Am I ovulating? It can be a big source of frustration for my patients having to check for a series of days but it is often essential to achieve pregnancy.

It is important to get the testing done to determine ovulation. If these tests indicate that the woman is not ovulating, or that she has irregular cycles, treatments are available to correct the problem and increase the chances of a successful pregnancy.

Ovulation is the release of an egg from a woman’s ovaries and is essential for getting pregnant. Ovulation is spontaneously triggered about 36-40 hours after blood levels of a hormone called luteinizing hormone (LH) rise. This is called the LH surge. Once released from the ovary, the egg is picked up by and travels down the fallopian tube where it can meet sperm to become fertilized.

A problem with ovulation is a common cause of infertility. For a couple who is trying to achieve pregnancy, knowing when the woman is about to ovulate can be particularly helpful in planning when to have sex. If a woman is trying to find the reason she is not getting pregnant, it is helpful to know if she is ovulating. Having regular menstrual periods between 21 and 35 days in length accompanied by menstrual cramps is a good indication of ovulation. There are several ways to test for ovulation, including the basal body temperature (BBT) chart, urine test kits to measure LH levels, blood tests to measure levels of certain hormones and transvaginal ultrasound.

Estradiol (a type of the hormone estrogen) is produced by the follicle as it grows and levels go up quickly just before ovulation. If fertility medicines are being used to cause a woman to ovulate, estradiol levels are checked more often to keep an eye on the growth of the follicle, but it is not used to tell you when you might ovulate.

A rise in LH levels in the blood can predict when the follicle (sac where the egg ripens) is ripe and ready for ovulation. Because LH is released in pulses or short bursts, the LH surge is not always found by a single blood or urine test.

Increased progesterone levels in the blood a week before the menstrual period usually indicates ovulation has occurred but cannot predict when it will occur.

There are many apps now that assist in predicting ovulation. Which app are you currently tracking your cycles with?