As more and more women learn about the importance of tracking their menstrual cycles, ovulation calculators have become more popular. Designed to help you gauge your fertility window, ovulation calculators and similar apps have become a useful tool among women trying and avoiding pregnancy.
However, there begs the question: how accurate are these apps? Moreover, how do you choose a reliable ovulation calculator? Here’s a quick rundown on key points you need to know to better understand how they work and how they can help you.
Tracking Your Ovulation and Fertility Window
Before delving into ovulation trackers and similar apps, it’s crucial to fully understand the menstrual cycle first. More accurately, you need to know more about two key aspects of the cycle directly related to these programs: ovulation and the fertility window.
Ovulation is a major event in the menstrual cycle. It refers to when one of the ovaries releases an egg into the fallopian tube. The egg stays there for 12 to 24 hours, waiting for a sperm to fertilize it, leading to pregnancy. If it’s not fertilized, it triggers menstruation.
The fertility window refers to a period of time in the cycle where women are more likely to become pregnant. It takes into account your ovulation (24 hours), the number of days sperm can last inside the body (five days), and an additional day for extra measure. This results in a six-day window where chances of conceiving become significantly higher.
What is an Ovulation Calculator?
Ovulation calculator refers to a program that helps you gauge your next ovulation and fertility window. The term “ovulation calculator” is often used interchangeably with other tools such as calendars and charts. While they use different platforms to present their results, they all perform the same primary function: to help you determine when you’re most likely to ovulate and become pregnant.
You can find ovulation calculators on different websites online, primarily in parenting and women’s health websites. Some mobile apps also incorporate them as features in their period-tracking platforms.
How Does an Ovulation Calculator Work?
The algorithm an ovulation calculator uses highly depends on the number of variables you can input into the program. For example, the most basic ovulation calculators only need you to submit two key pieces of information: your menstrual cycle’s average length and the first day of your last period.
The way these basic calculators work is simple. First, it takes your information and fits them into its algorithm. Next, it assumes that your luteal phase (the time between ovulation and the first day of the period) is the average of 14 days. Then it will count backward from the projected last day of your next menstrual cycle.
To illustrate: label the first day of your period as Day 1. As an example, assume that your cycle lasts 29 days and your luteal phase lasts 15 days. To approximate when your next ovulation is, subtract 15 from 19. The result, 14, means that on Day 14, you will more likely ovulate. Simply add three days before and after this date to get an estimated fertility window.
How Accurate are Ovulation Calculators?
In an ideal world, everything works perfectly, and every woman has the same regular cycle each month. However, that’s not how real life works. Each woman is different, and their cycles can vary per person and even per month. Thus, it’s exceedingly hard to pinpoint the exact moment a woman ovulates.
A 2018 study revealed that these apps’ accuracy in predicting ovulation was no better than 21 percent. For further information, the study focused on programs that used cycle-length information and women who are actively trying to conceive.
With that said, don’t let the dismal percentage dissuade you from using ovulation calculators. Today, there are more sophisticated apps that take into account more variables in predicting ovulation. Some of these factors include basal body temperature, cervical mucus, and even abdominal pain. As their algorithms become more complex, the more accurate their predictions become. Hence, if you’re in the market for a reliable ovulation calculator, look for an app that considers these variables.
Identifying the Time of Ovulation
Is there any way to pinpoint the exact date of ovulation? The simple answer is no. With current technology, it’s exceedingly difficult to gauge the exact moment when a woman ovulates. Different factors, such as food, sleep, and stress, can affect your menstrual cycle, which may cause variation in lengths and patterns.
The next best thing you can do is use other methods and tools aside from ovulation calculators. Installing period tracking apps, monitoring basal body temperature, and using ovulation predictor kits are other things you can try to gauge your ovulation.
Most importantly, make sure to take care of your body and your overall health to remain in tip-top shape—whether you’re trying to make a baby or not. If you feel that anything might be wrong, don’t hesitate to consult with your doctor.