What is ovulation?
Ovulation is a monthly process when one of your ovaries releases an egg. After this, the egg travels through a fallopian tube where a sperm cell may or may not fertilize it. This is the main point of a menstrual cycle. What happens after ovulation depends upon whether a sperm cell fertilizes the egg or not.
If the sperm cell fertilizes the egg, it moves to the uterus where it plants itself in the lining, resulting in a pregnancy. If a sperm doesn’t fertilize the egg, it eventually disintegrates and your body sheds the uterine lining, which you know as a ‘period’.
Whether you’re trying to get pregnant or want to prevent unwanted pregnancies, knowing about ovulation, when it happens, and how you can track it, can help you. In addition, closely tracking your menstrual cycle can improve your ability to know when something’s wrong, which is beneficial in diagnosing specific medical issues.
When do women ovulate?
It would be great if you could track your ovulation days like regular days of the week. However, not every woman has the same ovulation period because cycles can vary. Generally, however, ovulation occurs in the middle of your menstrual cycle.
Therefore, in a typical 28-day menstrual cycle, ovulation will occur somewhere around the 14th day. Since it’s impossible for every woman’s ovulation period to fall in a narrow timeframe, let’s just say that it can happen four days before or after the midpoint of your cycle. This highlights a period that’s about one week long, which you should track carefully if you want to get pregnant.
During the period, it’s possible for you to experience a variety of ovulation symptoms. Each woman feels these symptoms at a different degree of intensity.
These are the most common ovulation symptoms:
- Cervical mucus changes
- Heightened sense of smell
- Breast soreness or tenderness
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Light spotting or discharge
- Libido changes
- Changes in the cervix.
Now let's focus on every symptom in detail.
Cervical mucus changes
For starters, your body will release vaginal discharge much more frequently right before ovulation. This will be different from what you occasionally see. It will be clear and have a thinner consistency. After ovulation, however, your body will release less discharge, which appears cloudy with a thicker consistency.
Heightened sense of smell
If you notice a change in your sense of smell before your period, it’s a sign that you’re ovulating.
Breast soreness or tenderness
The rush of hormones before and during the ovulation period leads to breast soreness and nipple sensitivity.
Pelvic or abdominal pain
If you consider yourself extremely sensitive to the changes in your body, you may have already felt the ovulation process. You can feel ovulation occur as a slight pain in the lower part of your abdomen. Remember that you won’t experience this pain on both sides at once. Moreover, you won’t feel it in the same place each time.
You’ll probably experience this ache, Mittelschmerz, for a couple of minutes or even hours. Moreover, your body may release either blood (spotting during ovulation), discharge or both, upon release of the egg. Medical professionals assure that you shouldn’t worry about an ache that subsides with anti-inflammatory medication. Conversely, you should go to the doctor if the pain you feel is severe and doesn’t go away even after taking medication.
Light spotting or discharge
Although it isn’t common, it’s possible for your body to release brown discharge or a little blood, also known as spotting during ovulation. This happens when the follicle surrounding the egg grows bigger and finally ruptures, which causes the bleeding.
Unless the spotting continues, there’s no reason for you to worry. In case it does persist, you should undergo a checkup to make sure you don’t have an infection.
During ovulation, our bodies enter a state of increased libido, but almost anything can influence something so subjective. You may or may not notice this since external factors, like stress, being in a relationship, and other responsibilities can affect your libido.
Changes in the cervix
When your body is ovulating, you can feel some physical changes as well. Your cervix, for instance, might be getting higher. Your cervix and discharge consistency can give an accurate answer as to whether you entered the ovulation period or not, but it’ll take some time before you can finally tell the difference.
That’s because the changes will be hard to determine and unlike the abovementioned symptoms, you can’t really feel this one. Using your finger, you can feel your cervix change before and during ovulation. You’ll notice that before ovulation, the cervix becomes softer, but during the process, it is high, wet, soft, open. After ovulation, it becomes much harder.
How to calculate ovulation
You can track your menstrual cycle in a number of ways. Some require the extra effort while others just need you to mark some dates.
Monitor basal body temperature (BBT)
One of the ways you can predict ovulation is to monitor your basal body temperature, which is your body’s rest temperature. In the first half of your cycle, your body temperature stays constant but as the ovulation period approaches, you’ll experience a decrease and later on, a slight increase in BBT after ovulation.
Chart menstrual cycle
The other way that you can predict ovulation is to chart your menstrual periods over several months. By recording the days when your period begins and ends, you can know if you’re having a typical length menstrual cycle i.e. 28 days. If you have a period around the same time every month, this is a sign that your body ovulates as well, with ovulation occurring two weeks before shedding the uterine lining.
Ovulation calculator, kit, or fertility monitor
Instead of charting your periods yourself, you can use an ovulation calculator like Flo. It’s easy to use. All you have to do is enter dates like when your period starts and ends. You can get information like when you are ovulating and when your next period is due.
An ovulation kit will measure your body’s level of luteinizing hormone by determining it through your urine. On the other hand, a fertility monitor will identify days in your cycle when you are most fertile, to give you a smaller window of five days that allows a higher chance of pregnancy.
Having certain disorders or medical concerns makes it difficult for ovulation to occur and late ovulation can disrupt your entire menstrual cycle.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition in women that causes their bodies to produce higher levels of androgen, a male hormone. Due to the higher levels of androgen, your body faces a hormonal imbalance, which can delay PCOS ovulation or in some cases, completely stop it.
When women have PCOS, they also face an insulin imbalance due to insulin resistance, a common symptom of the condition. You can read more about PCOS and the methods of its treatment in other articles by Flo.
This is an uncommon disorder because it only affects women who have a smaller body fat percentage, which results in hypothalamic amenorrhea. Reduced body fat deposits can be due to an eating disorder, like anorexia nervosa, or intense exercise routines normally practiced by athletes.
Premature ovarian insufficiency
This is a decrease in ovarian function before the age of 40, which happens because of a lack of oocytes (eggs) in the ovary. A loss of oocytes accompanies the ovary’s inability to produce estrogen. Hence, you should get a checkup if you don’t experience a menstrual period for months on end.
Hyperprolactinemia or excess prolactin
Normally, prolactin levels are higher during pregnancy breast development. Otherwise, high levels can disrupt your menstrual cycle because of reduced estrogen production and may cause infertility. Hyperprolactinemia happens because of different health concerns, like hypothyroidism, and it results in an inconsistent and irregular period. In other cases, however, it delays ovulation, which causes an absence of period.
This is all that you need to know about tracking ovulation and your cycle to know your most fertile days, and when you can expect a menstrual period. When you regularly look out for symptoms, you can tell when things are out of the ordinary and get yourself checked. We recommend that you see a doctor regularly if you’re dealing with any of the ovulation disorders mentioned above.