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Not sure you're pregnant? Learn how to track your cycle

So you've decided you want to make a baby. Congrats! Now's a good time to start tracking your menstrual cycle. That way, you can get a better idea of when you're ovulating and most likely to get pregnant.

How do I track my cycle?

Mark the first day of your period on your calendar. This is Day 1 of your cycle. A cycle ends when your next period starts. A typical cycle is 28 days long—but let's be honest—how often does that really happen? For many women, a "regular" cycle can be anywhere between 24 to 38 days or even longer!

During your cycle, your hormone levels can go up and down. They're usually low at Day 1—which is why you're sometimes depressed or crabby at the start of your period. (It's not your fault!)

In addition to counting the days, making note of any symptoms related to your cycle can help you track its stages. Here are some common period issues you might take notes on:

  • Premenstrual syndrome—cramping, headaches, moodiness, forgetfulness, bloating or breast tenderness.
  • Whether your first day of bleeding was earlier or later than expected.
  • How heavy your bleeding was on its heaviest days. (How many pads or tampons did you go through?)
  • Whether you had pain or bleeding that caused you to miss school or work.
  • How long your period lasted, and whether it was shorter or longer than the month before.

All this information can come in handy if you're trying to get pregnant or you aren't sure whether you should do a pregnancy test.

How does tracking help me get pregnant?

You are more likely to get pregnant when you have sex around the time of ovulation. You ovulate when your ovaries send out an egg, which happens about two weeks (or 14 days) before the start of your next cycle. The five days before ovulation and the day of are the best times to try to get pregnant. 

If you've been tracking your cycle, you will have a much better idea when you're likely to be ovulating.

Other ways to tell if you're ovulating:

  • Check your body's basal temperature. That's your temperature when you're at rest. Use a basal body thermometer to take your temperature every morning when you get out of bed. A basal body thermometer can measure really small changes in your temperature. And most women see their temperature rise slightly—0.5 to 1 degree Fahrenheit—when they ovulate.
  • Check your cervical mucus. Get familiar with the mucus in your vagina. It increases and gets thinner, clearer and more slippery just before ovulation. 
  • Use an ovulation prediction kit. These are kits that let you test your urine for a chemical called luteinizing hormone (LH). Your LH increases during ovulation and causes the ovaries to release eggs. You know you're ovulating when your LH goes up.

What are signs that I am pregnant?

The first sign of pregnancy may be that you don't get a period. Other signs include:

  • Your breasts are bigger and sore, and the area around your nipples is darker.
  • You have to urinate a lot.
  • You feel sick to your stomach or throw up.
  • You feel tired all the time.
  • You're moody. (It's not your fault!)
  • You feel bloated and swollen.

If you have any of these signs or symptoms and think you may be pregnant, take a home pregnancy test. Then make an appointment with your doctor. He or she can do a test to confirm that you're pregnant.

Already know you're pregnant?

You might need to skip ahead a few weeks in this newsletter, but you can easily change your due date by visiting our site. 

Sources: American College of Obstetricians and GynecologistsMarch of Dimes; Office on Women's Health

Reviewed 12/6/2023

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