What Is Ovulation—And When Does It Occur?

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Ovulation happens when an egg is released from an ovary and travels down a fallopian tube to get ready for possible fertilization and pregnancy. This usually happens about halfway through your menstrual cycle, typically about two weeks after the start of your last period. Some people experience symptoms like light spotting and pain on one side of the abdomen during ovulation. 

Learn more about ovulation, including what happens, how to know when you’re ovulating, the typical signs and symptoms, and how to track your cycle.

What Happens During Ovulation?

The menstrual cycle is divided into two phases: the follicular phase and the luteal phase. During the follicular phase, which starts on the first day of your period, estrogen levels rise and ovarian follicles (immature eggs in the ovaries) “ripen” in preparation for ovulation. 

During ovulation, a mature egg, or ovum, is released from the ovary and descends into the fallopian tube. This typically happens around day 14 in an average 28-day menstrual cycle. However, the timing can vary widely based on hormone levels, stress, cycle length, and other factors. After ovulation, the luteal phase–typically around 12-16 days – begins and lasts until the start of your next period (if you don’t get pregnant).

The most fertile time of your menstrual cycle is the 5 days before, and including, the day of ovulation. Ovulation is the most fertile time of your menstrual cycle. An egg lives for 12-24 hours after being released from the ovary, and sperm can live inside the body for up to five days. This means that women have up to six fertile days per menstrual cycle: five days prior to ovulation and the day after ovulation.

If conception occurs—that is, if the egg is fertilized by a sperm cell in the fallopian tubes—and successfully implants in the uterus, you’ll get pregnant. If the egg isn’t fertilized, your menstrual period will begin, as will a new cycle.

How to Know When You're Ovulating

Some people may know when they’re ovulating simply by counting the days in their cycle. However, if you don’t always have a regular cycle, this method might not be reliable. 

In addition to tracking your menstrual cycle, there are several physical changes that can help you know whether you’re ovulating. These include:

  • Cervical fluid: Cervical fluid, or mucus, changes throughout the menstrual cycle in response to estrogen levels. You may be ovulating if your cervical fluid has a clear, stretchy, and slippery consistency (similar to egg whites).
  • Basal body temperature: Small changes in basal body temperature (BBT), your body temperature when you’re at rest, can help you pinpoint when you’re ovulating. Your BBT declines slightly just before ovulation and rises about 0.5-1.0 degree Fahrenheit afterward, as your body starts to produce more progesterone during the luteal phase.
  • Try an at-home fertility test or ovulation tracker: These kits detect luteinizing hormone (LH) in your urine, which is the key hormone that triggers ovulation.

Symptoms of Ovulation

Many people don’t experience any symptoms during ovulation. However, some people notice the following signs:

  • Mittelschmerz (also known as “ovulation pain” or “middle pain”), which may feel like a dull ache, cramp, sharp pain, or twinge on the side of the pelvis where the egg is released 
  • Light vaginal spotting or bleeding
  • Increased libido
  • Sharper senses, such as smell, vision, or taste
  • Bloating or “water weight”

How to Track Your Ovulation

There are many reasons you may want to track your ovulation. If you’re trying to get pregnant, identifying your typical ovulation days can help you identify your peak “fertile window,” or the days each cycle when you’re most likely to conceive if you have unprotected sex. If you’re trying to prevent pregnancy, you can avoid unprotected sex during your ovulatory period. Meanwhile, some people simply want to be more in tune with their body and the changes they go through during each cycle.

Here are some of the methods you can use to track ovulation:

  • Tracking cervical mucus, BBT, or both: Known as the “fertility awareness method,” you can use changes in your cervical mucus, BBT, and/or ovulation symptoms over a period of several months to become more aware of your reproductive cycle. Many people keep track of these changes with a journal, chart, or app to identify patterns across time.
  • At-home fertility monitors: At-home fertility monitors, ovulation test strips, and ovulation predictor kits can help you predict and track ovulation by measuring your level of luteinizing hormone (LH), a hormone that surges around 24-36 hours before ovulation. Some also measure estrogen, progesterone, and/or BBT. Some, like Mira, connect to your smartphone for quick digital results. Others are wearable gadgets, such as the Ava Fertility Tracker
  • Fertility apps: Fertility and period-tracking apps, such as Clue and Glow, can help you track your cycle and predict ovulation. You can also use them to chart your BBT, as well as physical and emotional symptoms.

A Quick Review

Ovulation is when an egg is released from the ovary into the fallopian tubes, typically about halfway through the reproductive cycle. You may get pregnant if sperm fertilizes the egg in the fallopian tube.

You may notice you’re ovulating due to changes in your basal body temperature, cervical mucus, or ovulation symptoms. To track your ovulation, you can count the days of your cycle and observe changes in your body. Period-tracking apps and at-home fertility monitors can help you pinpoint your fertile window each month.

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7 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. American Pregnancy Association. What is ovulation?.

  3. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The menstrual cycle: menstruation, ovulation, and how pregnancy occurs.

  4. American Pregnancy Association. Fertility charting basics.

  5. National Health Service. Ovulation pain.

  6. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Fertility awareness-based methods of family planning.

  7. National Health Service. How can I tell when I'm ovulating?.

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