Ovulation Symptoms

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on June 02, 2024
8 min read

Ovulation is when one of your ovaries releases a mature egg. To boost your chances of getting pregnant, it helps to know when you're ovulating. Then, you'll know when you and your partner should be having sex.

Ovulation happens halfway through your cycle and lasts up to 24 hours. Everyone's cycle is different, so you have to pay attention to the signs.

There are many ways you can tell if the time is right.

There are certain signs you may notice when your body releases an egg. But not everyone has ovulation symptoms, and having them doesn't always mean you're ovulating.

Ovulation and body temperature

Your basal or resting temperature increases slightly when you ovulate. You can use a special thermometer to check your temperature every morning before you get out of bed. You’re most fertile 2 or 3 days before your temperature rises.

Ovulation and discharge

Cervical mucus is the sticky fluid that comes from your cervix, the bottom of your uterus. You may notice it as normal vaginal discharge. Right before you ovulate, this mucus becomes clearer and thinner with a slippery consistency like that of egg whites. You may also notice an increase in the amount of discharge.

Ovulation and breast pain

You might have painful or tenderbreasts around the time you ovulate. It could be mild or very noticeable, and it might last until your period starts. Doctors think hormone changes are at least partly responsible for this symptom.

Bloating during ovulation

Hormone changes could also result in mild bloating around the time of ovulation. You could notice swelling in your belly area or have a feeling of fullness there.

Ovulation cramps

When an egg bursts out of its sac in your ovary as you ovulate, you might feel cramps or belly pain. This is called mittelschmerz, and you usually feel it on one side of your lower belly. The pain can be sharp or dull, and it can last from a few minutes to a couple of days.

Other symptoms of ovulation

Some other common signs that you're ovulating include:

  • A higher sex drive
  • Changes in mood and/or appetite
  • Sharper senses of sight, smell, or taste
  • Spotting (light bleeding)
  • Your cervix, which connects your vagina and uterus, feels higher and softer than usual when you insert a finger in your vagina

Does ovulation always have symptoms?

Ovulation is different for everyone, and so are its symptoms. You may not notice any signs of ovulation at all. But there are other ways to figure out when you're ovulating.

Mark your calendar

You can use a calendar or calendar app to track your menstrual cycle and roughly predict when you're most likely to be fertile. Each month for 6 months, note when your period begins and ends. Then look for your shortest cycle and your longest one during this time. Subtract 18 days from the shortest cycle and 11 days from the longest one. These numbers tell you the time frame when you're most likely to conceive, called your fertile window.

If your shortest cycle was 26 days and your longest 30, for example, you're probably most fertile on days 8 to 19 of your cycle. Keep in mind that day 1 of your cycle is the first day of your period.

Watch for body changes

Your hormone levels change throughout your menstrual cycle. During the first half, your ovaries give off the hormone estrogen. When your estrogen levels get high enough, your ovary releases an egg. Then your body starts to make progesterone, another hormone. It makes your body temperature rise slightly, usually by 0.5 to 1 F.

A digital basal body temperature thermometer can help you figure out when you'll likely ovulate. Use it to take your temperature while you're still in bed each morning before you eat or drink anything. Track the results with an app or calendar for a few months to figure out on which day of your cycle your temperature goes up.

You can also watch for changes in the amount and texture of your cervical mucus. When it increases in volume and gets more slippery, this helps sperm swim inside your body. If your mucus feels like this, you're likely in your fertile window.

Ovulation predictor kits (OPKs)

You can find these at most drugstores. They cost about $25-$75 a month. These kits test the presence or the amount of luteinizing hormone (LH) in your pee. Some detect both LH and estrogen levels. This indicates ovulation will soon happen. When the surge is detected, having sex in the next 24-36 hours will improve your chances of getting pregnant. Because sperm survives for a few days inside of you, they'll be ready to join the egg during ovulation.

The kits have enough test strips to let you check your LH levels several times during your menstrual cycle. Start testing a few days before you think you might ovulate, then repeat a few times over the next few days to pinpoint the exact day. When your LH levels are highest, you're in the fertile window.

Fertility monitors

They can be expensive but have an important benefit. While most ovulation predictors only give you a fertile window of up to 2 days, these can show 6-7 days of potential fertility for each cycle.

Fertility monitors give you more days to try to conceive, and they give a more accurate day of ovulation. The monitors collect data from your body and your cycle. They use data and algorithms to help you determine exactly when you're going to ovulate. They're 89%-99% accurate in identifying your fertile window if used correctly. They monitor various signs of fertility, including your skin temperature, basal body temperature, and vaginal fluids.

Progesterone ovulation tests

These tests can find out whether you've ovulated. They look at the levels of progesterone metabolite (pregnanediol glucuronide, or PdG) in your pee.

PdG levels typically rise 24-36 hours after you ovulate, so the tests are highly accurate. Start testing your levels before you expect your period to begin. These tests also have several strips to allow you to check your progesterone levels throughout your cycle.

Ovulation pain

Up to 40% of those who ovulate have mittelschmerz, a slight pain in the belly about halfway through the menstrual cycle. But if you're trying to get pregnant, don't wait for the twinge. That means your fertile window is soon closing.

If your menstrual cycle lasts 28 days and your period arrives like clockwork, it's likely that you'll ovulate on day 14. That's halfway through your cycle. Your fertile window begins on day 10. You're more likely to get pregnant if you have sex at least every other day between days 10 and 14 of a 28-day cycle.

It's common to have a cycle that's shorter or longer than 28 days or varies in length. But most people start their period 14 to 16 days after they ovulate, no matter how long their cycle is.

Ovulation itself only lasts 12-24 hours. That's how long an egg can live after your ovary releases it into your fallopian tube.

The time during which you can get pregnant each month usually lasts about 5-6 days. it includes the days leading up to ovulation as well as ovulation day itself.

When is the best time to have sex to get pregnant?

Doctors say it's best to have sex at least every other day during your fertile window. Your egg only lives for about 12 to 24 hours. But sperm can survive up to 5 days inside your body, so it's ideal to have them already there waiting for your egg. You’re most fertile in the 3 days up to and including ovulation day.

Not everyone ovulates on a set schedule. And some health conditions and situations can keep you from ovulating at all. Along with menopause, they include:

  • Breast- or chest-feeding
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or primary ovarian insufficiency
  • Intense stress
  • Too much or too little body fat
  • Excessive exercise

If you can't figure out when you're ovulating, your cycle isn't regular, or you go for a few months without having a period, ask your doctor for help.

Knowing when you ovulate helps you understand when you're fertile and when you're not. Ovulation usually happens about midway through your menstrual cycle. Not everyone has ovulation symptoms, but some common ones include a slippery discharge, an increase in body temperature, and cramps.

How many days after a period can you get pregnant?

It's possible, though not likely, to get pregnant if you have unprotected sex while on you're period or shortly afterward. Your fertile window usually includes a few days before ovulation as well as the day you ovulate. But sperm can live inside your body for several days. If you happen to have a particularly short or long cycle, you could get pregnant during or just after your period.

It's also possible to mistake the spotting that can happen when you ovulate for your period.

What happens when ovulation is coming?

Just before or while you ovulate, you might notice a slippery discharge with a texture like that of egg whites. Your sex drive might also increase as ovulation gets near.

Is age a factor in getting pregnant?

You can most easily get pregnant in your teens and 20s. Your fertility starts to decrease when you're about 30 and declines more quickly after your mid-30s. Few people are able to conceive naturally after age 45.

What lifestyle changes can increase the chances of conceiving?

If there's no medical reason stopping you from getting pregnant, certain healthy lifestyle changes could boost your fertility. To create the best environment for conception:

  • Maintain a weight that's healthy for you.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Limit or avoid alcoholic drinks.
  • Protect yourself against sexually transmitted infections.
  • Avoid toxins in the environment, such as dry-cleaning chemicals or pesticides.
  • Don't work nights if possible. If you must work a night shift, make sure you're getting enough sleep.
  • Limit intense exercises, such as running, to less than an hour a day and less than 5 hours a week.