If getting pregnant is all about timing, ovulation is like an alarm going off in your body.
Remind me why I should care about ovulation.
Women are typically most fertile in the few days leading up to and during ovulation. Whether you want to get pregnant or you’re trying to avoid it, knowing when you’re doing it is news you can use. Anatomically speaking, ovulation means that your follicle holding a mature egg bursts and releases the egg into the fallopian tube, where it has the opportunity to join up with sperm and fertilize (we Skimm'd how it works below). Practically speaking, this means that — depending on whether or not you’re trying to make a baby — you should or shouldn’t use protection during your ovulation window.
How do I find out when I’m ovulating?
There’s an app for that. Fertility tracker apps are one of the easiest ways to get a better idea of your menstrual cycle — both when you’ll have your period and when you’ll ovulate. In most apps, you log your period dates (spoiler: not every woman’s cycle is 28 days) and it predicts when it’s go, er, O-time. But these apps are not exact. One study found that their accuracy in predicting ovulation was around 21%. Another study found that only three out of 33 apps tested predicted the precise fertile window.
If apps are often inaccurate, why should I bother?
Even if they’re not nailing the exact days of ovulation, these apps will make you more aware of your menstrual cycle and when your period’s coming. And being more attuned to your body can be helpful if you’re struggling to get pregnant. Beyond pregnancy, some of these trackers can help you take note of how your cycle impacts your energy or mood.
Which apps should I look into?
Clue…A comprehensive and popular app, Clue will ask you to input a whole host of symptoms (flow, mood, pain, sex drive, discharge) and analyze it all to predict when you can expect your period and ovulation. It’s free with a paid option that gives you things like monthly cycle summaries via email.
Flo…Flo has the option to sync with your Apple Health app and it uses artificial intelligence (rather than a fixed algorithm) to track your symptoms each month, so it gets to know you more and more over time. It’s free with a premium option that includes things like video content and unlimited access to a “health assistant” which is like a way more official version of texting a friend.
Eve…If you want your app to really feel like a friend, meet Eve. This app is a little voicier than the others, with fun features like your daily “cyclescope” (aka a horoscope-inspired writeup of your day based on where you are in your cycle) plus daily sex quizzes and an active community. It’s more focused on tracking your period than getting pregnant. It’s free with a premium option that includes comparative insights and private messaging.
Glow…This one’s made by the same people as Eve, but more specifically focused on getting pregnant. It has all the standard features of the other apps like tracking period and ovulation, plus the ability to connect your partner to the app’s data. Bonus: the same company also has apps for tracking your pregnancy and baby milestones. It’s free with a premium version that offers comparative insights and in-depth articles about fertility.
Ovia…For the competitive among us, this one might give you an extra push (no labor pun intended) to keep logging your symptoms. It gives you a daily “fertility score” so you can see how likely you are to conceive. Oh, and it’s totally free.
Period Tracker (by GP Apps)...Simple name, simple interface. This one’s great for the woman who doesn’t want too many bells and whistles, but still wants to know the 411 on her fertile window. You can track your period, weight, symptoms, and mood. It’s free with a premium option that includes things like a library of ebooks about your health and fertility.
Cycles...This one zeroes in on the science of fertility itself, for the aspiring doctor (or Grey’s Anatomy fan) in all of us. It's free with a pay-to-play version that lets you privately share info with your partner so they can understand that PMS is no joke or track your cycle along with you.
Should I be worried about privacy?
OK. So, what’s another way to figure out when I’m ovulating?
Get yourself a kit. Ovulation kits are one of the ways to catch the exact time when you’re most likely to be ovulating. Here’s how it works. The strips (which you can buy at a drugstore) detect the level of the luteinizing hormone in your urine. When it’s high, you’re in ovulation mode. Similar to a pregnancy test — and manufactured by some of the same brands, like ClearBlue — you’ll see a light or dark line next to the control line, depending on whether your LH is low or high. If it’s high, you know what to do. Good news: some of these tests are at least 90% accurate in predicting ovulation, depending on your menstrual cycle. Note that if you have a condition like PCOS, this may not apply, as LH levels are high throughout your cycle.
Things seem to be heating up.
Yep. Maybe you should take your temperature. Really. Your “basal body temperature” aka resting temp, could be your ticket to understanding when you’re ovulating. That’s because ovulation can cause your temperature to increase slightly — we’re talking about half a degree — from your basal temp. Try tracking your daily temps in an ovulation app or with good old fashioned pen and paper around the same time every day. When you see a rise in your temp over a three day span or longer, that’s a clue you're ovulating. Now you can plan ahead for next month’s cycle.
Dear diary, how can I keep track of all of this?
You can wear your fertility on your sleeve. Quite literally. Wearable trackers like the Ava bracelet ($259) and Tempdrop ($159) monitor your physiological patterns to predict fertility. Daysy ($299) involves taking your temperature, and with Mira ($199), you plug a pee stick into a Tamagotchi-looking machine that serves as a kind of fertility crystal ball.
The birds and the bees is a lot more complicated than we were led to believe. No matter where you are in your cycle or life stage, arming yourself with as much information as possible should feel empowering, not intimidating, if and when the time comes to grow your family.
Skimm'd by Becky Murray, Avery Carpenter Forrey, and Jane Ackermann
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It involves a lot more than just having your period roughly once a month.