Mother nature is truly amazing. Believe it or not, all of a woman’s immature eggs (oocytes), hundreds and thousands of them, are already lying dormant in her ovaries when she is born. Theoretically each one of them could one day become a baby, in practice of course this doesn’t happen. On average “only” 500 of these oocytes will ever ripen during a woman’s lifetime. All the others are absorbed by the body over time, until no more remain and the menopause begins.
What happens at ovulation?
Very simply - roughly once a month a follicle ripens and releases an egg, usually about 10 to 16 days before your period starts. The egg develops in the ovaries and is released into the fallopian tube where it continues on its journey towards the womb. The follicle in which the egg matured transforms into the “corpus luteum”, which produces progesterone, needed to build up the lining of the womb where the fertilized egg can then nest. If the egg is not fertilized it dies and menstruation begins.
This whole process is controlled by hormones and repeats itself every cycle. Some women can feel when they ovulate, a tightening or lower abdominal pain called “Mittelschmerz”, which can last a few hours. Breast tenderness, cervical mucus changes and a heightened libido can also be indications of ovulation. But what other options are available for ovulation detection, and just how reliable and easy to use are they?
The Rhythm or Calendar method
The Rhythm or calendar method is a natural form of family planning which involves tracking your menstrual cycle history. Using a calendar, you will need to record 6 to 12 menstrual cycles and update your history every month.
Advantages: This is a very cheap and easy way to track your cycle and predict ovulation. All you need is a calendar and pen.
Disadvantages: The calendar method is inaccurate and unreliable. Very few women have a cycle that is really exactly the same length every month, there are often small irritations which change the length of the cycle and therefore the prediction for the next month. As a method of contraception, the rhythm method would be considered the least reliable method. At best the rhythm method can be used as a basic menstrual diary which provides clues rather than predictions and certainly cannot confirm ovulation.
Ovulation Prediction Kits: Peeing on sticks
These tests are urine-based tests which work in a similar way to pregnancy tests, however these sticks measure the luteinising hormone (LH) which triggers ovulation rather than the pregnancy hormone Beta-HCG. You buy a packet of sticks, pee on a stick every morning and as you get closer to ovulation the stripe on the stick gets stronger.
Advantages: Other than the sticks, you don’t need any other equipment. Ovulation test strips can usually be bought in large packs to last several months.
Disadvantages: They can be difficult to read - if you don’t have a very strong LH surge it can be difficult to tell whether the test line is as dark as the control line. Because they measure the LH levels in your urine, they can signal that your body is “trying” to ovulate but cannot confirm it actually did. It’s possible for LH to surge and an egg to never release. They may also give positive results when they reach a defined concentration threshold of LH, these positive results are false-positives—they don’t mean you’re ovulating.
Natural family planning: observing and recording temperature and cervical mucus
A minute rise in your basal body temperature (your temperature just before you wake in the morning) is a reliable indication of ovulation. Your body temperature rises on average by about 0.2°C at ovulation and only drops again when your period begins. This and other changes in the body, for example changes in the viscosity of the cervical fluid, are utilised for Natural Family Planning (also called the “Sympto Thermal Method”). You need an analogue or digital thermometer which can measure to within two decimal places and a graph to record your temperature curve. The combination of temperature measurement and the statistical recording and analysis in the app, give you an optimal overall understanding of your cycle. You know exactly when your fertile days begin and when ovulation takes place and you can supplement this information with your own personal observations. And it really is that simple – when you know exactly when you ovulate it´s much easier to plan or prevent a pregnancy. femSense spares you the hard work involved in the traditional temperature method, the time-consuming charting and interpretation of other methods the hassle of peeing on sticks and the invasiveness of some ovulation test gimmicks. For an average of about €26 per cycle or less than €1 per day you get a reliable, accurate system that gives you all the information you need to narrow down your fertile window.
Advantages: By following a temperature curve and observing the consistency of your cervical mucus, you can narrow down the time of your ovulation. This method is accurate and inexpensive and also used as a method of contraception.
Disadvantages: The Sympto Thermal method has a comprehensive set of rules and is very complex. Getting up at night, drinking alcohol or having a restless sleep can interfere with your basal body temperature so that you cannot evaluate your curve accurately or reliably. In order for the system to be used effectively you have to measure every day at the same time and observe and record changes in cervical fluids, it is time consuming and restricting.
Period tracker apps: Digital ovulation predictors
Period Tracker or Cycle Tracker apps are basically the digital version of the original calendar method. They are convenient because almost all of us now have our smartphone with us at all times. The range of products available is huge. Each app works using slightly different parameters. With some of them you enter the beginning of your last period and get a forecast for your fertile window, others allow you to plot a temperature curve online and use the app for analysis.
Advantages: as long as you have your smartphone with you, you always have an overview of your menstrual cycle with you too. Most apps allow you to personalize and supplement your records. This way you can learn more about your cycle, how it works and its’ influence on your body.
Disadvantages: most apps evaluate the data using averages and algorithms that may not apply to every woman. This means that while they can function as menstrual calendars and provide indications as to when the most fertile days are, they predict rather than confirm ovulation and are therefore neither reliable nor accurate in determining ovulation. If your personal data security is important to you then you should also be aware that many of these apps sell personal data to third parties for advertising purposes.
femSense: Detects ovulation discreetly, reliably and accurately
The femSense patch has a very precise temperature sensor which continuously measures your body temperature. Continuous measurement gives femSense temperature curves which the app can then compare in order to pinpoint the tiny rise in temperature which indicates ovulation. You wear the patch under your arm during your most fertile days and read it using your smartphone. Advantages: femSense combines the accuracy of temperature measurement with the comfort of a digital menstrual calendar. femSense does all the hard work for you, the measuring, recording and interpretation of the information. All you have to do is follow the instructions from the app and read the patch once a day.
Disadvantages: The cost. But is it really that expensive? When you break it down the cost of femSense works out at less than €1 a day for an average cycle length. femSense is a certified medical device, with a CE Mark, developed and manufactured in the EU. We think the price is fair for a high-quality technical product which was researched and developed over several years. With femSense you get a discreet, accurate and reliable means of determining your ovulation.