Ovulation occurs when hormonal changes signal your ovaries to release a mature egg. It usually happens once a month in the middle of your menstrual cycle, but it can occur more than once a month or not at all.
Ovulation can sometimes be associated with bloating, tender breasts, and a slight increase in your basal body temperature. Not everyone experiences these changes, though.
Keep reading to learn how to recognize the typical signs and symptoms of ovulation.
Ovulation happens when an egg leaves your ovaries and travels to the fallopian tubes, where it can be fertilized by sperm.
This process is driven by reproductive hormones. Prior to ovulation, your levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) rise. This is known as the LH surge.
The LH surge causes the follicle to swell and rupture. This releases an egg that then travels through the fallopian tube.
Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels also rise during ovulation, but its role is less well-understood.
When do you ovulate?
Ovulation usually occurs in the middle of your menstrual cycle. It happens after the follicular phase and about 2 weeks before your period starts. The follicular phase is when egg-containing pods ripen and one of the eggs matures,
However, this process can vary a lot from person to person and month to month. In general, you should ovulate about 2 weeks before the start of your period.
Ovulation sometimes happens more than once a month. In other cases, it does not occur at all, even when menstruation takes place. This can make it hard to track, but paying attention to physical changes may help you identify when you’re ovulating.
Listed below are the most common signs and symptoms of ovulation. However, these can vary a lot from one person to the next. It’s typical to notice some of them one month and not the next.
Also, keep in mind that not experiencing any of these signs or symptoms does not mean you’re not ovulating.
Ovulation pain (mittelschmerz)
Some people experience slight pelvic discomfort or mild cramps before or during ovulation. Often referred to as mittelschmerz, pelvic discomfort that’s associated with ovulation may be caused by the rupturing of the follicle and the release of tiny amounts of blood or fluid.
These sensations are sometimes described as a twinge or pop. They can be felt in either ovary and may vary in location and intensity from month to month.
Some people may experience ovarian pain on alternating sides of their body each month, but it’s a myth that your ovaries take turns releasing eggs.
The discomfort may last for only a few moments, but some people feel mild discomfort for longer periods of time.
You may also feel a burning sensation caused by the release of fluid from the follicle when the egg is expelled. This fluid sometimes causes irritation in the abdominal lining or surrounding area. A feeling of heaviness in the lower abdomen may also accompany these sensations.
Ovary pain may also be unrelated to ovulation.
Changes in body temperature
Basal body temperature (BBT) refers to your temperature when you first wake up in the morning, prior to getting up and moving around.
Your BBT rises by about 1°F or less during the 24-hour window after ovulation occurs. This is caused by the secretion of progesterone.
If pregnancy does not happen, your BBT will remain raised until your period starts.
Tracking your BBT may provide clues about your ovulation pattern from month to month, but this method is not foolproof.
BBT charting can also be unreliable for people who have even slightly irregular periods.
Changes in cervical mucus
Cervical mucus consists primarily of water. It changes in consistency during your fertile window because of changes in the levels of hormones like estrogen and progesterone and may provide clues about ovulation.
The change in cervical mucus consistency around the time of ovulation helps transport sperm to an egg.
During your fertile window, this nutrient-rich, slippery fluid increases in volume. It also becomes thinner, stretchy in texture, and clear in color. Cervical mucus is often described as having an egg-white consistency during this time.
In the days leading up to ovulation, you may notice more discharge than usual because of an increase in cervical mucus volume.
When you’re at your most fertile, cervical mucus may help keep sperm alive for an average of 3 days but potentially up to
You can check the consistency of cervical mucous by observing it in your underwear liner.
Changes in saliva
Estrogen and progesterone can alter the consistency of dried saliva before or during ovulation, causing patterns to form. These patterns may look similar to crystals or ferns in some people with periods.
However, smoking, eating, drinking, and brushing your teeth can all mask these patterns, making them a less reliable indicator of ovulation.
Other possible signs of ovulation
Some more potential signs of ovulation include:
- Tender breasts. Some people report breast tenderness or sore nipples around the time of ovulation.
- Bloating. Some people feel bloated before and during ovulation. Since bloating occurs at other moments during your cycle, particularly during menstruation, it’s not necessarily a reliable indicator of ovulation.
The ovulation phase of your menstrual cycle typically lasts between 16 and 32 hours, starting with the LH surge and ending when the egg is released.
Ovulation generally occurs 24 to 48 hours after the LH surge.
You can become pregnant both before and after ovulation. This is called the fertile window.
Your fertile window starts up to 4 days prior to ovulation and extends for 1 day after ovulation. You are most fertile on the day before ovulation and the day of ovulation.
If you’re trying to get pregnant, you may find it helpful to track your ovulation. Even if you are not trying to conceive, monitoring your cycle may be a useful way of understanding more about your overall health, energy levels, mood changes, and when you can expect your period to start.
To track ovulation, try to keep a record of the following information:
- your menstruation dates
- descriptions of your menstrual blood
- descriptions of your cervical mucus
- your BBT readings
- physical changes, such as cramps, pain, bloating, or breast tenderness
- other relevant information, such as your mood, libido, and energy levels
You can use any calendar or journal to track ovulation. There are a number of printable templates to track your menstrual cycle available online. In addition, organizations such as the American Pregnancy Association and the March of Dimes provide online ovulation predictors.
Fertility charts are another option. They require you to plot your morning temperature readings on a graph, providing a handy visual of the rise in your BBT after ovulation.
Finally, there are a number of apps you can use to help you track your cycle. While these apps may help you determine when you’re most likely to be fertile, they may not be able to reliably predict the day of ovulation, according to a 2018 study.
Most at-home ovulation tests measure LH levels in your urine, a relatively reliable predictor of ovulation. There are many different types of tests you can use, including:
- Ovulation tests. This type of test lets you know if you’re fertile on the day you take the test. Like a pregnancy test, it involves urinating on a stick for a positive (fertile) or negative (not fertile) result. Digital versions are also available.
- Ovulation predictors. Predictor kits measure and track your levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) over several months to determine when you’re most fertile. This test typically requires daily urine testing outside of menstruation.
- BBT monitors. You can track your temperature orally each day and record it in a journal or with an app.
- Saliva tests. Saliva tests indicate when you’re nearing ovulation. However, these tests tend to be less effective than urine tests. They tend to be most effective if used daily over several months, first thing in the morning.
- Fertility kits. At-home fertility kits offer a comprehensive look at both you and your partner’s fertility. In addition to analyzing reproductive hormones such as LH in urine, they may also analyze sperm quality via an ejaculate.
At-home ovulation tests and fertility kits can be helpful if you’re trying to conceive. Many claim a high level of accuracy, but it’s important to follow package instructions in order to maximize their effectiveness.
Keep in mind that ovulation tests cannot diagnose fertility issues. For example, it’s possible to experience an LH surge without ovulating.
Similarly, at-home ovulation predictor tests do not provide information about non-hormonal causes of infertility, such as:
- blocked fallopian tubes
- hostile cervical mucus
Finally, at-home sperm tests are not definitive indicators of sperm quality. If you suspect that you or your partner have fertility issues, it’s important to talk with a doctor or fertility specialist.
People who have irregular periods often have irregular ovulation or do not ovulate at all. You can also have regular periods and still not ovulate.
Your physician may order bloodwork and imaging tests such as a sonogram to try and determine if you’re ovulating.
If you’re thinking about conceiving, consider talking with a doctor before you start trying. They can help determine if there are any obvious reasons that you may have trouble conceiving.
Fertility declines with age, but even young people can have infertility issues. Talk with a fertility specialist if you’re having difficulty conceiving if:
- you’re under 35 and unable to get pregnant within 1 year of actively trying
- you’re over 35 and unable to get pregnant within 6 months of actively trying
It’s also important to note that 70 to 80 percent of couples will get pregnant after 12 months of trying to conceive, but this can vary with age.
Many infertility issues in either partner can be resolved without expensive or invasive procedures. Keep in mind that the longer you wait, the more stress you might feel. If you’re having sex during your fertile window and not getting pregnant, you do not have to wait to get help.
Some people experience signs and symptoms of ovulation. These can include abdominal pain or cramps, bloating, slightly elevated body temperature, changes in cervical mucus and saliva, and breast tenderness.
Ovulation is a part of your fertile window, but pregnancy can happen up to 5 days prior and 1 day after you’ve ovulated.
Ovulation predictor kits may help you pin down when you’re ovulating but should not be used long-term if you do not become pregnant. There are many causes of infertility that are not associated with ovulation. Many of these can be managed or treated with medical and infertility support.