How to pinpoint ovulation?

Q: I am planning to get pregnant but I don’t know how to tell when I am ovulating. Can you please tell me how to find out?

A: Congratulations on trying to have a baby. I hope you are taking some vitamins with folic acid in them — if not, please start, because over the last few years some very exciting data has come out showing that women who conceive while taking at least 400 micrograms a day of folic acid significantly decrease the chance of having a baby with birth defects.

If you are having regular periods, it is likely that you are ovulating. Most women ovulate about 14 days before they get their next period. Counting day one of your period as day 1 of your cycle, if you have a 26 day cycle, you are probably ovulating at day 12. If you have a 30 day cycle, you are probably ovulating at day 16. And remember, sperm can hang around a bit, and the egg remains “fertilizable” for a day, so you want to time intercourse every day or every other day around ovulation time, giving yourself a little “window” on each side.

Now if you want to be fancy about it, you can buy at most pharmacies a kit called an ovulation predictor kit, which measures in the urine the surge of a hormone called luteinizing hormone, or LH, which causes ovulation. That will give you about a 12 hour notice to let you hit the exact time of ovulation. And if you do a couple of months of ovulation predictor kits and it doesn’t appear that you are ovulating, talk with your doctor, because that’s very easy to fix.

There are women who measure their temperatures every morning (first thing in the morning, before even getting out of bed to go to the bathroom). The day before ovulation, you are supposed to notice a temperature drop, and then at ovulation, you should see about a half a degree Fahrenheit rise, which should be maintained through period time. Unfortunately, so called basal body temperatures are not absolutely reliable, and most physicians think the ovulation predictor kits give you better information.

I would encourage you to have a good time, and relax – and enjoy the first time in your life you don’t have to worry about contraception.

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