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 where it can be fertilized by sperm, then it moves down to your uterus.
If the egg isn’t fertilized, it’s a sign to your bod to shed the lining of your uterus during your monthly period. There are a few key signs of ovulation that can help you figure out the best time to try for a baby.
8 common ovulation symptoms
Look for these common signs:
- An uptick in vaginal discharge
- A very slight rise in body temperature
- Belly cramps
- Mild spotting in the middle of your cycle
- Breast tenderness
- Heightened sense of taste or smell
- Increased sex drive
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 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 get some hints by paying 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 when 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 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.
Just make sure to use a basal body thermometer. While a normal thermometer will only measure your temp to the first decimal, a basal body thermometer will break it down to two decimal places.
FYI: Your fertility actually peaks 2 to 3 days before your temp starts rising. This means you’ll need to track your temperature for a few months before you can use the info to plan when to have sex.
Some people notice a painful sensation on one side of their lower abdomen right around the time an egg gets released. Also called mittelschmerz, this cramping can be sharp or dull and usually doesn’t last too long.
It might be annoying, but this type of pain doesn’t mean that anything’s wrong and it isn’t harmful to your health. You can typically manage it with over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription birth control, but if it’s affecting your daily activities, call your doc.
Rapid hormonal changes can potentially cause spotting — usually pink or pale red — when you’re ovulating. This isn’t a common sign, though. One 2012 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 that 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 10/10.
Trying to get pregnant can start to feel stressful when you’re seeing negative test results. While it’s totally normal not to conceive right away, it’s worth being aware of the potential signs of infertility.
You should talk with your doctor if you:
- haven’t been able to get pregnant after a year of frequent trying, and you’re under 35
- haven’t been able to get pregnant after 6 months of frequent trying, and you’re over 35
- have a history of painful or irregular periods, endometriosis, or pelvic inflammatory disease
- or your partner have other known fertility health concerns
- have 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.