So you’re ready to take the plunge into parenthood—congratulations! You’re probably finding the prospect super-exciting and super-scary in almost equal measures. But how do you know when the time is ripe for conception? You're going to have to get your timing right.
The five days leading up to and including ovulation are your most fertile–sperm can live for a few days and will hang around waiting for an egg to be released; by contrast, your egg will only last for 24 hours, so once you’ve ovulated the window of opportunity is smaller.
But what are the actual signs of ovulation? Here’s how to tell and increase your chances of fertilization:
You ovulate about 14 days before the start of your period. Counting the first day of your period as day 1, women with regular 28-day cycles ovulate on day 14. But if you have, say, a cycle lasting 32 or 35 days, it will be more like day 18. And if your cycles are irregular, the calendar will not be much help at all.
Want a shortcut? Try an online ovulation predictor. This helps time and track all your symptoms of ovulation with ease.
For some women, this is a reliable, simple sign. As you get close to ovulation, your cervical mucus will become copious, clear and slippery—like egg whites. It stretches between your fingers. Once your discharge becomes scant and sticky again, ovulation is over.
Some women also report mild breast tenderness around this fertile window time. Pay attention to your body each month and start to track noticeable changes and symptoms.
This is a bit fussy but can be useful to figure out your own unique cycle. You need to take your temperature before getting out of bed each morning with a basal thermometer and then note it on a chart or regular piece of paper (more on that here).
Changing hormone levels lead to a spike in temperature as you approach ovulation. You are most fertile on the day of the spike and the days leading up to it.
The obvious problem: You don’t know you’ve peaked until you see the drop, and by then time is running out. The records you keep this month will help you identify your ovulation pattern plan for your next cycle.
About one in five women have pelvic discomfort when they ovulate—anything from a dull ache that lasts a day or two to a sharp twinge. While this won't help you predict ovulation (you'll be smack dab in the middle of it), it'll certainly give you several hours to work with if you're committed to baby-making activities.
Ovulation pains are rarely overwhelming and can range from a subtle twinge to a distinct ache-like sensation in your lower abdomen.
Still can’t tell when your ovulation occurs? Over-the-counter ovulation kits use urine or your saliva to identify hormone surges that signal ovulation. We have a few favorites for tracking ovulation in a more clinical way.
Now imagine us sprinkling baby dust on you as you await a positive result from your home ovulation test kit.
It may come as a surprise, but that beautiful glow could be your body’s way of announcing ovulation. “Some women glow before ovulation due to high levels of estrogen causing collagen synthesis and increased dermal water content,” says OB GYN physician Kate C Arnold, MD, MBA.
But hold on — it turns out that those unexpected zits could also be a gift from your ovaries. According to Arnold, the surge in progesterone after ovulation can trigger acne.
Feeling frisky and feisty all of a sudden? Well, Denise Noyer-Erez, L. Ac., FABORM, owner and clinical director of the AIM Wellness clinic, suggests it might just be another sign that ovulation is making its grand entrance. “Oftentimes, women can feel more frisky during ovulation, and that can certainly be a sign that you are getting ready to ovulate,” says Noyer-Erez.
According to Arnold, libido changes occur just prior to ovulation as a result of high luteinizing hormone levels. It then decreases shortly after you begin to exit the ovulation phase.
Ovulation brings more than just a frisky mood — according to Noyer-Enez, women can also feel more confident and energetic. “It’s important for women to understand that our moods, energy and focus are also cyclical like our menstrual cycle,” explains Noyer-Enez.
“Women can also feel more energetic, confident and alert before and during ovulation because of the rise in estrogen, which is the feel good hormone.”
If you're feeling worn out and sluggish, it might be a sign that ovulation is underway, as Arnold suggests this can happen when progesterone levels are elevated. But don’t think that fatigue is always a sure sign of ovulation — Dr. Alex Robles, MD, fertility expert at the Columbia University Fertility Center, says that fatigue is a non-specific symptom that can be caused by many things.
If you’re constantly feeling worn out it’s crucial to take a broader view and consider other factors that could be causing your fatigue. Therefore, Dr. Robles recommends monitoring your symptoms over multiple cycles to see if there’s a regular connection between your fatigue and your ovulation cycle.
Did you know that ovulation can throw off your bathroom habits too? Arnold points out that progesterone, a hormone that’s high during ovulation, often leads to constipation. “That’s why many women experience constipation around ovulation and then have loose stools when their period kicks in,” explains Arnold.
Still, Dr. Robles stresses that just like fatigue and tiredness, alterations in bowel movements alone are not a conclusive indicator of ovulation. “Multiple factors can impact bowel habits, so it’s vital to observe these symptoms consistently over several months to establish any link with your menstrual cycle,” advises Dr. Robles.
When the munchies strike, Arnold says it might mean your ovaries are gearing up for ovulation. “A woman’s appetite can go into overdrive during and after ovulation due to hormonal changes and the extra energy needed to release the egg for potential fertilization,” Arnold explains.
However, even if some women may experience an increase in appetite, it’s essential to remember that every body operates on a unique rhythm, so not all women may experience this.
Dealing with water weight? Noyer-Enez notes it’s a common part of ovulation. “Hormonal changes cause the body to hold onto water,” explains Noyer-Enez.
“Sometimes women retain extra fluid, causing them to feel uncomfortable. To remedy this, Noyer-Enez recommends incorporating nourishing foods in your diet, exercising, and drinking more water since dehydration can cause fluid retention to increase.
It sounds strange, but Noyer-Enez says that when a woman is ovulating, her senses like eyesight, taste, and smell become more heightened. “When ovulating, women often experience a heightened sense of smell, which allows them to pick up on pheromones and other scents that might make them more attracted to certain male partners,” she explains.
Noyer-Enez also mentions that, like smell, a heightened sense of taste could also signal ovulation. She elaborates that this increased taste sensitivity is connected to making healthier food choices in preparation for pregnancy. Similarly, there could be a minor enhancement in eyesight concerning color and light during ovulation, as Noyer-Enez states that it is believed that women become more selective about their mate’s attractiveness during this phase.
Dr. Kristin Bendikson, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist, states that spotting (or ovulatory bleeding) is also a sign of ovulation. “During ovulation, there's a slight dip in estrogen levels just before the egg is released from the ovary,” says Dr. Bendikson. “This hormonal shift can cause the uterine lining to shed a bit, leading to spotting.”
However, spotting during ovulation is not universal among women and may signal other medical conditions. Therefore, Dr. Bendikson advises consulting your healthcare provider if you have any concerns or unusual symptoms.
You might not easily spot this one without a microscope, but according to Dr. Mark Surrey, MD, a fertility specialist and co-founder and medical director of the Southern California Reproductive Center, changes in saliva patterns are linked to ovulation.
"The idea is that the hormonal changes associated with ovulation can cause a certain pattern when you look at saliva under the microscope,” Dr. Surrey says. “However, I would not place trust in this as a sole marker of ovulation, as there are more accurate tests for ovulation such as ovulation predictor kits.”
This article contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.
Keep up with your baby's development, get the latest parenting content and receive special offers from our partners