What are the Signs of Ovulation?

During a woman’s menstrual cycle, an egg is released from an ovary during the process of ovulation.1 If the egg is fertilized as it moves through the fallopian tube, it becomes a zygote. The zygote will then travel to the uterus and become a ball of cells called a blastocyst. The blastocyst will implant into the wall of the uterus and become an embryo which will later develop into a fetus. If the egg remains unfertilized, it will be expelled from the body along with any built-up uterine lining and the cycle will repeat itself the following month.

Women who are trying to conceive might use an ovulation calendar to track their cycles and determine when they are most fertile. However, the women who are able to use this method to its greatest effect are in tune with their bodies and understand their own signs of ovulation—the subtle physical changes that occur in a woman’s body when she is ovulating.

Ovulation symptoms and when in the cycle ovulation occurs will differ from one woman to the next. One woman may ovulate on the same day of her cycle, month after month, while another may find that her cycle is less consistent. Some women may not experience any recognizable signs of ovulation at all while others may find it obvious, once they know what to look for.

There are a few specific signs of ovulation to be aware of. Keeping track of when these symptoms present themselves can help you understand your own cycle and when you ovulate, making it easier for you to conceive.

Primary Ovulation Symptoms

While some symptoms of ovulation are subtle, there are three main signs that can be studied and tracked so that you can predict your most fertile days:2

  • Basal body temperature (BBT) is the temperature of your body when it is at rest.3 To track your BBT, take your temperature every morning before you get out of bed, ideally at the same time every day. You’ll notice that your body temperature should be largely consistent but might dip a bit just before your ovary releases an egg.3 After the egg has been released into the fallopian tube, your body temperature rises and stays up for a few days.3 A woman’s average BBT prior to ovulation averages from 36.1°C to 36.4°C and rises to a range of 36.4°C to 37°C.3 The difference is slight and may require a thermometer with multiple decimal places in order to track. However, that slight rise in body temperature is a notable sign of ovulation.3

  • Cervical mucus. The consistency of your cervical mucus changes throughout your menstrual cycle. When you are fertile, the mucus changes to a structure and consistency that will facilitate the sperm’s travel on its way to your egg.4 During this time, the mucus will resemble an egg white in the sense that it is clear and stretchy.4 This sign of ovulation can be tracked by simply watching the changes in consistency of your mucus by wiping with toilet paper, placing a clean finger into your vagina or checking your underwear and noting the consistency of the discharge.

  • Cervical position or firmness. The cervix goes through many changes during ovulation, but one commonality for many women is that when the egg is released, the cervix will be soft, high, open, and wet, in order to facilitate a pregnancy.2 Women may have some difficulty differentiating between how their cervix normally feels and the changes it goes through during the ovulation stage of their menstrual cycle.2

These three primary symptoms of ovulation happen in every woman and are physical changes that, with practice, can be tracked in order to facilitate a pregnancy.

Secondary Ovulation Symptoms

Each woman’s cycle of ovulation and menstruation is different, and there are other signs of ovulation that may be present. Other women may not have any of these symptoms, or may experience them inconsistently:2

  • Mild cramping or pain. Some women experience a one-sided pain in their abdomen when they ovulate.5 This pain, known as mittelschmerz, can be a dull cramp or a sudden twinge, and corresponds with the ovary that released the egg.5

  • Light spotting. Some may notice a small amount of vaginal bleeding.5

  • Breast tenderness. Changing hormone levels around ovulation may cause sore nipples or tender breasts.6 This pain may be barely noticeable for some women but other may experience it so severely that they cannot wear tight-fitting clothing.6

  • Bloating. Some women may experience bloating when they ovulate.7 Others may not have this symptom of ovulation.

  • Heightened senses. Ovulation may affect your sense of smell, taste, or vision. You may experience a heightened sex drive as well.2

If you’re trying to have a baby, pay attention to what happens to your body during the entirety of your menstrual cycle. Keep track of any physical changes that may occur, and you may be able to recognize your own signs of ovulation and increase your chances of getting pregnant. Women should start taking a prenatal vitamin at this time to ensure that a potential baby is getting the necessary amounts of vitamins, especially folic acid.