How To Tell When You're Ovulating During Perimenopause

Many of us are already familiar with the vague idea or concept of menopause — if for no other reason than because we once binge-watched Grace and Frankie on Netflix. We know that your body changes as you get older, and one of those (significant) changes is that your periods stop. You may be less familiar, though, with perimenopause and what happens before your periods come to a complete stop. And whether you’re trying to conceive or actively trying ~not~ to, one of the questions you probably have is how to tell when you’re ovulating during perimenopause.

Don’t beat yourself up for feeling woefully unprepared for your perimenopausal years. While Gen X and elder millennials love to talk about our mental and physical health, previous generations just didn’t discuss things like periods, perimenopause, or anything else related to your body. Many of us grew up in households where the mere mention of a subject like ovulation was considered taboo.

Now, you’re slowly creeping towards the age where your mom started suffering from mood swings and hot flashes. It’s time to get familiar with what’s in store during this weird and “mysterious” phase of life. Unfortunately, one of the most prominent and most noticeable symptoms of perimenopause is unreliable periods.

So, if you’re still tracking ovulation for any reason, irregular periods can put a giant damper on your calculations. Here’s how experts say you can tell if you’re ovulating during perimenopause.

How do you know when you’re in perimenopause?

Menopause is considered to have begun once a period-having person goes one full year without menstruating. Perimenopause is, well, the chunk of time between that point and the point in time when your periods were still regular.

“The change is triggered by declining levels of the hormone estrogen,” says Dr. Jennifer Overbey, an OB-GYN with Dignity Health Methodist Hospital of Sacramento. “Menopause, by definition, is no period for one full year (not caused by exogenous hormones like birth control). Perimenopause is the years leading up to menopause. Common signals for perimenopause are hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, weight gain — especially in the midsection — and, of course, irregular periods.”

Can you still ovulate if your periods are irregular?

Yep! While it’s certainly harder to track, perimenopausal people will still ovulate. “If you have not gone an entire year without a period, it is safe to assume that you can still ovulate and conceive,” Overbey says.

How can you track ovulation during irregular periods?

Many period-havers track ovulation by inputting their periods into a period tracker and letting that system do the work for them. However, when your periods weaken or spread out, that math suddenly feels faulty. Most people account for ovulation between 11 and 21 days after the first day of their last period. In other words, you usually ovulate in the middle of that window between your periods.

But what if your cycle no longer follows that 28-ish-day window? What if, in the last year, your periods have come after 22 days, 45 days, or even 70 days? As Overbey mentioned, you’re likely still ovulating as long as you have periods — no matter how irregular. You just need to know how to track it.

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Jessica Jolie Badonsky, a board-certified nurse practitioner specializing in perimenopause and menopause, shared a few ideas on tracking ovulation during perimenopause.

“You can use an app and know that if you have unbarriered sex, there is approximately a five-day window for sperm to hit the ovulation window target,” Badonsky says. “You can purchase an ovulation kit. You can also check your cervical fluid. When ovulating, it is usually thick, see-through, and sticky.”

Your best bet will be a combination of all those things. So, to recap:

  • Track your periods and body temperature using an app. Taking and tracking your temperature each morning before you even get out of bed will help an app figure out if you’re ovulating. Our temperature fluctuates throughout our cycle, and a smart ovulation tracker will be able to notice subtle differences in temperature.
  • Based on your app’s data, use an ovulation kit to double-check. Ovulation kits work just like pregnancy tests. You pee on the stick, and it measures various hormones in your urine to confirm whether you’re ovulating.
  • Know your cervical fluids. You’re already aware of the sometimes slug-like “gunk” you find on your panties. But have you noticed how it changes? As Badonsky mentioned, your fluid will be thicker, sticky, and see-through during ovulation.

As always, if you have any concerns about your periods, ovulation, or perimenopause, you should err on the side of caution and reach out to your OB-GYN.

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