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The female reproductive system sends signals that ovulation is taking place. This includes:
- The cervical mucus that changes to resemble protein
- in some cases, an increase in body temperature
- , pain
A person may also experience:
- breast tenderness
- an increased sex drive
Cervical mucus goes through four general stages during the menstrual cycle. In less fertile periods, it is thick and viscous. When estrogen levels rise, the volume increases and resembles protein. This makes it easier for sperm to move.
To check the stage of mucus, a person can look at something on a tissue or test its consistency with a finger.
There may also be a slight increase in body temperature during ovulation. This is driven by the hormone progesterone, which the body secretes when it releases an egg. The temperature can rise between 0.5 and 1ºF and remain elevated until the end of the fertility period.
A person can buy a basal thermometer online or at a drug store to check for this surge. The readings are most accurate when a person takes them at the same time each day.
However, many factors can influence temperature levels, such as illness, alcohol consumption, and a change in contraception. For this reason, temperature monitoring alone is not a reliable way to prevent or increase the chance of conception.
Some people may have pain in the lower abdomen during ovulation. It’s called middle pain. It can take a few minutes to a few hours.
Ovulation pain can be a sharp, sudden pain or a dull ache. It can occur on either side of the abdomen, depending on which ovary releases an egg. Minor vaginal bleeding or spotting may also occur.
However, pain in the area may be due to another health problem, such as endometriosis or a sexually transmitted infection. A healthcare professional can help identify the underlying cause.
When ovulation occurs and how to track it
Ovulation usually occurs around 10—16 days before the start of menstruation. Some people can determine their fertility periods by tracking their cycles. This is known as the ovulation calendar method for predicting fertility.
The calendar method consists of several steps:
- Step 1: Track the menstrual cycle for 8-12 months A cycle runs from the first day of a period to the first day of the next period. The average cycle is 28 days, but it can also last 24 days or 38 days.
- Step 2: Subtract 18 from the number of days in the shortest menstrual cycle.
- Step 3: Subtract 11 from the number of days in the longest menstrual cycle.
- Step 4: Use a calendar to mark the start of the next period. Count in advance using the number of days calculated in step 2. At this point, maximum fertility begins. Maximum fertility ends at the number of days calculated in step 3.
If the result of the calculation in step 2 was 8 days and the result in step 3 was 19 days, the fertility window starts 8 days after the start of the next period and ends after 19 days.
Various websites and apps can help with this tracking. The following apps are free and have high user ratings:
- Glow Cycle & Fertility Tracker (iPhone, Android)
- Fertility Friend FF app (iPhone, Android)
- Ovia Fertility & Cycle Tracker (
- Natural cycles birth control (iPhone, Android)
- Ovulation calendar and fertility (Android)
When you track the menstrual cycle, you may also notice irregularities.
Instead, a person may prefer to track their fertility using an ovulation predictor kit from a drug store. These can detect the increase in luteinizing hormone in urine, which occurs just before ovulation.
Ovulation typically ends after menopause, which on average starts around 51 years of age. Menstruation may become more irregular in the years leading up to menopause. This period is called perimenopause.
Fertility vs. ovulation
Ovulation and fertility are closely linked, but they are different.
Ovulation occurs when an egg is released from an ovary. Pregnancy begins when an egg is fertilized by sperm. The fertilized egg then sticks to the lining of the uterus.
Fertility describes the probability of pregnancy. It can be helpful to know when a pregnancy is more likely during the menstrual cycle. Depending on a person’s wishes, they may decide to have or avoid sex, which can lead to pregnancy during this period.
Pregnancy can occur between 5 days before ovulation and 1 day after. This is because sperm can live in the vagina for up to 5 days and an egg can live for around 24 hours once released.
phases of the menstrual cycle
The menstrual cycle lasts an average of 28 days. and can be divided into three phases:
- The periovulatory or follicular phase: A layer of cells around the egg begins to expand and becomes more like mucus. The lining of the uterus begins to thicken.
- The ovulation phase: The egg and its cell network leave the ovary through a hole formed by enzymes and migrate into the fallopian tube. This is also the fertility period and usually lasts 24-48 hours.
- The post-vulatory or luteal phase: The body secretes luteinizing hormone. A fertilized egg implants itself in the uterus, while an unfertilized egg slowly stops producing hormones and dissolves within 24 hours.
When there is no pregnancy, the lining of the uterus begins to collapse and prepares to leave the body during menstruation.
How to ovulate
Tests At home, usually measure hormone levels in urine while a doctor does both urine and blood tests.
- luteinizing hormone. Levels rise rapidly about 36 hours before ovulation, and home urine tests can detect this increase.
- estron-3 glucuronide (E3G). E3G levels rise when estrogen is broken down. This happens around the same time as ovulation. A commercial urine test can measure both luteinizing hormone and E3G levels
- progesterone. At the time of ovulation, there are higher levels of progesterone as the uterus prepares for a fertilized egg. A blood test for progesterone at a clinic can confirm ovulation. There is also a commercial test for urine progesterone, which may appear on the label as “pregnanediol-3-glucuronide.”
When taking a test at home, it is important to follow the instructions carefully to get accurate results.
Ovulation after losing pregnancy
There are a lot of things to think about after losing your pregnancy, which can have emotional and physical effects.
To prevent infection, a person should avoid sexual intercourse until they no longer have any physical symptoms.
Menstruation may start again 1—2 months after losing the pregnancy, but cycles may still be irregular for a few months. To make it easier to calculate data, some people wait until they have at least one period before trying to get pregnant again.
If a person has experienced any of the following symptoms, it may be a good idea to talk to a doctor before trying to get pregnant again:
- ectopic pregnancy
- molar pregnancy
- multiple pregnancy losses
It is possible soon after a loss of pregnancy.
Health conditions that affect ovulation
Anything that interferes with ovulation can cause infertility or difficulty conceiving. Some of the most common causes are listed below.
Polycystic ovary syndrome
Also known as PCOS, this causes the development of enlarged ovaries, which often have small, fluid-filled cysts. It can cause hormone imbalance, which can disrupt ovulation.
Other symptoms may include insulin resistance, obesity, irregular hair growth, and acne.
This condition is one of the main causes of female infertility and affects 6— 12% of people of childbearing age.
This results from a disruption in the production of FSH and luteinizing hormone, which stimulate ovulation. It can affect the menstrual cycle.
Irregular menstrual cycles and amenorrhea, meaning they have no menstruation at all, are common in people with hypothalamic dysfunction.
Causes may be:
- excessive physical or emotional stress
- excessive training
- very high or low body weight and significant weight gains, or
- Tumors on the hypothalamus
Premature ovarian failure
This term describes egg production being stopped prematurely due to a drop in estrogen levels.
It may be due to an autoimmune disease, genetic abnormalities, or environmental toxins and typically occurs before the age of 40.
When a person takes certain medications or has an abnormality in their pituitary gland that produces hormones, the body may produce excessive amounts of prolactin.
This in turn can lead to reduced estrogen production.
Excess prolactin, also known as hyperprolactinaemia, is a less common cause of ovulatory dysfunction.
Fertility drugs can induce ovulation.
may prescribe the following when a person has finished ovulation:
- Clomiphene citrate (Clomid): This oral medication increases pituitary secretion of FSH and luteinizing hormone, which stimulates ovarian follicles.
- Letrozole (Femara): This works by temporarily lowering levels of the hormone progesterone to stimulate egg production.
- Human menopurgonadotropin (Repronex, Menopur, Pergonal) and FSH (Gonal-F, Follistim): These injectable drugs stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs.
- Human chorionic gonadotropin (Profasi, Pregnyl): This helps mature eggs and triggers their release.
- Metformin (Glucophage): This may treat insulin resistance and increase the chance of ovulation in people with polycystic ovary syndrome.
- Bromocriptine (Parlodel) and Cabergoline (Dostinex): These may treat hyperprolactinaemia.
Taking fertility drugs can increase the chance of multiple births, such as twins or triplets.
The above medications can also cause side effects, including:
- abdominal pain
- hot flashes
- heavy menstrual flow
- breast tenderness
- vaginal dryness
- increased urination
- mood swings
If any of these symptoms occur worrying or annoying, a doctor may recommend switching to a different approach.