How To Know When Your Body Is Ovulating, Signs To Look For

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Chances are, you learned about ovulation during your fifth-grade health class, so you probably think you know all there is to know. But just in case you missed (or forgot) any of the key details, we’ve put together a refresher course.

When you’re trying to get pregnant, ovulation becomes even more important. Here’s a quick guide to what your ovaries are up to every month.

What Is Ovulation?

Ovulation is when an ovary releases a mature egg. That egg then travels through the fallopian tube on its way to the uterus. If the egg is not fertilized during the journey, you can expect to get your period about two weeks after you ovulated.

Typically, the two ovaries alternate releasing eggs — one month the left ovary released an egg, the next month the right ovary does. Usually, just one egg is released per cycle.

When Does Ovulation Occur?

“In a textbook case, the menstrual cycle is 28 days long and ovulation occurs on cycle day 14,” explains Neil S. Simmerman, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist for Henry Ford Health. But not all women have textbook cycles. A normal menstrual cycle can range from 24 to 38 days. “If you have a longer or shorter cycle, the first half of the cycle may vary in length, but the time from ovulation to your period will still be about 14 days,” Dr. Simmerman adds.

What Are Signs Of Ovulation?

Most women ovulate without knowing it’s happening. But because ovulation triggers a big surge of hormones — especially progesterone — you many notice some signs that you’re ovulating. These may include:

  • Spotting or vaginal discharge
  • Temperature changes
  • Change in cervical mucus
  • Change in libido
  • Breast swelling or tenderness

Is Spotting During Ovulation — Or Painful Ovulation — Normal?

Some women experience a small amount of spotting or discharge right around the time of ovulation. “It’s not abnormal or worrisome to have some spotting,” says Dr. Simmerman. “But if you have heavy bleeding any time other than during your period, you should see your doctor.”

Ovulation pain also affects some women. “Usually it’s fairly mild lower pelvic pain on the same side as the ovary that’s releasing an egg, although for some women it can be quite bothersome,” says Dr. Simmerman. The condition is known as mittelschmerz, German for “middle pain.”

Mild ovulation pain can be managed with ibuprofen. Severe pain that doesn’t go away warrants a trip to the doctor. In some cases, it could indicate the growth of a cyst in your ovary that can twist or rupture.

How To Track Ovulation

If you’re trying to get pregnant, knowing exactly when you’re going to ovulate becomes crucial. An egg is only viable for about 24 hours after it’s released.

Ovulation predictor kits can help, but they can be expensive. “Women with fairly regular cycles can use timed intercourse to increase their chances of getting pregnant without a kit,” says Dr. Simmerman. “Having intercourse every other day between cycle days 10 and 21 will maximize the likelihood that there will be sperm in the fallopian tubes whenever ovulation does occur.”


To find a doctor at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-436-7936.

Dr. Neil Simmerman is an OB/GYN and Chief of Women's Health Services at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.

Categories: FeelWell