Just as menstrual cycles are different for every woman, so is ovulation. By learning to recognize the signs of ovulation, you’ll be able to time having sex with your partner accordingly to boost the odds of getting pregnant.
But even if you’re not trying to conceive right at this moment, having a better understanding of ovulation signs can give you a clearer picture of your menstrual cycle and help you spot any abnormal ovulation symptoms down the line.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about ovulation.
You probably learned way back in biology class that ovulation is the phase in your menstrual cycle when a mature egg is released from the ovary, setting the stage for fertilization.
Every woman is born with millions of immature eggs that wait to be released, normally one at a time, every month. During ovulation, the egg travels down the fallopian tube, where it may meet up with a sperm and become fertilized.
For healthy women, ovulation generally happens once a month, a few weeks after menstruation starts.
When Do You Ovulate?
You may have heard that ovulation typically happens on day 15 of your menstrual cycle, but it’s not the same for everyone.
If you’re like most women of childbearing age, your menstrual cycle lasts between 28 and 32 days, and ovulation usually hits between days 10 and 19 of that cycle—about 12 to 16 days before your next period.
So if your cycle is 35 days, ovulation will happen on day 21 of that cycle. If your cycle is 21 days, ovulation will happen on day seven. The timing of ovulation can vary from cycle to cycle and from woman to woman which is why it’s a good idea to get familiar with your body’s menstrual calendar for at least three months or so, to help you better calculate your own ovulation cycle.
When are you most fertile?
While some believe you can conceive on any day of the month, and others say the opposite—that you have to have sex on the exact day of ovulation, these two have been proven to be false. In reality, there’s a six-day “fertile window” in your cycle—the five days leading up to ovulation, through the day of ovulation.
And of those six days, the optimal time frame to conceive is during the two to three days prior to ovulation and the day of ovulation itself, when you’re most fertile.
Once your egg has been released, it’s viable for about 12 to 24 hours. After that, you typically would not get pregnant until your next menstrual cycle.
What Are The Symptoms And Signs Of Ovulation?
Before and during ovulation, hormonal shifts can affect the entire body. You may experience various symptoms of ovulation—including breast tenderness, moodiness or headaches, but if you don’t notice any ovulation symptoms.
If you do not experience this, it doesn’t mean you’re not ovulating.
1. Cervical mucus changes
As you near ovulation, your body produces more estrogen, causing cervical mucus to become stretchy and clear, like egg white, which helps sperm swim to the egg that’s released during ovulation.
To test it for ovulation, insert a clean finger into your vagina, remove some of the mucus and then stretch out the secretion between your thumb and finger.
If it’s sticky and stretchy or very wet and slippery, that’s a good sign that you’re in a fertile phase.
2. Heightened sense of smell
For some women, a more sensitive sense of smell in the latter half of a normal menstruation cycle can be a sign of ovulation. In this fertile phase, your body is primed to be more attracted to the male pheromone androstenone.
3. Breast soreness or tenderness
Breast and nipple sensitivity, tenderness or soreness can be another sign of ovulation, thanks to the rush of hormones entering your body right before and after ovulation.
4. Mild pelvic or lower abdominal pain
Some women can actually feel ovulation—typically as a mild ache or pain in the lower abdomen, usually on one side or the other. The sensation, called Mittelschmerz, can last anywhere between a few minutes and a few hours.
You might also experience light vaginal bleeding, discharge or nausea along with the ache or pain, which is usually mild and short lived.
5. Light spotting or discharge
Brown discharge or spotting during ovulation is normal if not that common. This ovulation symptom can occur when the follicle that surrounds and protects the developing oocyte, or egg, matures, grows and then ruptures, resulting in a small amount of bleeding.
As blood gets older, it turns brown, which is why the vaginal discharge may range from red to dark brown. It’s not a cause for concern unless the spotting persists, in which case you should see a physician to check for signs of infection and the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy if you’ve been sexually active.
6. Libido changes
Some women have noticed that their sex drive increases during ovulation.