If you’re trying to get pregnant, you’re probably looking out for ovulation symptoms, in order to work out what day you’ll ovulate.
Once you’ve identified it, you can then have intercourse, hopefully resulting in a pregnancy.
When you ovulate, you have a short window of time to conceive before the egg starts to die.
Therefore, it’s important to understand your cycle to optimise your chances of conception.
So let’s take a look at the important basics of your cycle, as well as what ovulation symptoms you might expect.
Understanding Your Cycle
Understanding your menstrual cycle can be a great deal easier if you know what you’re looking for. You don’t need to be an expert — you may able to detect ovulation after just one cycle! With such simple, yet wonderful knowledge, you may be able to shorten your journey to pregnancy.
From day 1 of your menstrual cycle (when you get your period) until ovulation, this is called the follicular phase.
From ovulation until the end of your period, this is called the luteal phase, which usually lasts 12 to 16 days.
What does this mean?
It means the day of ovulation will determine your cycle length. It’s not based on the first day of your period.
Charting your cycle daily will help you to work out the lengths of your follicular and luteal phases which is handy information.
What Causes Ovulation In Your Body?
Your ovaries are amazing almond shaped organs, which develop egg-containing follicles in preparation for ovulation. Every cycle, Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) promotes the development of around 5-12 follicles, with the most dominant follicle being released at ovulation.
The growing follicles produce oestrogen. As a result of high oestrogen levels in your blood, Luteinizing Hormone (LH) triggers ovulation in your body.
Ovulation occurs some 12-24 hours after the LH surge, with the mature follicle bursting through the ovarian wall. If sperm is waiting for the egg, or if you have intercourse at this point, you could very well get pregnant.
For 90% of women, cycle length can vary from 23-35 days, with ovulation occurring midcycle.
Other factors (e.g. stress) can result in delayed ovulation — as late as the third or fourth week. However, the day which is often used to calculate cycle dates, especially pregnancy due dates, is guessed as being on day 14. You can already see a major reason why due dates aren’t so accurate!
Not every woman has a 28 day cycle, ovulating on day 14. A normal, healthy menstrual cycle should be around 26 to 32 days in length. Find out more about what a healthy menstrual cycle should look like, and when you might need help.
Do Women Ovulate Every Month?
Not all women ovulate every month. If an ovary does not produce a mature follicle, ovulation does not occur. This is called an anovulatory menstrual cycle. The endometrium (the lining of your uterus which builds up in preparation for pregnancy) develops as normal, but there is no egg released.
For a small percent of women, they may release two or more eggs within a 24 hour period. It is not possible to release more after this time due to hormonal changes in the body. Once an egg is fertilised, hormones will stop any future eggs from being released in order to protect and nurture the pregnancy.
10 Ovulation Symptoms
There are several ovulation symptoms you might notice. These include (in no particular order):
#1: Ovulation Pain or Mittelschmerz
The most uncomfortable of ovulation symptoms for some women is ovulation pain or mittelschmerz. In German, this translates to mid (mittel) pain (schmerz). For these women, ovulation causes a sudden, constant pain in their lower abdomen.
It’s important to understand that painful ovulation is not normal. A mild sensation is normal, but pain is not. It could be a sign that you have ovarian cysts, adhesions from previous abdominal surgery, or other heath issues. Especially if you’re trying to conceive, this should be investigated right away, as pain can be a symptom of a medical problem that can result in infertility.
Find out more information about ovulation pain.
#2: Drop In Basal Body Temperature
In order to notice a drop in basal body temperature, you need to be charting your cycle, taking your temperature every morning upon waking (as close to the same time every day).
Charting plays a key role in really understanding your cycle, identifying what your body is doing and what it does does normally. If you’ve not been charting your cycle prior to reading this article, this wont be of help this cycle, however its a great time to start. Take a look at our article, Charting Your Cycle For Conception and in future you will be able to spot a slight temperature drop before you ovulate.
You will need a basal thermometer. These are specifically designed for taking temperatures that have slighter fluctuations than normal (having an accuracy to +/-0.05 degrees centigrade, and measuring two decimal places). There are several ‘fertility’ thermometers on the market now, but as long as it’s a basal thermometer, you’re set.
After ovulation, you will notice that your temperature normally rises, and stays that way until the next period “ unless you become pregnant and that temperature stays higher. This is how some women know to expect their period, with a drop in temperature around the time their period is due.
#3: Cervical Mucus
Keeping a close eye on cervical mucus several times a day is important, as this is another one of the reliable ovulation symptoms. Your mucus changes in response to being at fertile or infertile stages of your cycle.
Cervical mucus changes with the fluctuations in your hormones like oestrogen. Following a period, mucus will typically be dry before becoming sticky, then creamy, then watery before becoming its most fertile state of clear, slippery and stretchy (looking like raw egg white). This best aids the sperm on it’s passage to the egg, providing an alkaline protection from the vagina’s acidic environment.
As you get older, the fewer days you will have egg-white cervical mucus (EWCM). For example, a woman in her 20’s may have up to five days of EWCM, whereas women in their late 30’s may have one or two days if that.
For more information, have a look at our Cervical Mucus Observations article.
#4: Cervical Position
Your cervix gives away some fantastic clues as to when you are fertile, so checking your cervix is a helpful tool in working out when ovulation is near. You’ll likely need a few cycles to get the hang of it, so you can understand the feel and variations in the different states that your cervix presents.
Checking the position of your cervix is best done at the same time each day as the position of your cervix often changes and doesn’t remain in one spot all day. Always wash your hands before you check your cervix.
Just like your cervical mucus, the cervix is clever and changes to optimise the chances of conception. When you are not fertile, upon feeling your cervix, you will notice that your cervix will be low, hard (like the tip of your nose) and dry. For a fertile cervix, remember: SHOW. Soft (more like your ear lobe), high, open and wet.
Other Possible Signs
Here is a list of other signs which may indicate ovulation, but are not as reliable as the above suggestions:
- Breast tenderness and sensitivity
- Increased libido
- Increased energy level
- Sense of vision, smell and taste become heightened
- Water retention
- Spotting — mid-cycle spotting is believed to be a result of the sudden drop of oestrogen prior to ovulation. Due to there being no progesterone right away, the lining can leak a small amount of blood until then.
Ovulation Prediction Tests
There are some ovulation prediction tests on the market, to help detect changes in your body which signal ovulation is near. Two of the most common are:
Ovulation Prediction Kits (OPK’s)
Ovulation prediction kits can be purchased online, from your pharmacy or supermarket.
Ovulation prediction kits work like a pregnancy test, only they measure your levels of LH, which indicates that you will be ovulating in the next 12-24 hours. Time to go make a baby!
Ovulation Microscopes (Saliva Test)
Ovulation microscopes can also be purchased from pharmacies and online. These handheld mini-microscopes enable you to observe the pattern of a dry saliva sample. When you’re fertile, the saliva appears to be ‘ferning’ unlike other infertile times.
Ovulation Calculator — Predict Your Most Fertile Days
If you want to work out your most fertile days based on your cycle dates, give our ovulation calculator a try. Simply enter in the last date of your menstrual period, as well as your usual cycle length. It’ll predict your upcoming fertile days, so together with other ovulation symptoms, you have some great tools to speed up that path to conception.
Sperm can survive inside of a woman for around 3-5 days, so having sex before ovulation has even occurred may result in a pregnancy. If you’re trying to get pregnant, there is no need to have lots of sex and time things to the very minute you ovulate. This just makes sex functional instead of enjoyable, which will quickly wear its welcome.
If you chart your cycle and get to know when you normally ovulate, you can enjoy a passionate night with your partner and know that you gave yourselves a very good chance at pregnancy.
Recommended Reading For All Things Fertility
Below are some books I recommend for those wanting to know more about or taking control of their own fertility. Many of these books also rate very highly with BellyBelly forum members.
#1: Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler
For any woman unhappy with her current method of birth control; demoralised by her quest to have a baby; or experiencing confusing symptoms in her cycle, this book provides answers to all these questions, plus amazing insights into a woman’s body. Weschler thoroughly explains the empowering Fertility Awareness Method, which in only a couple minutes a day allows a woman to:
- Enjoy highly effective, scientifically proven birth control without chemicals or devices
- Maximise her chances of conception or expedite fertility treatment by identifying impediments to conception
- Increase the likelihood of choosing the gender of her baby
- Gain control of her sexual and gynaecological health
#2: Plan to Get Pregnant: 10 Steps to Maximum Fertility by Zita West
Having a baby is one of the biggest life-decisions that a couple can make together. Plan to Get Pregnant tells you what you need to do to maximise your chances of conception, and breaks the process down into 10 manageable steps. It not only talks you though getting pregnant, but it also offers guidance on how to stay pregnant, especially through the, often difficult, first trimester. From how to know when you’re both ready to become parents and what to eat for maximum fertility, to embarking on IVF treatment and beyond, this book is a must-read for anyone who wants to start a family.
Zita West has numerous fertility books and I highly recommend her work. Other books from Zita West include:
- Zita West’s Guide To Getting Pregnant
- Fertility and Conception: A Complete Guide to Getting Pregnant
- Zita West’s Guide to Fertility and Assisted Conception
#3: Natural Fertility: The Complete Guide to Avoiding or Achieving Conception by Francesca Naish
Many women have problems with their fertility at some time in their lives. Solutions and preventative advice here will contribute to womens’ well-being, and help to overcome problems with contraception, infertility, reproductive and hormonal health. Includes:
- The natural approach
- The unnatural approach
- Cervical mucus changes
- Basal body temperature changes
- Rhythm calculations
- The lunar cycle
- Synchronising cycles
- Sexual expression in fertile times
- Charting and co-ordinating the methods for contraception
- Natural remedies for hormonal and reproductive health
- Natural, healthy conception
Connect With Others On The Conception Journey
If you’d like to read others experiences or even contribute your own, please join us in the BellyBelly Forums — we have a section dedicated to conception.