If you are planning to conceive you would have heard people say to you that you shouldn’t travel, jump, bend or lift weights during ovulation. You would have also heard that intercourse during ovulation guarantees conception. How far is that all true? What is ovulation? Why is that period so important while planning to conceive and how to track it? To know the answer to all these read below

What is Ovulation?
         Ovulation is the period where the egg is released from the ovary and stays in the fallopian tube for 12 to 24 hours to be fertilized. If you have a typical 28- day cycle the ovulation begins on the 14th day. However, the cycle length varies from person to person and hence the days of ovulation vary too.

Why is ovulation so important?
         Ovulation is the time period where the egg waits for 48 hours to get fertilized. If you are planning to conceive then knowing when your ovulation is happening is important since intercourse during ovulation gives you a higher chance of conception.

What happens during ovulation?
         In a person with a regular cycle, a follicle carrying the egg is released from the ovary anywhere between the 12th to 14th day of periods. It happens from either the right or left ovary (alternate sides each cycle). The follicle then starts to mature between the 14th to 16th day of periods and ruptures anywhere between the 16th to 18th day and releases the egg from the fallopian tube. In some this even delays till the 20th day of the period. Once the egg is released it waits  for sperm, if fertilization doesn’t take place it sheds after two weeks as periods.

Why would my healthcare provider advise me to have intercourse on alternate days during ovulation?
         Having intercourse every day will not affect the sperm quality or motility but studies have shown that count reduces when intercourse is done every day since the time gap is short. Therefore it is recommended to have intercourse on alternate days so that there will be more sperm that tries to attach to the egg and the odds of conception are higher.

Should you avoid certain activities during ovulation? 
         Studies have shown that vigorous exercising for more than 5 hours per week has resulted in anovulation (where no ovulation takes place) in 50 percent of the women whereas exercising 30 minutes every day (3.5 hours per week) has avoided anovulation and improved the chance of fertilization. Stress during ovulation produces a hormone called leptin which is found to delay the process of conception. This is why you will be advised to avoid stress during ovulation. Traveling doesn’t affect ovulation in any way. It’s a myth that it affects ovulation. But if you are traveling between time zones moving from one country to another then it does affect ovulation. Lifting weights during ovulation doesn’t affect conception in any way but  post ovulation if heavyweights are lifted it may affect the process of implantation. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, caffeine intake, and eating mercury content fish also disturbs ovulation. Also 30 percent of anovulation is due to lifestyle factors.

Why is it important to track ovulation?
         You might question that you have regular periods and why there is a need to track ovulation when you can just have intercourse on alternate days. Tracking ovulation is important since not every time your follicle will mature and rupture  the egg on the same day. There are cycles where the ovulation period delays and there are cycles where there will be anovulation (a cycle where no ovulation takes place) happening too. Therefore for knowing all these tracking ovulation is very much important since it helps you to know the most fertile days.

Ways to track ovulation
1. Physical signs
         Your body temperature increases due to the increase in hormones therefore you will start feeling feverish. Another sign to look out for is that you will feel pain on one side of your tummy (since the egg is released from one side of the ovary). You will also notice tenderness in your breast region. You will notice that your cervix gets higher, becomes more soft, and opens slightly (It is difficult to assess this properly on your own).

Pros: The most simple tool for assessing ovulation. Helpful for women who are newly planning to conceive.
Cons: Not much reliable since all these can occur any day between your cycle too, not just during ovulation.

2. Ovulation tracking apps
         There are lots of free apps that claim to predict ovulation even in women with irregular periods. So how reliable are they? According to research, not more than 21 percent. Therefore it is not recommended to use an app that predicts ovulation based on dates or months if you are planning to conceive.

3. Cervical mucus
         According to science, your cervical mucus will be dry and sticky from day 1-6, Creamy from day 7-9, Wet and clear from day 10-12, and from day 13 it is egg white. Therefore the most fertile days are when you have wet and clear or egg white mucus.

Pros: Easier to predict and free and safe and reliable
Cons: There is a high chance that the cervical mucus method does not work since the look and feel of the mucus can change based on several outside factors.

4. Ovulation kit method
         It involves predicting ovulation using an ovulation kit that looks similar to a pregnancy testing home kit. The days when both the lines appear, the brightest are your ovulation days and you can intercourse within 48 hours (two days) from the bright lines that have appeared. On the days before and after ovulation you will see that only one line is bright and the other would not be much visible or very light.

Pros: Exactly predicts your days of ovulation and more comfortable alternative to cervical mucus
Cons: Expensive. Can give false positives at times. Will not work in case of anovulation or delayed ovulation.

5. Follicular study method
         This would be the most preferred method by gynecologists for tracking ovulation while planning to conceive. It involves performing a transvaginal scan that gives information on the thickness of your endometrium and the stage the follicle is in (whether it has been released, matured, or ruptured). It accurately gives you information on when you can have intercourse and when you shouldn’t.

Pros: Gives information exactly even on anovulation and delayed ovulation. 100 percent accurate.
Cons: Some women find it very uncomfortable since the probe is inserted into the vaginal canal. Not suitable for women with vaginismus