Whether you’re trying to conceive or simply want to understand your own body better, learning about ovulation is a great place to start. But what exactly is ovulation, and what telltale signs and symptoms might your body give you that it’s taking place? Read on to find out more.
- Ovulation is a key part of your menstrual cycle, when one of your ovaries releases an egg.
- There are a number of possible signs and symptoms of ovulation, including cervical mucus changes, breast soreness, and pelvic or abdominal pain.
- There are lots of ways to detect ovulation, including basal body temperature tracking, charting your menstrual cycle, an ovulation calculator, and an ovulation kit.
What is ovulation?
Before we dive into ovulation signs and symptoms, let’s refresh our minds on what ovulation involves. Ovulation is a regular part of your menstrual cycle. During ovulation, one of your ovaries (either the left or the right) will release an egg. After this, the egg will travel through a uterine tube (also known as a fallopian tube), where it may or may not be fertilized by a sperm. This is where it gets really interesting because what happens after ovulation depends on whether a sperm fertilizes the egg or not.
If a sperm does fertilize the egg, this fertilized egg will move into the uterus, where it can burrow in and implant itself into the uterine lining. As you can probably guess, this results in a pregnancy, and you won’t ovulate again until after your pregnancy has ended. If a sperm doesn’t fertilize the egg, however, it will eventually disintegrate, and your body will shed your uterine lining through the vagina. This is the bleeding you know as a period.
So whether you’re trying to conceive or want to understand your body better, knowing when you ovulate and how to track it, as well as some of the possible ovulation symptoms and signs, can be powerful knowledge indeed.
When do you ovulate?
It would be great if you could track your ovulation days like regular days of the week. However, you only need to ask a handful of your friends about their periods to know that everyone’s cycle is different, which means it’s rarely as straightforward as that. And, to complicate matters even further, your own cycle will vary throughout your life. But while you can’t always say for certain when you’ll ovulate each month, there are ways to make a pretty accurate prediction (phew!).
Generally speaking, you’ll ovulate around 14 days before your period arrives. That means that in a 28-day menstrual cycle, ovulation will happen somewhere around the 14th day. We count the first day of your period as the first day of your cycle.
But as we know, the majority of people don’t have a 28-day cycle; in fact, a normal cycle can range from 21 to 35 days. So ovulation could happen either earlier or later than the 14th day, depending on the length of your cycle. You can use Flo’s handy ovulation calculator to predict when ovulation might occur based on your own cycle dates; clever, huh?
How long does it last?
Not long at all: the moment of ovulation itself is instant. Following this, the egg can survive for up to 24 hours. However, keep in mind that your fertile window (aka the time in your menstrual cycle when you’re most likely to get pregnant) is much longer than this. Peak fertility will be the day you ovulate, as well as the five days leading up to ovulation itself.
Hang on. You’re fertile the five days leading up to ovulation, too? How does this happen? Well, sperm can survive in your body for up to five days after sex (yes, really), meaning you could have had sex several days before ovulation, and some sperm could have waited inside your reproductive system until the moment your egg is released. At that point, it’s perfectly possible for the sperm to fertilize your newly released egg and for a pregnancy to occur.
So if you’re trying to conceive, it’s mighty useful to be aware of when your fertile window is likely to be, so you can plan accordingly.
Ovulation signs and symptoms
So, how do you know when you’re ovulating? Your body might give you some guidance on figuring this one out, as you’re likely to experience a number of different telltale signs and symptoms when ovulation is happening. Keep in mind that no two people are the same, and each person will feel these symptoms at a different degree of intensity, if at all. Let’s take a closer look below.
Cervical mucus changes
For starters, one of the classic signs that ovulation is happening soon is a change in your vaginal discharge (aka cervical mucus). This discharge will be different from what you might usually see in your underwear; it will be clear and have a thinner, more slippery consistency, just like raw egg whites.
Body temperature changes
After ovulation, you might also experience a small rise in your basal body temperature (that’s the temperature of your body when you’re resting) of around half a degree Fahrenheit (0.3 Celsius). Intrigued and want to know how to measure it accurately? We’ll take a closer look at this later in the article.
Changes in the cervix
There are also some changes that happen to your cervix during ovulation. If you want to get to know your body better, then you can use your finger to check your cervix; make sure you wash your hands, and then gently insert one of your fingers into your vagina until you feel your cervix. You’ll notice that just during ovulation, it will be higher and feel soft. You’ll also notice that after ovulation is over, it becomes much harder again. Examining your own cervix can be tricky, of course, so if you don’t notice much of a difference, don’t worry. Most people find it easier to observe changes in cervical mucus than changes in the texture and position of the cervix.
Breast soreness or tenderness
The rush of hormones before and during ovulation can lead to breast soreness and tenderness. This can range from mild breast pain that’s barely noticeable to severe pain that makes it uncomfortable to wear tight clothing. Don’t suffer in silence if this is affecting your day-to-day life; be sure to reach out to your doctor to discuss any possible treatment options.
Pelvic or abdominal pain
It’s not a myth: you might feel a slight pain in the lower part of your abdomen as ovulation occurs. Remember that you’ll only feel this pain on one side, depending on which ovary has released an egg that month.
You’ll probably experience this ache, known as mittelschmerz (a German word that means “middle pain” or “pain in the middle of the month”), for a couple of minutes or even days. While this might be alarming, rest assured that the pain is normal and should subside. If it doesn’t stop, and painkillers don’t help, be sure to reach out to your doctor to make sure everything is OK.
Do you get bloated when you ovulate? You’re not alone. This is another typical symptom of ovulation, and it occurs due to the hormonal changes that are happening around this time. If it’s making you feel (understandably) uncomfortable, then staying hydrated and opting for smaller meals could help.
During ovulation, you might also experience some light bleeding or spotting. Again, this is no cause for concern, but if it lasts longer than a day or two or is particularly heavy, be sure to reach out to your doctor.
Just before ovulation, there is a rise in the levels of a hormone called estrogen, and this can mean that you may start to feel more turned on than usual. Your libido might then drop again after ovulation as the levels of estrogen decrease. This is totally normal, but it’s a symptom that not everyone experiences, so if it doesn’t happen to you, don’t be concerned.
How to detect ovulation
Ready to figure out when you’re next going to ovulate? Let’s take a look at some of the methods available.
Chart your menstrual cycle
The other way you can predict ovulation is by tracking your periods over several months using an app like Flo. By recording the days when your period begins and ends, you can figure out your average cycle length. You can then use this information to determine when in your cycle you’re likely to ovulate, which, as we know, is around 14 days before your period begins.
Monitor your basal body temperature (BBT)
Remember we said you might experience a slight rise in your basal body temperature after ovulation? Even though the rise is small, you may be able to notice the change on a digital thermometer if you consistently track your temperature around the same time each day of your menstrual cycle, preferably first thing in the morning. However, it’s important to note that this is not a recommended method of birth control or an accurate way to predict ovulation if you’re trying to get pregnant, as your temperature can be affected by a number of factors, and you only see the rise in temperature after ovulation has already occurred.
You could also try an ovulation kit, which you might also know as an ovulation test or ovulation stick. These work by measuring your body’s level of luteinizing hormone through your pee. You’ll get a surge of this hormone just before you ovulate, so it’s a good indicator of when ovulation will occur, which is valuable information indeed if you’re trying for a baby. You usually use these kits by holding the test or stick in your pee for a set amount of time (depending on the product) and then waiting for the results to show — similar to a pregnancy test. For the most accurate results, you should try to take the test at around the same time every day.
Looking for an even simpler way to understand when ovulation might occur? We hear you. Why not try our ovulation calculator that we mentioned earlier, too? All you need to do is enter the first day of your last period and your average cycle length, and the calculator will crunch the numbers for you.
The saliva test is a little-known test that can sometimes (but not always) show when you’re ovulating. It works by looking at patterns in your saliva, which might make a fern-shaped pattern during ovulation. However, this test isn’t widely used because not every woman’s saliva makes this shape, so the tests aren’t particularly accurate. So if you’re looking for a more accurate way of detecting ovulation, one of the other methods is likely to be more reliable.
It can also be helpful to know about some of the problems with ovulation that can sometimes happen. These can impact how regularly you ovulate and sometimes even prevent ovulation from happening:
Note: Ovulation predictions should never be used for birth control.
Can you feel it when you ovulate?
As we’ve seen, you might feel a bit of pain, known as mittelschmerz, for a couple of minutes (or even days!) when you ovulate. This will usually be on one side of your belly, depending on which ovary released an egg.
Can a man sense when a woman is ovulating?
Strange but true: A man might indeed be able to sense when a woman is ovulating, although not necessarily on a conscious level. One study found that the scent of ovulating women could increase testosterone levels and reduce cortisol levels in men, suggesting that their bodies subconsciously respond to ovulation.
Does ovulation pain mean you’re more fertile?
Ovulation is a key part of the journey to getting pregnant, as a woman’s body needs to release an egg in order for sperm to fertilize it. Therefore, ovulation itself can be an indicator of fertility, but there is no evidence to suggest that ovulation pain is a sign of increased fertility.
Does ovulation make you tired and hungry?
There is no evidence to suggest that ovulation can make you feel tired and hungry. However, the combination of all the ovulation symptoms we’ve explored in this article could potentially take a toll on your energy levels.
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