When you’re trying to conceive (TTC), knowing what ovulation symptoms are normal for you can help you pinpoint the ideal time for sex.
Not every woman experiences the same symptoms of ovulation — and not every woman wants to create a detailed spreadsheet of all the possible signs.
But simply being aware of them can make you feel more in tune with your body and guide your baby-making in the right direction.
Finding your fertile window can significantly improve your chances of becoming pregnant, which ties in with your ovulation.
We spoke with embryologist and fertility expert, Navya Muralidhar, for all the essential facts about ovulation and what signs suggest you’re near to ovulating (or it’s already happening!).
In this article: 📝
- What is ovulation?
- When do you ovulate?
- What happens on ovulation day?
- How long does ovulation last?
- What are the 9 signs of ovulation?
- Not up for tracking your ovulation symptoms?
What is ovulation?
Ovulation is, generally speaking, when a mature egg (not yet fertilized) is released from your ovary, travels down the fallopian tube, and gets itself ready for fertilization.
Ovulation can be one of the best times to get pregnant, with your chances of implantation significantly increased.
But if you want to know can you only get pregnant during ovulation?, it’s certainly not the only way to make a baby, by a long shot!
When do you ovulate?
So, when does ovulation occur?
Well, ovulation ‒ aka a mature egg being released from one of your ovaries ‒ gets underway around 11–21 days into your menstrual cycle.
That’s 11–21 days since the start of your most recent period.
You can actually work out when you last ovulated more accurately, by counting back 13–15 days from the first day of your period.
So, noting down when your period begins and how long each cycle lasts is a great place to start when it comes to tracking your fertility signs.
Your most fertile time (aka your fertile window or ovulation window) is the five days leading up to ovulation, plus the day ovulation actually occurs.
But some women have irregular ovulation cycles for lots of reasons:
- Pregnancy or pregnancy loss
- High or low body fat percentage
- Hormonal changes
- Birth control pills (whether you’re taking them or you’ve recently stopped)
An irregular ovulation cycle (or menstrual cycle) is typically classed as too short (less than 21 days) or too long (more than 35 days), so, even if you’re not TTC, keeping on top of your ovulation cycle is important.
What happens on ovulation day?
On ovulation day, one of your ovaries releases a mature egg and it enters one of the fallopian tubes that leads to your uterus.
If you’re TTC and you’ve been having plenty of sex during your fertile window, then hopefully there will already be some sperm ready to greet and fertilize the egg (yep, sperm can live inside your body for a few days!).
Otherwise, you have 12–24 hours after the egg has been released when it can still be fertilized.
After that, the egg is no longer viable – which means it’s a little tired from hanging around in the fallopian tube and it’s not up for any sperm-dates.
So, how can you tell if you are ovulating and schedule your baby-making activities accordingly?
How long does ovulation last?
So you’re probably wondering, how many days do women ovulate?
It’s a 24-hour sort of deal ‒ ovulation lasts for one day, but that doesn’t mean that you only have 24 hours in your ovulation cycle to get pregnant.
The days leading up to your ovulation day are also a time when you’re at your most fertile, but you’re at maximum fertility the closer you get to Ovulation Day.
What are the 9 signs of ovulation?
If you’re wondering how can I tell if I’m ovulating?, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with these nine symptoms of ovulation day:
1. Cervical fluid changes
In the days leading up to ovulation, you’re likely to see changes in your cervical mucus – that’s the white-ish fluid that you’ll find in your underwear or on toilet paper.
As you get closer to ovulating, the fluid changes from white with a creamy texture to clearer and more slippery, something like raw egg whites.
The egg-white stuff is also really stretchy: you can normally stretch it for a few inches before it breaks!
Once you find this stretchy fluid, you can feel confident that you’re in your fertile window.
If you have sex at this point, the sperm can live in the fluid for up to five days – so they’re ready to go when you ovulate.
2. Position of your cervix
This is one of those ovulation symptoms that takes a bit of practice to track.
The idea is that you can feel from the position of your cervix whether you are getting close to ovulating.
At the beginning of your menstrual cycle, your cervix feels lower, firm, and closed-up, but around ovulation, it feels higher, softer, and slightly open – to let the sperm through.
If you check the position of your cervix every day, you can start to learn to recognize these changes, you can usually feel the difference with your finger
It can be tricky though, so don’t worry if you feel tracking this symptom isn’t for you.
3. Increased sex drive
Not much explanation needed here.
It’s Mother Nature’s way of getting you in the mood at the right time.
That said, many, many factors can impact your desire for sex and increased libido, so this isn’t the most reliable indicator of ovulation.
4. Ovulation pain
You may be thinking, What does ovulation feel like? Can I feel when it’s actually happening? And can ovulation make you feel sick?
Well, some women (as many as 36% according to recent research) do feel some pain during ovulation, around the time their ovary releases an egg, and it’s usually a mildly painful sensation, known as mittelschmerz (“middle pain” in German).
So cramping during ovulation is perfectly normal, you’re not alone.
If cramps are really taking the wind out of your sails, try some pain relief, like paracetamol, heat pads, or even period cramp relief like the OOVI pulse therapy kit.
5. Ovulation bleeding or discharge
You might see a very small amount of red or brown blood in your underwear around the time you ovulate, and this is known as ovulation bleeding or spotting.
Bleeding during ovulation is one of the rarer ovulation symptoms, reported by only 5% of women, and scientists still aren’t sure why it happens.
It could be the result of the egg breaking out of the ovary or it could be down to our old friends, the hormones.
Brown discharge is another sign of ovulation, and nothing to be concerned about ‒ it’s simply your blood mixing with vaginal discharge. But if spotting or bleeding persists, or is different from usual, it’s best to check with your doctor, just in case.
Either way, if you do bleed a little when you ovulate, that’s another handy sign to add to your TTC toolbox.
6. Fall and rise in BBT
Hormonal changes around the time of ovulation cause a dip and then a notable rise in your basal body temperature (BBT).
To measure this, you’ll need a BBT thermometer and you’ll need to take your temperature every morning before doing anything else – not even sitting up.
You should also have had at least 4 hours sleep beforehand.
Because measuring your BBT helps you work out when ovulation has already happened, it’s only useful for TTC if you track it for a few cycles and learn when you typically ovulate.
Track another symptom (such as cervical fluid) at the same time and you may be able to pinpoint your fertile window pretty accurately.
7. Breast tenderness
If you’re wondering, do your breasts get tender when you ovulate?, the answer is yes!
Your breasts can be very sensitive to changes in your hormones.
That’s why many women get tender breasts just before their period or early in pregnancy.
Likewise, if you feel that your breasts are tender around the time you expect to ovulate, there’s a good chance that ovulation has occurred.
As with BBT, this is a sign that’s only helpful with TTC if you track it over a period of time and get to know your ovulation symptom patterns.
But if you have no other ovulation symptoms apart from tender breasts, ovulation may not be the cause.
8. Headaches and nausea
Many women ask, can ovulation make you feel sick? The answer is yes.
Nausea and headaches are two common ovulation side effects due to the change in your estrogen and progesterone levels, which are typically at their highest.
Headaches and nausea may be symptoms of congestive or spasmodic period pain, but luckily, we’ve got a list of all the ways you can reduce your period pain.
9. Ovulation bloating
Is bloating a side effect of ovulation? Do you bloat during ovulation? You’re not alone, and it’s all your hormones’ fault.
Bloating during ovulation is totally normal, and while it can be super-annoying (why can’t I fit in my skinny jeans?!), it usually doesn’t actually impact your weight.
If you do find yourself feeling a little bloated when you’re ovulating, estrogen could be the culprit.
Not up for tracking your ovulation symptoms?
We get it: not everyone feels a thrill of excitement when they’re cross-referencing their BBT graph with their cervical fluid chart.
Tracking ovulation symptoms can be fun, but it can also end up being a bit of a chore – not good for creating a sexy, baby-making atmosphere.
So, here are a couple of TTC shortcuts:
- Try an ovulation predictor kit. Simply pee on a stick and find out if you’re likely to ovulate in the next 24 hours.
- Have sex at least every other day during your cycle. That way, you’re bound to hit your fertile window without even trying!