Every month - roughly 7-10 days after menstruation - an egg is released from an ovary in a process called ovulation. As the egg travels down the fallopian tube in the hopes of being fertilized, it will survive for up to 24 hours before the “conception window” closes until the next cycle.
The body sends several ovulation signals, but tuning into the signs can take a bit of practice. Some signs are easy to notice, while others require more dedication. Once you’ve learned them, you’ll be a pro at reading your body! And if you are tracking your cycles and think ovulation issues are affecting your ability to get pregnant, schedule a consult with a fertility specialist.
7 Signs of Ovulation:
- Cervical Mucus - If you notice a thick, slippery mucus similar to an egg white in your underwear or when you go to the bathroom, the cervix is releasing mucus. This is a sign that ovulation is near or occurring. Cervical mucus serves the purpose of helping sperms move through the cervix on their journey to the egg.
- Increased Libido - As ovulation approaches, you may notice that you feel more “in the mood” for sex. This is the body’s natural reaction to ovulation.
- Elevated Basal Body Temperature - The basal body temperature (BBT) will remain consistent until right before ovulation, when it will go down very slightly, then jump back up and stay elevated – a sign that ovulation has occurred. When checking your BBT, it must be recorded from bed before getting up for the day for an accurate reading.
- Cervical Position - Throughout a cycle, the cervix, located at the end of the “tunnel” in the vagina, changes position. Outside of the fertile window, the cervix is lower, harder, and more closed. Prior to ovulation, the cervix moves higher and becomes softer and more open. These changes can be monitored through touch but if the cervix has moved up, it may be out of reach.
- Tender Breasts - Increasing levels of estrogen in the body that culminates in ovulation can also cause tender, swollen breasts.
- Ovulation Pain - Also known as mittelschmerz, (German for “middle pain”) sharp pains in the abdomen during the middle of a cycle are normal and a sign ovulation will happen soon. This can come in the form of cramping or pain on the inside of one hip, which may be an egg breaking free from the ovary during ovulation.
- Positive Ovulation Test - Ovulation test strips are an easy and affordable way to confirm ovulation. There is no need to buy expensive ovulation prediction kits. The test strips detect the amount of luteinizing hormone in your urine, an indicator that ovulation is happening or about to happen.
Identifying Issues with Ovulation
If you have been tracking your cycles and are unsure whether you are ovulating, there are some signs that may indicate potential issues:
- Irregular Cycles - The average cycle is between 21-35 days and should only vary in length by a couple of days per month. If your cycles are absent, shorter than 21 days, longer than 35 days or vary by several days per month, this indicates an ovulation issue. Irregular cycles can be the result of many different potential issues – high amounts of stress, being under or overweight, polycystic ovarian syndrome, thyroid issues, etc.
- No Rise in Basal Body Temperature - After ovulation, BBT elevates and stays elevated. If you don’t notice an uptick in BBT during a cycle, ovulation may not be happening.
- Inconsistent Ovulation Test Results - If ovulation test strips yield multiple positives within one cycle, even if you aren’t ovulating, this can indicate PCOS and/or a hormone imbalance.
Tracking your cycle is an important part of learning about your body and uncovering potential issues. There are many free phone apps - Kindara, Glow, Ovia, Flo - that can help determine the most fertile period. These apps also calculate helpful info such as cycle length and offer a history of all cycles recorded at the touch of your fingertips.
If you are concerned about your cycles, seek the help and evaluation of a doctor. Ovulation issues are the most common cause of infertility challenges and with many patients, ovulation can be restored through medication. Some women are even able to make lifestyle changes and resume ovulation without medication. We are here to help you and wish you the best on your journey!
Author Bio: Dr. Jane Nani, double board-certified reproductive endocrinologist. Her medical research keeps her at the forefront of the industry. She has a specific interest in Collaborative Reproduction and PCOS.