26 October 2009

Taking Cues From Your Body: Signs of Ovulation

Changes in Your Basal Body Temperature (BBT)

Your Basal Body Temperature (BBT) is your body's base temperature first thing in the morning, after at least 4 solid hours of sleep. Your body must be at rest for at least this long, or your BBT for the day is not accurate.

For the first half of your cycle, your BBT is generally low. While every woman is different, it is accepted that a woman's BBT prior to ovulation is about 97.5 degrees. It usually (there's that word again--take it with a grain of salt) will not fluctuate more than .2 of a degree during this time. Within a day or two after ovulation occurs, about midway through your cycle, your temperature will jump anywhere from .2 to .5 of a degree overnight. This may not sound like much, but when you are charting (see "Charting Your BBT") you will see what a difference it makes. Your BBT will stay high until your estrogen levels drop, right before your next period.

Cervical Mucus

Once you start paying attention to your body's signs and signals, you will discern a pattern. At the beginning of your cycle, you will of course see blood and shed lining. Over the next 2-7 days (just an average), the amount of blood will decrease until you feel very dry. Generally speaking, there is little to no cervical mucus for the first few days after your period ends. If you have short cycles and longer periods, you may start to notice cervical mucus right away. Gradually over the next week or so, the amount of discharge increases while changing consistency. At first, it will be white or cloudy, and if you were to attempt to stretch it between your fingers, you would find it would not stretch at all. The closer you get to ovulation, the discharge will turn clear and become very elastic (stretching several inches between your fingertips), resembling egg-whites. The most "egg-white" discharge will be found immediately before and at ovulation, and it most conducive to conception.

The best way to monitor and observe your cervical mucus--get ready for this--is to reach up inside your vagina and get a good sample on your fingers. Some woman would rather wipe and look closely at their toilet tissue, but you can miss a lot this way. The very best way is to get a sample of the mucus directly from your cervix (see below).

Changes in Your Cervix

What IS your cervix? It is the opening into your uterus, where sperm passes through to fertilize your eggs. Many women have no problems finding their cervix, while some aren't even sure what to do look for. The best way to do it--and there's no gentle way to proceed here--is to reach your middle finger (since it is the longest) into your vaginal opening while squatting or sitting on the toilet. Keep reaching until you feel a bump that feels almost like the tip of your nose. It will be easier or harder to find your cervix depending on where you are in your cycle.

At the beginning of your cycle, your cervix is low, hard, and closed. As ovulation approaches, your body's hormones soften your cervix, pull it higher, and open it up to allow for sperm to enter (and to allow the sperm-friendly, egg-white discharge to lead the path to the egg). Checking your cervix can be tricky to master; it is also uncomfortable for some women. If this is the issue, don't fret. You can still use the other signs and symptoms to help predict ovulation.

Mittleschmerz, or "Middle Pain"

Sometimes, in the middle of your cycle around the time of ovulation, you will feel a slight twinge of pain or some dull cramps in your lower abdomen. Most likely, you will feel it on just one side, since one ovary is usually responsible for the releasing of an egg each cycle. This pain occurs as the eggs breaks out of the ovary, but it is not something every woman experiences.

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