What are the Signs of Ovulation?

Hillary Bennetts

What are the Signs of Ovulation?

Table of contents

  • Signs of Ovulation
  • What is Ovulation?
  • What Happens Next?
  • Signs of ovulation
  • Increased Basal Body Temperature
  • How Long Does Ovulation Last?
  • How to Track Ovulation

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Signs of Ovulation

Many of us go through life, cycle after cycle, without paying much attention to how our bodies change throughout the different phases of the menstrual cycle. But when we start to think about the TTC phase, ovulation becomes important. 

Knowing when you’re ovulating is key to conceiving a baby, so here's all you need to know about ovulation. We’ll discuss what ovulation is, what the signs of ovulation are, and how to keep track of ovulation.

What is ovulation?

Ovulation happens during the ovulatory phase in the menstrual cycle. During ovulation, the ovary releases an egg (ovum). Ovulation typically happens around day 14 of a 28-day menstrual cycle, but this can vary by person and cycle length, which is why it is important to track ovulation.

The process of ovulation begins when the hypothalamus in the brain releases gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which causes the pituitary gland in the brain to secrete follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). 

Typically between days six and 14 of the menstrual cycle, FSH causes follicles (small sacs of fluid in your ovaries that contain a developing egg) in one ovary to begin to mature. During the later part of this phase, only one of the developing follicles forms a fully mature egg (in rare cases of fraternal twins, two eggs may mature). Around day 14 in the menstrual cycle, a sudden surge in LH causes the ovary to release this egg. This release is ovulation. 

What happens next?

Once an egg leaves the ovary, it travels down the fallopian tube where it waits to be fertilized by sperm. If sperm fertilizes your egg, the fertilized egg travels down to your uterus. However, just because a sperm fertilizes an egg doesn’t mean that a pregnancy occurs just yet.

After about a week, the fertilized egg (now a blastocyst) attaches to the lining of the uterus . This is called implantation. Once a fertilized egg implants, the body increases the production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone which help the endometrial lining to thicken. This lining is what provides the nutrients that the blastocyst needs to grow and develop into a baby. 

You can see why it is so important for women to be properly nourished even very early in pregnancy. Starting a comprehensive prenatal vitamin prior to trying to conceive can provide nutrient support to your baby before you even know that you are pregnant. 

Signs of ovulation

There are a variety of different signs of ovulation. While some women may experience many of these symptoms of ovulation, others may experience only a few, or none at all. 

Many women also find that they never paid much attention to ovulation signs before starting to think about getting pregnant, but once they start tuning into their body, they start to notice some of the signs. Here are several different signs of ovulation.

Changes in cervical mucus

Cervical mucus is a fluid produced by the cervix that is discharged by the vagina. Cervical mucus goes through stages during your menstrual cycle. Before ovulation, cervical mucus is thick, white, and dry. Just before ovulation, cervical mucus turns clear and slippery. It is often referred to as egg white consistency. This consistency makes a friendly environment for sperm to swim up to meet an egg.

Increased basal body temperature

Basal body temperature (BBT) is a person's lowest natural body temperature, typically this occurs when they are completely at rest. It is measured first thing in the morning upon waking, before you even get out of bed or have anything to eat or drink.

Your basal body temperature increases slightly during ovulation (typically about 0.5 to 1 degree). Taking your temperature every morning throughout your cycle using a precise digital thermometer can help indicate when ovulation occurs.

It is best to start this process daily and track your temperature in a spreadsheet or notebook over a few cycles to observe trends in your BBT and note what day of your cycle a temperature increase occurs.

Since temperature changes can be slight, you can get a digital thermometer that is specifically designed for taking basal body temperature. 

Ovulation pain

Ovulation pain, also called mittelschmerz, can cause mild cramping. It is estimated that mittelschmerz may affect over 40% of women of reproductive age. It occurs almost every month in these women. 

Increased libido 

A rise in estrogen in the days leading up to ovulation can cause an increase in sex drive in the few days leading up to ovulation. It’s a convenient symptom if you’re TTC!

Vulva changes

Your labia, or the outer part of your genitalia, may swell. This can cause some tenderness or sensitivity in some women.

Breast tenderness

Fluctuating hormones can cause breasts and sore nipples for some women. This is also a common early pregnancy symptom. 

Bloating and fluid retention

Hormone changes during ovulation may cause bloating and water retention. It may also lead to gastrointestinal changes, like slowed digestion and gas

Mood changes

Hormonal changes can come with mood changes. Some women report feeling happier around the time of ovulation, while others feel more emotional or irritable.

Appetite changes

Some women find that their appetite dips slightly before ovulation and increases just after ovulation occurs.

Heightened sense of smell

Your sense of smell may become more pronounced when you're ovulating. You might notice that you pick up on more subtle smells, like the smell of a nearby restaurant or food, or someone else’s laundry detergent. A heightened sense of smell is also a common symptom of early pregnancy.

How long does ovulation last?

Ovulation itself is a brief phase. An egg only survives 12 to 24 hours after ovulation. If sperm doesn't fertilize the egg during this time, the body reabsorbs it and it cannot be fertilized anymore. Unlike an egg, sperm can survive for several days in your body, so having intercourse during the days leading up to ovulation can help create a pregnancy. 

Some fertility specialists suggest having intercourse every other day during the 5-6 days leading up to ovulation, and the day after ovulation. This can help allow for more sperm to be available for the next ejaculation.

How to track ovulation

There are several methods people use to track their menstrual cycle and estimate when ovulation occurs. Try several methods to see what seems to be most accurate and convenient for you.

Keep track of your menstrual cycle

Ovulation happens at around the midpoint of your cycle if you have a 28-day cycle (day 14). However, this can vary widely by woman, so simply tracking your menstrual cycle may not be enough to give you an accurate look at ovulation. However, it still provides valuable information on cycle length and can help you tie symptoms to phases of your cycle, especially if you are early in your journey. Several apps exist to make tracking easy and convenient. 

Try the calendar method

The calendar method to predict ovulation involves analyzing six months of menstrual cycles to determine when you’re fertile. 

To calculate when you may be ovulating, find your shortest cycle and your longest cycle in a six month period. Then subtract 18 days from your shortest cycle and 11 days from your longest cycle. These two numbers estimate the days in your cycle you're most fertile. For example, if your cycle lengths are 31 and 18, your fertile time is day 10 to 20 of your cycle.

Use ovulation kits

Ovulation tests detect LH (luteinizing hormone) in your pee. LH is the hormone that surges before ovulation, so a positive result means you're about to ovulate. Ovulation usually occurs within 36 hours of a positive test.

Ovulation tests work similarly to at-home pregnancy tests. You simply pee on an indicator strip and wait for a test line to appear. The difference between pregnancy tests and ovulation tests is that any line on a pregnancy test indicates pregnancy, whereas a test line on an ovulation test will get increasingly dark as you approach ovulation. The test line should be as dark as the control line to indicate ovulation.

Listen to your body

Around the middle of your cycle, start paying attention to any signs of ovulation that your body is giving you. Many of the cycle tracking apps that are available also have features to track ovulation symptoms. 

And remember, if you’re thinking about becoming pregnant, it’s recommended to start taking prenatal supplements that will support your fertility and pregnancy.

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Hillary Bennetts, Nutritionist

Hillary Bennetts is a nutritionist and business consultant focusing on prenatal and postpartum health. In addition to nutrition consulting, she provides business consulting and content creation for companies in the health and wellness industry. Hillary spent almost a decade in corporate consulting before shifting gears to combine her lifelong passion for health and wellness with her business background and nutrition education.