There are some signs and symptoms you can keep track of each cycle to know if and when you are ovulating – aka reaping the benefits of having progesterone around for the second half of your cycle!
1. Your cycles are like clockwork.
A regular cycle is a good sign that your hormones are ebbing and flowing the way they should be. The opposite of that, irregular cycles – meaning unpredictable in length, varying in flow, varying PMS symptoms, can be a sign of an anovulatory (no ovulation happening) cycle – so some cycles you may be ovulating, and other times not.
2. When your period starts, it STARTS.
No dilly-dawdling around with some spotting for a couple days. Your period is stimulated by your hormones (mostly progesterone + a small amount of estrogen) dropping – if you haven’t ovulated that cycle there is no progesterone to “drop” dramatically to stimulate your period, so an anovulatory cycle has more of a gradual decline in only estrogen at the end of the cycle, resulting in a couple annoying days of spotting and then finally you get your period.
3. You can feel ovulation happening!
Around mid-cycle you may feel a sensation in one side of your lower abdomen. It can be a light sensation, or a more noticeable cramping. This is called Mittelschmerz. It is the nerve feedback coming from the ovary indicating that the follicle is rupturing and releasing the egg.
4. And of course, my favourite, tracking your BBT!
If you are tracking your oral temperature each morning, there will be a pronounced spike in your temperature (~0.3 increase of a degree Celsius) after ovulation has occurred because the progesterone that is now in your system. An erratic BBT chart, fluctuating up and down with no clear follicular plateau or luteal plateau can be a good indication that you may not be ovulating, and that we should work to get your hormones back in balance! For a more detailed explanation on tracking BBT and an example chart, check out my post on the fertile window.
5. Testing your blood levels of progesterone.
If the above 4 listed signs and symptoms are still unclear, you can get a blood test to asses your progesterone levels. Ideally, this test is done 7 days prior to your next expected period – which can be a little tricky to time if your periods are irregular, but do your best! The timing of this test is important because 7 days prior to your next period is roughly 7 days after you have ovulated, which gives your corpus luteum (what’s left of the follicle in your ovary after ovulation has happened) enough time to be pumping out sufficient levels of progesterone to be measured. A low serum progesterone level at this time can indicate that ovulation has not happened, and the only progesterone your body is getting is coming in small amounts from your adrenal glands.
Stay tuned for my next post on some factors to consider that my be impacting or impairing your ovulation.