What to Expect, Timing, and Tracking

Ovulation occurs when hormonal changes indicate your ovaries to release an adult ovum. 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, soft breasts and a slight increase in your basal body temperature. However, not everyone experiences these changes.

Keep reading to learn how to recognize the typical signs and symptoms of ovulation.

Ovulation occurs when an ovum leaves your ovaries and moves to the fallopian tubes, where it can be fertilized by sperm.

This process is driven by reproductive hormones. Before ovulation, your levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) rise. This is known as the LH boom.

The LH surge causes the follicle to swell and break. It releases an egg which then moves through the fallopian tube.

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels also rise during ovulation, but their role is less well understood.

When do you ovulate?

Ovulation usually occurs in the middle of your menstrual cycle. This 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 greatly from person to person and month to month. Generally, you should ovulate about 2 weeks before the start of your period.

Ovulation sometimes occurs more than once a month. In other cases, it does not occur at all, even when menstruation occurs. This can make it difficult to detect, but paying attention to physical changes can help you identify when you are ovulating.

Below are the most common signs and symptoms of ovulation. However, this can vary greatly from one person to the next. It is typical to notice some of them one month and not the next.

Also, keeping in mind that not experiencing any of these signs or symptoms does not mean that you are not ovulating.

Ovulation pain

Some people experience slight pelvic discomfort or mild cramps before or during ovulation. Often referred to as mittelschmerz, pelvic discomfort associated with ovulation can be caused by the rupture of the follicle and the release of small amounts of blood or fluid.

These sensations are sometimes described as a sting or pop. They can be felt in any ovary and can vary in location and intensity from month to month.

Some people may experience ovarian pain on alternating sides of their body every month, but it is a myth that your ovaries take turns releasing eggs.

The discomfort may only last for 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 ejected. This fluid sometimes causes irritation in the abdominal lining or surrounding area. A feeling of heaviness in the lower abdomen can also accompany these sensations.

Ovarian pain may also not be associated with ovulation.

Changes in body temperature

Basal body temperature (BBT) refers to your temperature when you wake up for the first time in the morning, before getting up and moving around.

Your BBT increases by about 1 ° F or less during the 24-hour window after ovulation has occurred. It is caused by the secretion of progesterone.

If pregnancy does not occur, your BBT will continue to increase until your period begins.

Tracking your BBT can provide clues about your ovulation pattern from month to month, but this method is not infallible.

An older study of more than 200 women found that late ovulation could not be predicted by any method and that no signs of ovulation, including BBT, matched perfectly with the release of an ovum.

BBT mapping can also be unreliable for people who have even slightly irregular periods.

Changes in cervical mucus

Cervical mucus consists mainly of water. It changes in consistency during your fertile window due to changes in the levels of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone and can 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, smooth fluid increases in volume. It also becomes thinner, stretchy in texture and bright in color. Cervical mucus is often described as an egg white consistency during this time.

In the days before ovulation, you may notice more secretion than usual due to an increase in cervical mucus volume.

When you are at your most fertile, cervical mucus can help keep sperm alive for an average of 3 days, but possibly up to 5 days. It increases your chances of fertilization and provides lubricant for intercourse.

You can check the consistency of cervical mucosa by observing it in your underwear lining.

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 teeth can all mask these patterns, making them a less reliable indicator of ovulation.

Other possible signs of ovulation

Some other possible signs of ovulation include:

  • Soft breasts. Some people report breastfeeding or sore nipples around the time of ovulation.
  • Inflate. Some people feel bloated before and during ovulation. Since bloating occurs at other times during your cycle, especially during menstruation, it is not necessarily a reliable indication of ovulation.

The ovulation phase of your menstrual cycle usually lasts between 16 and 32 hours, starting with the LH surge and ending when the ovum is released.

Ovulation usually occurs 24 to 48 hours after the LH surge.

You can get pregnant both before and after ovulation. This is called the fertile window.

Your fertile window begins up to 4 days before ovulation and extends for 1 day after ovulation. You are most fertile on the day before ovulation and the day of ovulation.

If you are trying to get pregnant, you may find it helpful to track your ovulation. Even if you are not trying to conceive, monitoring your cycle can be a helpful way to understand more about your overall health, energy levels, mood swings and when you can expect your period to begin.

To detect ovulation, try to keep track of the following information:

  • your menstrual dates
  • descriptions of your menstrual blood
  • descriptions of your cervical mucus
  • your BBT lectures
  • physical changes, such as cramps, pain, bloating or tenderness in the chest
  • other relevant information, such as your mood, libido and energy levels

You can use any calendar or journal to detect 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 cards are another option. They require you to draw your morning temperature readings on a graph, which gives a handy picture of the rise in your BBT after ovulation.

Finally, there are a number of applications that you can use to help you track your cycle. While these applications can help you determine when you are most likely to be fertile, they may not reliably predict the day of ovulation, according to a 2018 study.

Most 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 are fertile on the day you take the test. Like a pregnancy test, it involves urinating on a stick for a positive (fertile) or negative (non-fertile) result. Digital versions are also available.
  • Ovulation predictors. Predictor sets measure and track your levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) over a few months to determine when you are most fertile. This test usually requires daily urine testing outside of menstruation.
  • BBT monitors. You can monitor your temperature orally every day and record it in a journal or with an application.
  • Saliva tests. Saliva tests indicate when you are approaching ovulation. However, these tests tend to be less effective than urine tests. They tend to be most effective when used daily over several months, first thing in the morning.
  • Fertility kits. Home fertility kits provide a comprehensive look at you and your partner’s fertility. In addition to analyzing reproductive hormones such as LH in urine, they can also analyze sperm quality via ejaculation.

Home ovulation tests and fertility kits can be helpful if you are trying to conceive. Many claim a high level of accuracy, but it is important to follow package instructions to maximize their effectiveness.

Keep in mind that ovulation tests cannot diagnose fertility issues. For example, it is possible to experience an LH surge without ovulating.

Similarly, at-home ovulation predictor tests do not provide information on non-hormonal causes of infertility, such as:

  • clogged fallopian tubes
  • fibroid
  • hostile cervical mucus

Lastly, sperm tests at home are not definitive indicators of sperm quality. If you suspect that you or your partner is having fertility problems, it is important to talk to a doctor or fertility specialist.

People who have irregular periods often have irregular ovulation or do not ovulate at all. You may also have regular menstruation and still not ovulate.

Your doctor may order blood and imaging tests such as a sonogram to try to determine if you are ovulating.

If you are thinking of getting pregnant, consider talking to a doctor before you start trying. They can help determine if there are any obvious reasons why you might be struggling to conceive.

Fertility decreases with age, but even young people can have infertility problems. Talk to a fertility specialist if you are struggling to conceive if:

  • you are under 35 and can not get pregnant within 1 year after actively trying
  • you are over 35 and can not get pregnant within 6 months after actively trying

It is also important to note that 70 to 80 percent of couples will become pregnant after 12 months of trying to conceive, but this can vary with age.

Many infertility issues at any of the partners can be resolved without costly or invasive procedures. Keep in mind that the longer you wait, the more stress you can feel. If you have sex during your fertile window and do not get pregnant, you do not have to wait for help.

Some people experience signs and symptoms of ovulation. These may include abdominal pain or cramping, bloating, slightly elevated body temperature, changes in cervical mucus and saliva, and soft chest.

Ovulation is part of your fertile window, but pregnancy can occur up to 5 days before and 1 day after you ovulate.

Ovulation predictor sets can help you determine when you are ovulating, but should not be used long-term if you are not getting pregnant. There are many causes of infertility that are not related to ovulation. Many of these can be managed or treated with medical and infertility support.

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