A recent Yale study found that 90% of women don’t know when they can get pregnant. Does that number include you?
Before you try to naturally increase fertility, it’s key that you know how to read the signs of ovulation so you know when your body is ready to conceive.
Read on to learn all about ovulation and know when you’re at peak fertility.
What is Ovulation & How Long Does Ovulation Last?
So before we go into the signs of ovulation, it helps to know what ovulation actually is. So, what does ovulating mean? Every month, your body goes through a rhythmical cycle that is quite miraculous.
On Day 1 of your period, your estrogen and progesterone levels are low, which stimulates the pituitary gland to produce FSH, or follicle stimulating hormone. FSH stimulates the growth of ovarian follicles, the fluid-filled sacs that contain your eggs.
The follicle releases estrogen to thicken the uterine lining in preparation for a potential pregnancy (can you believe your body does this every month?!) Estrogen levels peak around ovulation, which triggers your pituitary gland to release LH or Luteinizing Hormone. LH tells your body to release usually one egg (or two which can result in twins) from your ovary and you have now just ovulated.
If there is no viable sperm to fertilize your egg, your hormone levels, namely estrogen and progesterone, plummet and your period begins once again.
If timing and conditions are right, and there is viable sperm there to meet the egg, you get that BFP sign (aka you’re pregnant!). This ovulation phenomenon only happens once a month, which means fertility has a limited window (though you can technically get pregnant on your period, it’s not likely).
Ovulation lasts for about 24 hours, but the sperm has about a 6 day window where fertilization can occur. An ovulation calculator will help you track exactly when this fertile window occurs; however, there are ovulation symptoms that can clue you in.
Chart by womeninbalance.org
Signs of Ovulation Infographic
What are the Signs of Ovulation?
So let’s jump into the following signs of ovulation that will help you target your optimal fertile window.
#1 Your Body Gets Cooler
Normal waking body temperature ranges between 97.2 and 99.0. When ovulation occurs it dips a little, then directly after ovulation it steadily rises .4 – 1 degrees. You’ll need a special thermometer (where to buy) that is sensitive enough to track such fluctuations, and take your temp before you do anything – even sit up in bed. Basal body temperature varies slightly from day-to-day, but during ovulation you’ll see a sustained rise due to progesterone hormone changes.
#2 Heightened Senses
While you may not gain “Spidey senses” like the superhero, ovulating women sometimes experience heightened senses. Our bodies become more attracted to the male pheromone androstenone and our nose is on the lookout. Some women also notice an increased sense of taste and vision as some of the hallmark signs of ovulation.
#3 Can You Feel When You Ovulate?
When the egg makes its descent toward anticipated fertilization, it can cause a dull, achy feeling in the pelvic floor or lower abdomen. It’s technically called Mittelschmerz, a German word that means middle pain, and lasts a few minutes to a few hours. This discomfort occurs on one side or the other of the body. (Side note: I get lower back pain that feels like sciatica and almost makes me limp! It lasts for just a few hours and it’s over.)
Is it Normal to Cramp when you Ovulate?
Some women don’t feel anything at all, while others describe it as a mild cramping sensation. If ovulation is painful, then something is wrong and the issue should be addressed by a professional, as this could indicate a hormonal imbalance like estrogen dominance, progesterone deficiency or PCOS. (You can find natural ways to balance your hormones here.)
#3 Spotting or Bleeding
Although uncommon, one of the signs of ovulation is bleeding. Yes, some women experience light bleeding that occurs when the mature egg comes through the ruptured follicle. Also, as the body’s estrogen drops slightly, the uterine lining decreases somewhat, which can also cause bleeding. Although it won’t be bright red, you may notice a slight pink or brown tinge in your cervical discharge.
Slight spotting around the time of ovulation doesn’t necessarily mean it’s due to the above factors though. Ovarian cysts can also cause a little, or a lot of bleeding. You may also experience light spotting if a fertilized egg implants into the uterus. Implantation bleeding occurs about five days after ovulation, and can be confused with ovulation bleeding. Tracking your cycle on an ovulation calculator will help you know what’s going on with your body.
#4 Things are Getting Wet Down There
Cervical mucus changes consistency from day-to-day, depending on where we are in our cycles. Right after menstruation the secretions will be dry, or non-existent. As the vaginal canal preps for incoming sperm though, cervical mucus becomes thinner and more slippery. (Post ovulation cervical mucus is creamy.) During ovulation, these secretions resemble raw egg white and stretch more than an inch between fingertips. This stage can last around 5 days for young women, but decrease to 1-2 days as we age. This cervical mucus change is one of the most accurate signs of ovulation.
# 5 Nausea and Headaches
While not every woman has these symptoms, occasionally you can have headaches or nausea during ovulation. These are due to the sharp and rapid changes in your sex hormones. For women with good hormonal balance, these unpleasant symptoms aren’t as likely.
# 6 Libido Changes
Since the body is telling your brain that it’s time to make a baby, some women experience an increase in sex drive. The high levels of estrogen and testosterone tell your body you’re fertile and you may almost have a primal instinct to procreate! (p.s. it sometimes continues through pregnancy). Some women also have more energy to go along with their increased sex drive. So go with it, and have some fun! (BTW, this is usually the partner’s favorite of all the signs of ovulation.)
# 7 Cervix Position Changes
Like cervical mucus changes, this is another sign of ovulation that all women will experience. Normally the cervix will be lower in the vaginal canal, feel more closed, and hard like the tip of your nose. During ovulation, however, the cervix ripens and becomes higher, softer and more open. It will instead feel like your earlobe or lips.
To check, position yourself as if you were going to insert a tampon, and then reach a pair of CLEAN fingers inside. It helps to check a few times throughout the month when you know that ovulation isn’t a possibility, so it’s easier to feel the difference.
# 8 Bloating
The rise in estrogen during ovulation can cause water retention in the body. As a result, some women experience abdominal bloating and even swelling in fingers or feet as one of the signs of ovulation. If the reactions are severe or painful though, then be sure to check in with a health professional, as this could indicate something more serious.
# 9 Sensitive Breasts
Some women joke that they know when it’s going to rain because their breasts hurt. Even if they aren’t sensitive to changes in the weather, breasts are in fact sensitive to hormonal changes in the body.
Mammary cells and alveoli multiply in the breast tissue to prepare for a potential pregnancy during ovulation. These changes cause some women to experience soreness or tenderness in the breast tissue during ovulation. If fertilization is successful, then the tenderness can continue since the breasts further their lactating prep.
Do Breasts Hurt Before or After Ovulation?
Even if you don’t get pregnant, sore breasts can also happen during the week or two leading up to your period as a PMS symptom. Or it can be an early sign of pregnancy. So, while sore or tender breasts can occur during ovulation, it’s not a sure fire indicator that you’re ovulating, since it could be due to other hormone changes.
Can you Ovulate Early in a Cycle?
When does a woman ovulate? Since each woman is different, cycle times fluctuate not just from woman to woman, but month to month. Ovulation typically occurs around day 14 of the menstrual cycle, and ovulating a bit before that 14 day mark can be totally normal. However, there may be a concern if it occurs on day 11 or earlier. Ovulating too early can result in several things:
- Cervical fluid may not be slippery enough to move the sperm up for fertilization
- The follicle isn’t mature enough to be fertilized
- The endometrial lining may not be able to sustain a fertilized egg
It’s suspected that smoking, heavy drinking, and stress are the main culprits behind ovulating too early. Fortunately, these are issues that can be remedied.
What are the Symptoms After Ovulation?
If fertilization was successful, then you will begin to feel the symptoms of pregnancy about a week after ovulation at the earliest. Thanks to increasing hormone levels, your uterine lining continues to thicken for your implanted egg.
If ovulation didn’t result in a pregnancy this time, then the egg disintegrates and is absorbed back into the body within 48 hours. The uterine lining is then shed about 2 weeks later during your menstrual period.
Signs of Ovulation Bottom Line
- Cervical mucus and position changes, and basal body temperature changes are symptoms of ovulation experienced by all women.
- You may or may not have other signs of ovulation, like breast tenderness or spotting.
- Monitoring your body and tracking your ovulation with the help of an ovulation calculator is the easiest way to see when you’re at peak fertility.
What About You?
Have you experienced some of these signs of ovulation before? What tricks have you relied on to track your ovulation?