Whether you’re planning to have a baby or dread having one, knowing when you’re ovulating is the key to timing sexual intercourse with your partner.
When women ovulate, a mature egg is released from your ovary, setting the stage for fertilization. If you have unprotected sex during this time, you’re likely to get pregnant.
Though general knowledge dictates that ovulation usually happens 14 days before the onset of your next period—day 14 for women with a 28-day cycle—the timing isn’t the same for everyone. After all, most women don’t even have the standard 28-day menstrual cycle.
If you want to know if you’re currently ovulating, don’t just rely on the calendar. You also have to sense how it feels.
Keep reading to know the most common ovulation symptoms you should be on the lookout for.
10 Signs of Ovulation You Should Monitor
Hormonal changes occur when you ovulate, causing various ovulation symptoms in your body.
You might experience these ovulation signs and symptoms five days before your ovulation up to a day after it.
Cervical Mucus Changes
Pay attention to the discharge from your vagina, as this can be a good indicator of ovulation.
During ovulation, your body produces more estrogen. This causes your cervical mucus to have an egg-white consistency—clear and stretchy. Such characteristics make it easier for the sperm to swim toward the egg.
How do you check your cervical mucus? Simply insert a clean finger into your vagina to get a sample of the discharge. Try to stretch it between your thumb and finger. If it’s sticky, stretchy, and slippery, then that means you’re fertile.
If your cervical mucus becomes thick and cloudy, that means you’ve missed your ovulation period.
Egg-white discharge isn’t the only kind of secretion you’ll encounter when you’re ovulating.
You might also get some brown discharge or spotting, which happens when the follicle surrounding the egg matures, grows, then ruptures, resulting in light bleeding. It becomes brown or dark red because the blood is no longer fresh and has already oxidized.
Most of the time, occasional light spotting isn’t a cause for concern. But if it becomes frequent, go to your healthcare provider to get yourself checked for infection and possible ectopic pregnancy.
Another side effect of the hormone rush happening in your body during ovulation is the presence of sore breasts and nipples.
For some women, the tenderness happens before ovulation. Others feel it right after ovulation.
Lower Abdominal Pain
Some women can actually feel ovulation happening because of the mild pain they experience in their lower abdomen.
Known as mittelschmerz, ovulation pain is characterized as a sharp or dull cramp. It is usually one-sided, felt only on the side where your ovary releases the egg.
Mittelschmerz can last for a few minutes to a couple of hours. Aside from the cramps, you might also experience light vaginal bleeding and nausea, though it dissipates after some time.
If you know how to check your cervix, you’ll notice a change in its cervical position. It’s higher, softer, wetter, and more open during ovulation.
To feel for your cervix, stand in whatever position you use to insert your tampon, then insert a clean finger into your vagina to feel inside.
Before ovulation, your cervix will feel soft, like the texture of your lips. After you’ve ovulated, it would feel a bit harder, like the tip of your nose.
Basal Body Temperature Changes
It’s not exactly an ovulation sign you can feel, but the subtle changes in basal body temperature or BBT have been used for a long time by many women to determine if they’re fertile.
Two days after ovulation, your basal body temperature rises and stays elevated.
It’s best to track your BBT for a few months to make it easier to find patterns and notable changes.
If you notice an increase in sex drive somewhere in the middle of your menstrual cycle, that might be a sign you’re ovulating. You can think of this as Mother Nature’s way of ensuring we’re keeping humankind alive.
But don’t use this as your primary ovulation indicator, as sex drive can be a fickle thing. It can be influenced by just about anything—from a simple glass of wine to a plateful of oysters.
Sensitivity to Tastes and Odors
Some women report heightened senses during ovulation, especially for their senses of smell and taste.
Since your body is ready for reproduction, it becomes more primed to pick up the scent of androstenone, the male pheromone.
You may not notice it, but your estrogen and progesterone hormones can alter the pattern of your saliva during ovulation.
If you look at your saliva through a microscope, you’ll notice a ferning pattern similar to frost on a windowpane.
But don’t rely on this too much, as these salivary changes can be masked by smoking, eating, and brushing your teeth.
Headaches and Nausea
Think pregnancy is the only thing that can make you sick? Ovulation can, too!
Headaches and nausea can happen to some women during ovulation, no thanks to the changes in your estrogen and progesterone hormone levels.
How to Track Your Ovulation Symptoms?
Predicting ovulation is a tricky thing, though it’s not impossible. You can either do it yourself or use tools and tests to do so.
Don’t want a lot of fuss with gadgets and devices? Try to do the following:
If you have a relatively regular menstrual cycle that lasts between 25 and 35 days, it’s also likely that your ovulation occurs 14 before menstruation. That means charting your menstrual cycle will likely work for you.
Write down any ovulation sign or symptom you’re experiencing and which day it happens.
By doing so, you can predict your ovulation time based on the amount and severity of symptoms you’re experiencing.
Basal Body Temperature Monitoring
As mentioned above, your basal body temperature or BBT is one of the symptoms of ovulation. That’s why monitoring it is also one of the ways you’ll know if you’re ovulating.
BBT pertains to the temperature of your body at rest. At the start of your cycle, your BBT averages between 97.2 and 97.6 °F. It slightly dips as you approach ovulation, then sharply increases by about 0.4 to 1 °F after ovulation occurs. Take note that your BBY can fluctuate by a half-degree or more every day.
To monitor your BBT, buy a digital thermometer designed specifically for tracking your BBT. Measure your temperature every day at the same time before you get out of bed. Make sure to jot down your reading every morning.
While this method is a reliable way to predict ovulation, you should track your BBT over a series of months for maximum accuracy. You’ll get a better sense of your ovulation time after a few months of BBT monitoring.
Tools and Tests
Aside from tracking ovulation symptoms using the methods mentioned above, you may also use various at-home and over-the-counter tests.
Ovulation Predictor Kits
Commonly sold in drugstores and online, ovulation predictor kits measure the amount of luteinizing hormone (LH) in your urine.
For a 28-day cycle, LH usually peaks on day 14 or 15—roughly the same time that ovulation happens. It stays elevated for about 14-27 hours to help the egg fully mature.
If you have a regular cycle, use the kit during your predicted fertile window. If you have irregular periods, pay attention to your ovulation symptoms to know the optimum time to do the test.
Using an ovulation predictor kit is the same as doing an OTC pregnancy test. You just have to pee on the stick and wait for the line to appear. Check the color of the line. If it matches the shade shown on the instructions, it means you’re going to ovulate within 24-48 hours.
It’s best to do the test first thing in the morning and test around the same time each day. You should also cut back on your liquid intake for at least four hours before the test, as LH is easier to detect in concentrated urine.
Just like ovulation predictor kits, fertility monitors measure your LH levels to know when you’re ovulating.
But aside from that, it also measures your estrogen levels to identify your peak fertile days, as well as the five fertile days leading up to them.
In other words, while ovulation predictor kits give you a 24-hour window for possible conception, fertility monitors identify your five most fertile days. Some monitors even store your past menstrual cycle history so you get a customized fertility reading.
How Long Does Ovulation Last?
Short answer: Only one full day! Once the mature egg is released from the ovary, the sperm can fertilize it for 24 hours.
But as you already know, predicting the exact day of ovulation isn’t easy. That’s why obstetricians recommend that if you’re planning to get pregnant (or avoiding one), consider your “fertile window” instead of just your ovulation day.
Your fertile window consists of six days. It includes the five days leading to ovulation plus the ovulation day itself.
Your egg is no longer viable beyond 24 hours of ovulation. If you want to get pregnant, you need to wait until your next menstrual cycle to try again.
When Should You See a Doctor?
If you don’t experience any of these symptoms or you’re getting inconsistencies in your ovulation test results, you might be having irregular ovulation or not even ovulating at all. In such cases, it’s best to get yourself checked out.
Your doctor will most likely run blood work and tests to determine if you’re ovulating. The most common test is the progesterone blood test, which measures the progesterone levels in your bloodstream. If it’s abnormally low, then you might not be ovulating.
Other fertility tests include measuring your other hormone levels, such as:
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
- Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH)
- Thyroid hormones
By keeping all these things in mind, you can get pregnant faster than those who aren’t monitoring their ovulation symptoms. Similarly, knowing these symptoms can also help you steer clear of pregnancy if you’re not planning to have kids yet–but don’t forget to continue your birth control pills! But keep in mind that ovulation is just one part of the equation. You also have to look at your overall reproductive health (and your partner’s) to ensure you can conceive without a hitch.