Ever since you were a teenager, you’ve likely been prepping for (and dealing with) your period — your week-long, monthly reminder that your reproductive system is churning. So by now, you’re probably pretty good at predicting your flow (you know, the cramps, mood swings, and the cravings that come with that time of the month). But signs you’re ovulating? They’re not as easy to spot. After all, she’s a subtler bodily function with fewer in-your-face signs.
“Ovulation is the time in your cycle when you ultimately get the release of your egg, or from any one of your ovaries,” explains Tanaka J. Dune, M.D., a urogynecologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
If you think of a regular cycle as about 28 days, ovulation happens *roughly* around day 14, she notes — though some women ovulated earlier and some later. And this multi-day window before, during, and after ovulation is the time when sperm can meet your newly-released egg and you can get pregnant. If you don’t wind up pregnant, your period comes.
If you’re trying for a baby — or simply trying to learn more about your cycle — familiarizing yourself with the signs of ovulation can help you spot it. Here, ovulation symptoms (from slight fluctuations in bodily functions to super specific aches) that signal an egg has been released.
Slight (and we mean slight) changes in body temperature
You’ve likely heard of a basal thermometer for figuring out when you’re most fertile. But here’s the thing: Subtle body temperature changes can be tough to pick up on, says Dune. That said, if you spot them, temperature can be a good indicator of ovulation. Here’s how to do it: Before you get out of bed in the a.m., sitting still, keep a basal or digital thermometer (this one from Amazon is highly rated and less than $15) in your mouth for about five minutes or until the device signals it’s done.
Write down your temperature every day and after a month, look at a complete cycle — you’ll likely spot the point that temperature ticks up a tiny bit (usually only about 0.1 to 0.2 degrees). That’s a sign you’re about to ovulate. Can’t notice the change? No biggie. It’s so small some women don’t, says Dune, there are still other signs of ovulation to look out for.
Breast tenderness and nipple sensitivity
Feel like everything about your breasts and nipples wants to make you say, ow? Hormonal changes around ovulation, specifically peak levels of a hormone called luteinizing hormone, can be linked with that classic breast tenderness, says Dune. Think of it as your body trying to get ready for a potential pregnancy (and having to crank up production of breast milk), she says.
Not a typo! One of the signs of ovulation can be dull, cramp-like pain (or sometimes more sudden, sharp pain) on one side of your lower abdominal, pelvic area, explains Dune. It’s called Mittelschmerz (a.k.a. ‘middle pain’ in German).
“We think it occurs when the egg bursts from the ovary,” she explains. After all, the process is quite physiologic: Think about what happens when you pop a pimple, she notes. It erupts. That’s more or less what’s happening when the ovary releases an egg — a tiny little eruption. But don’t worry, it’s usually nothing intense (and if you feel pain, Advil will be enough to help). But if you notice more severe pain, see your ob-gyn to make sure you’re not suffering from something else such as pelvic inflammatory disease or an ectopic pregnancy, which is when a pregnancy occurs outside of the uterus.
Egg white-like discharge
As ovulation approaches, progesterone and luteinizing hormone surge, which can also cause discharge to become thicker and stringier, says Dunes — an evolutionary effect that helps ‘catch’ sperm. And while not every woman’s vaginal discharge will look the same, many notice an egg white-like consistency. Ovulation usually takes place on the day when you have the most amount of wet discharge, The American Pregnancy Association says.
You can feel a little bit puffy for a whole slew of reasons (pizza night, anyone?), ovulation being one of them. During ovulation, the body produces a chemical called progesterone which relaxes the smooth muscle that lines your gut, slowing digestion, explains Dune. The result: You’re left feeling a little bigger than normal.
It’s that time of the month
Okay, so this isn’t technically a symptom, but women who track their cycles usually use the day (or days) of the month as a sign that ovulation is nearing. If you track your cycle (noting the first day of your period as ‘day 1’) you can notice patterns over time, being able to roughly estimate when you ovulate based on when you get your period (and any of the above symptoms).
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health notes that to find out the first day when you’re most fertile, after tracking your cycle for eight to 12 months, subtract 18 from the number of days in your shortest cycle. With this number, count ahead that many days from the first day of your next period. That’s the day your ‘fertile window’ likely begins.
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