Hoping to get pregnant? Let’s talk about ovulation. It’s the time of the month when you’re most fertile, so recognizing when it’s happening (or about to happen) can help you figure out the best time to try for a baby.
Ovulation is the part of your menstrual cycle when your ovaries release a mature egg. Once it’s released, the egg makes its way down one of your fallopian tubes and into the uterus where it can be fertilized by sperm.
If the egg isn’t fertilized, it’s shed along with the lining of your uterus during your monthly period.
Ovulation lasts for 12 to 48 hours, giving you a pretty short fertile window each month. It can an be hard to know exactly when it’s happening. Ovulation occurs around 14 days before your period starts, assuming your cycle is like clockwork and lasts for 28 days exactly.
But if your period is even a little irregular, figuring out when exactly you’re ovulating can be trickier. Using a fertility tracker or ovulation predictor kit can help you pinpoint your best time for baby making.
But you can also pay attention to your body: It’s possible to suss out subtle symptoms of ovulation if you know what to look for. Here are eight signs to pay attention to.
Just before ovulation, your vag starts making more clear, wet, stretchy or slippery discharge. (It looks a lot like raw egg whites.) Why? All that extra mucous-y stuff helps sperm make its way up your cervix to fertilize the egg.
So if you get a couple days each month where you feel like you can’t get by without a panty liner, pay attention. It’s a pretty strong sign that you’re ovulating.
Ovulation causes your body’s basal body temperature (the temp when you’re totally at rest) to go up just a little bit. The difference is slight, so you’ll get the most accurate reading by taking your temp first thing in the morning before getting out of bed, using a basal body temperature thermometer.
One thing to keep in mind: Your fertility actually peaks two to three days before your temp starts rising, so you’ll need to track your temperature for a few months before you can use the info to plan when to have sex.
Some women notice a painful sensation on one side of their lower abdomen right around the time an egg gets released. Called mittelschmerz, the cramping can be sharp or dull and usually only lasts for a few minutes to a few hours.
Rapid hormonal changes can potentially cause spotting — usually pink or pale red — when you’re ovulating. But it’s not very common: One study found that only 3 percent of women experienced spotting during ovulation.
Hormonal fluctuations can make your boobs sore or uncomfortable at various points throughout your cycle. Tenderness is most common right before your period, but if you notice it seems to strike midway through your cycle, it could mean you’re ovulating.
That annoying puffiness that tends to strike before your period? For some women, bloating (and being a bit gassy) can also be a thing during ovulation.
Just keep in mind that like cramping and breast tenderness, bloating isn’t as reliable of an indicator as things like increased vaginal discharge or a higher basal body temp.
If you notice that things just seem, well, sharper at a certain time each month, that might be a sign that you’re ovulating. But again, don’t put too much stock in this symptom. Like breast tenderness and bloating, heightened taste or smell isn’t a primary sign of ovulation.
It’s possible that hormonal changes might make you wanna get busy more around the time that you’re most fertile. (Makes sense, right?) But this is another sign that you can’t necessarily count on.
Trying to get pregnant can start to feel stressful when you start racking up negative test results. While it’s totally normal to not conceive right away, it’s worth being aware of the potential signs of infertility.
You should talk with your doctor if:
- You’re under 35 and haven’t been able to get pregnant after a year of frequent trying.
- You’re over 35 and haven’t been able to get pregnant after 6 months of frequent trying.
- You have a history of painful or irregular periods, endometriosis, or pelvic inflammatory disease.
- You or your partner have other known fertility problems.
- You’ve undergone treatment for cancer.
Even if you’re having trouble getting pregnant through sex, your doctor can walk you through other options for conceiving, including fertility drugs, artificial insemination, assisted reproductive technology like IVF, or third party options like donor eggs, donor sperm, or surrogacy.