature spike”. As you take your temperature daily, you want to look for a 0.4 degree rise. This rise in temperature should be 0.4 degrees above your previously highest temp of your current cycle, and it should remain above that 0.4 degree difference for at least four consecutive days. This spike confirms that you have ovulated and are in your luteal phase of your cycle. For the rest of your luteal phase, your temperature should remain elevated in comparison to your follicular phase temperatures. Your temperature will drop back down with menstruation.
The temperature spike confirms that ovulation has just occurred. Ovulation occurs during the 24 hours before the temperature spike. This is why it will take at least 3 months of cycle tracking to begin to understand your ovulatory cycle.
If you are looking to start off simple, there are many affordable thermometers and cycle tracking journals available on Amazon for under $10. As you begin looking into digital apps, you will find that most apps have a monthly, annual or one-time fees to utilize all their features. Cycle tracking apps I recommend are Daysy, Kindara, and Glow. I love Daysy because it's very user-friendly, intuitive, and perfect for women who are on-the-go every morning. It comes with its own bluetooth thermometer that connects directly to your phone app and logs your temperature for you. You can get $20 off your purchase through my affiliate link here.
Of course, I encourage you to do your research and figure out which option for BBT tracking may be best for you.
2. Cervical Mucus (CM)
This is the practice of visually examining your cervical mucus. It is best practice is to check your CM before urinating. Do this by either wiping your vaginal opening with a sheet of toilet paper, or by inserting a finger into your vaginal opening, and then inspecting your CM. Some women may also be able to simply inspect their underwear for discharge. When examining your CM, you are looking for color and texture.
3 to 4 days after your period bleed, you will not have noticeable CM, or it may be dry or sticky. These are non-fertile days.
About 10 days before ovulation, your CM will become creamy white or cloudy. These are less fertile days.
Once ovulation is close (within a few days), your CM will become wet, watery, and clear. These are semi-fertile days.
Right before and during ovulation, your CM will be wet, stretchy, and slippery like the consistency of a raw egg white. These are your fertile days.
After ovulation, your CM will return to a cloudy or sticky consistency until menstruation. These are non-fertile days.
3. Urine Test
This is the method of testing for your luteinizing hormone (LH) levels via a urine strip. A spike in LH will occur 1-2 days prior to ovulation, indicating that ovulation will be happening within 48 hours.
LH testing should be done with your first sit on the toilet, but can be done twice per day. If you are new to cycle tracking, you may want to perform an LH urine test daily as you begin to understand your cycle. Because you will be unfamiliar with your ovulation when you first start out, I recommend beginning to LH test on day 8 of your cycle and testing every day until you achieve a positive LH test. This gives a large window to not miss your ovulation.
As you become familiar with your ovulatory cycle, performing an LH urine test starting 2 days prior to your expected ovulation is usually sufficient enough to determine ovulation.
If you happen to go a whole cycle of daily LH testing without a positive test, this can mean one of two things: 1) you did not ovulate, which may indicate a hormonal imbalance that needs to be addressed, or 2) your urine testing strips are faulty. Make sure to buy from a reliable brand (such as Proov) and make sure your test strips have not expired.
You can order ovulation testing kits here.
Urine testing is a great confirmation that you are ovulating, and also effective for predicting ovulation. Usually, BBT and cervical mucus can be enough to efficiently track your cycle, but many women who are trying to conceive will also use urine tests to confirm their fertile window.
There are additional urine tests that include checking your progesterone (PdG) during your luteal phase. PdG gives insight into your hormone health. In a healthy female cycle, PdG rises about 5 days after ovulation and slowly drops before the next period. If PdG remains low and does not rise during your luteal phase, this may be considered as the potential cause for irregular periods, spotting, and infertility. If PdG rises in the luteal phases and does not drop when you are expecting to menstruate, this may indicate pregnancy.
As you can see, tracking your hormones can provide a window into your health and is beneficial for more than just confirming ovulation.
As you begin your journey into understanding your unique cycle, I encourage you to utilize all 3 of these methods of tracking!
Expect at least 3 months before you will begin to see a clear pattern in your cycle. If you have an irregular cycle, it may take longer, and I suggest seeking assistance from an acupuncturist, herbalist, nutritionist, functional medicine practitioner, or someone of the like to help regulate your cycle.
If you are using cycle tracking for a better pregnancy outcome, use your fertile window as a time for you and your partner to enjoy extra time in the sheets together, and always remember to have fun!
If you are using cycle tracking as a form of pregnancy prevention, I encourage you to practice other non-hormonal methods of safe sex and protection as you familiarize yourself with your cycle. Always avoid insemination for at least one week leading up to your ovulation and for the 24-48 hour window of your ovulation.
If you are using cycle tracking to connect with your body for other health reasons, I encourage you to work with a women’s health professional who can offer you guidance, support, and treatment plans based on your symptoms and goals. If you are in San Diego, you can schedule directly with me!
For more guidance on your cycle tracking journey and to receive a specialized treatment plan based on your needs and goals, schedule an Initial Consultation with Dr. Cat.
Disclaimer: The information posted here is not a substitute for actual health advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider(s) before deciding to go this route. Please be aware of the risks or undesired outcomes associated with improper use of cycle tracking.
This post contains affiliate links.