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7 signs of ovulation to help you understand your menstrual cycle, according to OB-GYNs

Some people experience symptoms halfway through their cycle that can indicate they're ovulating. OB-GYNs share what signals ovulation.
Ovulation tracking
TODAY Illustration / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Understanding ovulation is a big part of taking control of your reproductive health, especially if you're interested in getting pregnant, but many people are unfamiliar with the signs of ovulation.

“As women, as we get a little bit older, we are more aware of our bodies,” Dr. Chavone Momon-Nelson, an OB-GYN in Pennsylvania, tells TODAY.com. “You don’t always have to have symptoms (of ovulation), and sometimes symptoms might be very mild. But then there are some people who are very aware that those symptoms that they are having are occurring when they’re ovulating.”

What is ovulation?

Ovulation is the point in your menstrual cycle where your body releases an egg, which may then become fertilized, leading to pregnancy. It normally occurs about halfway through your menstrual cycle. Eggs are normally released one at a time during each cycle. During ovulation, the egg leaves the ovary, moves through the fallopian tube and heads toward the sperm, if there is any.

When do you ovulate?

A menstrual cycle ranges from 25 to 35 days depending on the person. About halfway through the cycle, ovulation occurs — so at day 14 for the average 28-day cycle — and it lasts for three days. People are most fertile prior to ovulation.

What are the signs of ovulation?

People who are not attuned with their body might miss some symptoms of ovulation because “they are subtle changes,” Dr. Christine Greves, an OB-GYN in Florida, tells TODAY.com.

Both doctors agree that if you're ready to start a families, you should speak to a doctor to learn more about ovulation and fertility.

Still, the experts say there are some common signs of ovulation.   

1. Cramping

Some people might experience pain that can feel like menstrual cramps about two weeks after their period, when ovulation begins.

This pain with ovulation is short-lived and often occurs on one side of the body.

“There can be discomfort from whichever side you released the egg, and there can be pain,” Greves explains. “That usually (lasts) no longer than a day and a half, but it is uncomfortable.”

2. Breast tenderness

During ovulation, you may notice your breasts feel achy or heavy.

“If your breasts are slightly tender, that can indicate a surge in your hormones,” Greves says.

3. Bloating

People might also notice a fullness or puffiness in their abdomen. “Some people say they start feeling bloated,” Momon-Nelson says.

4. Increased libido

“Some women do say they are more interested in intercourse (when they're ovulating),” Momon-Nelson says. “Women who are often in that fertility window, they’re more interested in sex.”

Greves agrees and says many people experience a surge in their sex drive because “the whole reason for ovulation (is) to procreate.” 

5. Moodiness

While some people might notice an increased libido, others feel easily annoyed and would prefer to be left alone.

“Some women are super irritable (and have) mood swings,” Momon-Nelson says. “Some women who are a little bit older (and) going through some perimenopausal changes at that time, they are less interested in intercourse.”

6. Changes in cervical mucus

During ovulation, the cervical mucus changes as the body prepares for possibly pregnancy.

“(It’s) a little bit thinner and slippery, even a little bit clearer like an egg white,” Greves explains. “That is for reproduction to allow the sperm to travel up there and fertilize the egg.”

If you don't tend to notice changes in your cervical mucus, you're not alone.

“Most women notice the change in their cervical mucous but … they’ll just be like, ‘Oh yeah, I just have some discharge,’” Momon-Nelson says.

7. Spotting

When the egg is being released, you may notice a little bit of blood, as well.

“You can have some light spotting when you ovulate,” Greves says. “Not a whole lot, just tiny, tiny amounts.”

8. Increase in basal body temperature

Your basal body temperature — your temperature when you're at rest — elevates slightly when you're ovulating. But getting a correct reading can be tricky. You need to use a special thermometer and take your temperature consistently every morning before leaving bed, using the bathroom or drinking anything, Momon-Nelson explains. Just a slight increase in basal body temperature indicates one is ovulating.

“A rise of 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit can detect when you are going to ovulate,” she says. But she also notes that other things, such as stress or being sick, can influence basal body temperature, so taking one’s basal body temperature “doesn’t always work” to detect ovulation.  

How to track ovulation

If you're interested in understanding your menstrual cycle, Greves suggests recording when your period comes for several months in a row and counting the days between each one. Use a calendar to chart your periods or one of the various period-tracking apps available. Having an understanding of how long your cycle is the first step in understanding when ovulation occurs.

“You can have a gauge on when you may be expecting (your period) each month,” she says. “If you’re not regular, then it’s a little more difficult.”

Experiencing irregular periods can make it harder to know what the midpoint of your cycle is when using a calendar or app to track it.

In this case, an easier way to track ovulation is to take a test.

“If you’re trying to get pregnant, everything is time sensitive,” Greves says. “If you want that confirmation, just pee on the stick (and) do the ovulation test.”