Signs of Fertility

Vilma Ruddock
Pregnancy test on fertility chart; © Piotr Adamowicz | Dreamstime.com

There are signs of fertility you can check yourself to help you determine if and when you might be ovulating. These signs help you narrow the most fertile time of your cycle. Your fertility is greatest for at least five days before and on the day of your estimated ovulation, according to the 1995 study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. To be safe, include two to three days after ovulation.

Regular Menstrual Cycle

Menstrual cycle chart; © Guniita | Dreamstime.com

A regular menstrual cycle that occurs around the same length every month is a major sign of fertility. A regular period every 25 to 30 days is good evidence that your eggs develop, you make enough estrogen, you ovulate, and make enough progesterone cycle.

To Use This Sign

To use this sign to help you estimate your fertile window, mark the days of your period on a calendar to record your cycle length each month. One menstrual cycle includes day one of your current period to day one of your next period. Examine your pattern over at least three cycles to get the best picture of when you are ovulating.

Your Ovulation

On the average 28-day menstrual cycle, you will ovulate around days 12 to 14 at mid-cycle. If your cycles are longer, it means you are taking longer to ovulate. Once you ovulate, you get your period 12 to 14 days later, as this is the most predictable part of your cycle length.

No matter​​ the length of your cycle, c​ount back 14 days from a period to get the day you likely ovulated the previous cycle, plus or minus a day or two. If you don't ovulate, your cycle can be shorter or longer depending on the cause.

Cervical Mucus

A change in your cervical mucus during your cycle is sign of the normal increase in your estrogen before ovulation and the rise in progesterone after ovulation. Your reproductive hormones change the quality and quantity of your cervical mucus before and after ovulation. Your most fertile day is the day before ovulation, just before your mucus makes the shift.

Before Ovulation

During the first part of your cycle, as your estrogen level gets higher, the amount of your cervical mucus increases daily, and it gets thinner and clearer. It looks increasingly like egg white, and you can stretch it between your fingers. The mucus on your underwear, toilet, or collected by a finger in your vagina will be the most wet, slippery, ​and thin a day or two just before ovulation to allow sperm to swim through easier. Your most fertile window includes five days before this peak and two days after ovulation.

After Ovulation

Soon after ovulation, as the hormone of ovulation progesterone increases, you will see that your cervical mucus decreases and gets cloudy, sticky, tacky, and loses its stretchiness. Keep a chart of your daily cervical mucus changes and note the day your mucus goes from an estrogen to a progesterone mucus. At any time in your cycle, if you see increased mucus that is thick, murky, and smelly, this could be a sign of vaginal or cervical inflammation or infection.

Other Cervical Changes

As you get closer to ovulation as estrogen increases, your cervix becomes softer and shorter and is harder to reach with the tip​ a finger in your vagina. The opening into your uterus also gets wider to allow sperm easier access to your uterus. After ovulation and early in your cycle, your cervix is less open, is longer, and feels firmer--like the tip of your nose--and is easier to reach with your finger.

Some women are able to evaluate the position of their cervix, but this is is not an easy fertility sign to follow. If you c​heck your cervix daily during a cycle, you might able to detect these differences.

Ovulation Pain

Cramping during ovulation; © Starast | Dreamstime.com

Some women consistently experience pelvic "middle pain" or mittelschmerz around the time of ovulation. This pain or discomfort at mid-cycle on one side or the other ​may be ​caused by pressure from the enlarged egg or when it ovulates from your ovary. Symptoms can last for about 48 hours and occasionally longer but usually end by the next period. If you pay attention to your pelvic symptoms each cycle, you can recognize this fertility sign.

Ruptured Ovarian Cyst

Persistent pain in your belly could be a sign of a large or ruptured ovarian cyst. Sometimes an egg doesn't ovulate from its sac (follicle) and continues to grow with more fluid in the sac, forming a bigger cyst. Cysts can also happen after you ovulate. You may have more severe pain, especially if the cyst ruptures and bleeds. Consult your doctor or emergency room if during any cycle you have the following:

  • Your pain is not relieved by over-the-counter medicine or worsens
  • Your belly gets more distended or tender
  • You feel light-headed or dizzy or faint

Basal Body Temperature Chart

Basal temperature chart; © Sherry Young | Dreamstime.com

A basal (resting) body temperature (BBT) chart gives you a snapshot of a menstrual cycle and is a useful sign of when you most likely ovulated. During a cycle, a set of low temperatures followed by a set of high ones (a biphasic BBT chart) is a reliable sign of ovulation.

The Biphasic Temperature Shift

Your basal or resting, lower temperatures in the first half of your cycle might dip a little lower on the day you ovulate. The day after you ovulate, with the increase in progesterone, your temperature rises and stays up until it falls again the first day of your next period. During a cycle while charting BBT, when your temperature shifts above 98 degrees Fahrenheit and stays up you have most likely ovulated already.

BBT Charting

Each day from day one of your cycle to day one of the next, ​take your resting temperature before you get out of bed or move around and record it on a BBT chart. Three consecutive BBT charts will give you a better idea of whether your ovulation is consistent each cycle. If your cycle lengths vary a lot, doing BBT charts every month helps you keep better track of your fertile time.

Ovulation Predictor or LH Test

Woman looking at pregnancy test; © Gajus | Dreamstime.com

The over-the-counter ovulation predictor kit tests your urine for the surge ​of luteinizing hormone (LH) that triggers ovulation. A strong positive LH test is a good sign of fertility, as it predicts that ovulation will likely occur around 24 to 36 hours later. A positive LH test doesn't predict, however, that you will definitely ovulate.

LH Testing

Start testing your urine about two to three days before the day you think you might ovulate. If you are trying to get pregnant, a positive LH surge helps you time intercourse within the next 24 to 36 hour​s. ​​Do the LH test for at least three cycles to get an average look at when are most fertile ​i​f yo​u are trying to avoi​d getting preg​nant. ​

Put all the Fertility Signs Together

The parameters you can check yourself are each useful signs of fertility. However, if you put them all together you get even more reliable information about your ovulation and your fertile window. There are a number of free fertility charts you can use to keep track of all your information.

For Additional Help

Signs of fertility become easier to evaluate with practice. If you need additional help or you are concerned about your fertility, a ​gynecologist can tell if you are fertile or infertile through fertility testing.

Signs of Fertility