The menstrual cycle is a familiar yet mystifying process for the average woman. We experience them regularly, far too regularly many would agree, but they come and go in a manner that seems mostly out of our control. While there's an abundance of information available, it can be overwhelming to truly grasp the inner workings of the process responsible for triggering and influencing the timing of the menstrual cycle. In fact, many women are unaware that they are fertile, or able to become pregnant, for approximately 6 days out of the month. The exact timing of this window for conception depends on ovulation.
Ovulation is the term used to refer to the moment at which a mature egg is released from a woman's ovary, ready to be fertilized and potentially resulting in pregnancy. For the average woman, and it's important to keep in mind that there will always be differences as women's bodies are unique, ovulation occurs around cycle day 14, or the 14th day after bleeding first began with a woman's last menstrual period.
It's very helpful to identify the timing of ovulation if a woman hopes to become pregnant. Experts recommend having intercourse daily in the days leading up to ovulation, because sperm can live for 3 to 5 days inside a woman's body, meaning they will be there waiting when that precious egg makes its big debut. Because the egg typically lives for 12 to 24 hours after ovulation, the timing aspect is a fundamental part of successful conception. What follows is a list of 15 Signs That Ovulation Is Occurring:
15 Period Expected In Two Weeks
To understand the concept here, one must first be familiar with the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. The luteal phase refers to the time between ovulation and the start of a woman's menstrual cycle. While every woman's body is completely unique, a standard luteal phase is 12 to 14 days long. This means that on the day a woman's period starts, she can count back 14 days and identify the exact day she is likely to have ovulated. By tracking a few cycles in this manner (using a free smart phone app or calendar), a woman should be able to identify the regular length of her cycle, and the average day for ovulation.
In other words, if a woman's cycle is regularly 31 days long, it's a fair assumption that she is ovulating on cycle day 17, since 14 days after that, she is due to start her next period. This is extremely useful information, because a woman can begin to more accurately identify the ideal days for intercourse if she is trying to conceive. Fertility experts recommend intercourse in the days leading up to ovulation, as opposed to waiting until ovulation is suspected to begin trying.
14 Heightened Sense Of Smell
A woman's menstrual cycle is ruled by rising and falling hormones. The two most notable hormones responsible for the timing and functioning of the female reproductive system are estrogen and progesterone. This roller coaster of hormone production throughout a woman's cycle can cause a host of subtle, physical symptoms. One effect of the sudden rise of estrogen and then progesterone immediately surrounding ovulation is a heightened sense of smell, meaning women's bodies innately become more aware of their surroundings.
Some research suggests this is the female's instinctual way of finding a mate, as studies suggest she will be more attracted to male pheromones at this time. She may also find herself more drawn to the scent of her partner, finding his smell especially alluring during ovulation. Of course, there is also a downside to this phenomena. For some women, they report being more easily disgusted by subtle, unpleasant odors. So, if the kitchen garbage can is suddenly revolting, or the smell of a co-worker's standard seafood lunch is especially nauseating on a given day, that egg may be ready to pop!
13 Feeling Especially Amorous
Many women, as a result of the hormones coursing through their bodies during ovulation, experience a period of heightened sexual arousal that coincides with her window of highest fertility. She may find in the days leading up to ovulation that her sex drive is significantly increases, and she thinks of sex far more often. She may desire sex more than she typically does, or even find herself initiating encounters with her partner, when the same does not hold true for her the rest of the month. This is human nature's way of encouraging reproduction! She is simply responding to her body's cues that she is fertile, and chances for conception are reaching their peak!
So, while it may seem odd to truly pay attention to one's libido instead of just naturally responding, it can be a very telling way of identifying that crucial window of time when conception is most likely to occur.
12 Slight Nausea
The complex combination of peaking hormones responsible for triggering ovulation, particularly the increase in estrogen levels, and the surge of luteinizing hormone (LH), can cause some women to become queasy or nauseous. In addition, for some women, their bodies respond to the surge in hormones by producing extra digestive juices, setting the stage for stomach upset and discomfort. In a recent study, many women reported instances of stomach upset immediately surrounding ovulation, and researches believe it's the body's sensitivity to rapidly shifting hormones that contribute to both the stomach ailments and potential headaches.
Many women find it helpful to keep a daily log of any potential symptoms or ailments throughout the month. While a slight headache around the same time each month might not seem like a big deal, it may in fact be a big indicator of the timing of a woman's ovulation or impending menstrual period. By comparing the data of a few cycles, she can potentially gain a wealth of information that wouldn't otherwise be obvious.
11 Abdominal Bloating
Bloating occurs when the body holds on to excess water or fluids. It's not uncommon during ovulation, with as many as 40% of women noting that they feel oddly bloated during ovulation each cycle. As ovulation approaches, the hormone estrogen peaks, often resulting in a temporary imbalance in the body in various systems. As a result, a woman might feel that her favorite jeans are snugger than normal, or she'll be uncomfortable in her favorite form-fitting blouse.
Oddly enough, this symptom can feel like a bit of a contradiction, since a woman can also experience a boost in her libido and generally feeling of being frisky, while at the same time feeling a bit uncomfortable in terms of bloating.
10 Smooth Skin
For many women, the menstrual cycle often announces its impending arrival with equally unpleasant pimples. They're often a good indicator that a woman is premenstrual, and a woman's period is just days away. According to a study recently published in the Archives of Dermatology, 63% of women experience premenstrual flare ups in their acne. These unwelcome visitors tend to strike about seven to 10 days before the start of a woman’s period and typically resolve shortly after bleeding begins.
Because the beginning portion of a woman's cycle is dominated by the hormone estrogen, and the latter half, progesterone, the middle of the cycle (when ovulation occurs) is a bit of a balancing act. For many women, this results in a bit of a "calm before the storm" in regards to hormone induced acne. It's the calmest phase, and for many women, the result is smooth skin, or a slight but noticeable reprieve in new pimples.
9 Increased Cervical Mucus
For many women, this is one of the body's more obvious cues that ovulation is imminent. Essentially, a woman's body is incredibly equipped to do everything possible to increase the odds of conception. One way that it accomplishes this is by ramping up production of cervical mucus, or the fluid produced by the cervix, which a woman may note as vaginal discharge shortly before ovulation. Cervical mucus often begins slicker, or more slippery as many women describe, in the days leading up to ovulation. This is the body's way of aiding a man's sperm in the long and perilous journey through the vagina, uterus, and Fallopian tube of choice, in hopes of finding that elusive egg.
Fertility experts recommend checking cervical mucus with clean hands throughout the cycle to note its changes. Fertile cervical mucus often takes on an egg-white consistency and is able to be stretched without breaking between fingers. As cervical mucus dries up, or becomes thicker or pastier, one can assume that the most fertile phase of a woman's cycle has passed as this is generally not the most conducive to sperm.
8 Increased Energy And Good Mood
For many women, dealing with their monthly flow is no big deal. PMS, menstrual cramps, or feeling uncomfortable is no big deal and easily ignored. For others, the pain and discomfort of a the monthly cycle is significant. There are so many factors at play that contribute towards a woman's experience throughout the month, and just as each body is unique, so is each period. That said, the middle of a woman's menstrual cycle is often a time of increased energy and an overall sense of well-being.
Now, we know, you might be thinking of the slight nausea or sensitive nose we previously mentioned, but those tend to be overlooked due to the positivity experienced by many women as ovulation nears. For some, it may be a feeling of enduring slightly less stress, or a sense of being carefree, but the ultimate cause is hormonal. As ovulation nears, the body produces a delicate balance of hormones meant to improve the chances of a woman having intercourse and conceiving. In general this balance is conducive to a good mental state, so feeling a bit more joyful than is typical might be a good indicator of increased fertility.
7 Positive OPK Test
Ovulation predictor kits, commonly referred to as OPK's, are undoubtedly one of the most concrete ways a woman can identify the timing of ovulation. OPK's work by detecting a surge in the production of a hormone known as luteinizing hormone (LH). LH is produced by the anterior pituitary gland, and it surges roughly 12 to 36 hours before ovulation, which means that if a woman takes ovulation tests daily throughout her cycle, she can accurately note when her body has produced this hormone in a quantity likely to cause ovulation.
OPK's are sold over the counter and are commonly referred to as "ovulation tests." Many women will prefer to buy them online, as they can be purchased in bulk at very affordable prices on sites like Amazon.com. Many experts recommend taking a few tests per day starting on day 8 or 10 of a woman's cycle, so that she does not miss a positive in the event she ovulates earlier than the average 14th day. Because an LH surge can be somewhat quick (lasting only a few hours), it can also be helpful to take a few tests throughout the day so as to avoid missing a positive. Once a woman receives a definitive positive OPK, she can assume that ovulation will occur within 48 hours.
6 Elevated Basal Body Temperature
Referred to as "charting," this is another evidence based way of confirming the timing of ovulation. Prior to ovulation, a woman's basal body temperature is around 97 to 97.5 degrees F., although these numbers can be slightly different for each woman. As ovulation occurs, the body produces progesterone, responsible for sustaining a pregnancy if it occurs. One result of increased progesterone is a slight rise in a woman's core body temperature (typically 0.5 degrees).
This rise will be notable to a woman who takes her temperature daily upon waking with a basal body thermometer, which is a unique type of thermometer capable of taking detailed readings. A woman interested in confirming ovulation should research proper charting procedures (such as taking her temperature immediately upon waking and before moving from bed, stretching, or engaging in any activity) and utilize one of the many smart phone apps available to help record and chart the information gathered.
5 Extra Attraction
In addition to an increase in libido, many women report experiencing a rise in their overall attraction to the male species in general as ovulation approaches. Surprisingly, research shows this is an actual scientific occurrence as opposed to baby frenzy lore. As a woman nears the most fertile portion of her cycle, she tends to find herself attracted to a different type of man than might typically be her preference the rest of the time.
Research from the University of California, Los Angeles asked women to smell a variety of T-shirts that had been previously worn by men with different degrees of body and facial symmetry. The results were shocking. Women in the midst of ovulation unfailingly chose t-shirts worn by men who were more symmetrical, or manly, than women not ovulating. So, while more masculine and stereotypically male types may not be a woman's taste the majority of the time, research does show she will find them more desirable during ovulation. Thankfully, this easily translates to attraction for one's mate, and women report being nothing more than amused by this temporary shift in preferences.
4 Breast Soreness Or Tenderness
The same hormones responsible for controlling the timing of the menstrual cycle also cause water retention and soreness in specific areas of the body. For many women, their breasts become temporarily tender or sore to the touch shortly after ovulation. Because of the rise of progesterone, which is produced in greater quantities by the corpus luteum (portion of ovary that released egg during ovulation), the tissue of the breasts can swell with extra water or fluids. The result of this tissue swelling is soreness, or a feeling of being extra sensitive to pressure.
Many women report sore breasts a day or two after they've confirmed ovulation via OPK's or charting their basal body temperature. This temporary delay in soreness may be the result of time needed for the body to retain fluid as a result of the rise in progesterone and the subsequent swelling of tissue.
3 Pain On One Side Of Pelvis
Each month, a small cyst forms on a woman's ovary, which will ultimately be the dominant follicle, responsible for releasing a mature egg at the time of ovulation. This cyst is no cause for concern. In fact, it's termed a "functional" cyst, since it will ultimately serve a purpose (ovulation), and if pregnancy is not achieved, will fade away as a woman's menstrual cycle begins again. This cyst, however, may cause slight discomfort, felt as mild pain on one side of a woman's pelvis. Because a woman typically ovulates from one ovary each cycle, rotating back and forth between the two every cycle, she may be able to pay close attention and realize from which side she is producing an egg during any given month.
According to research, just prior to an egg being released during ovulation, follicle growth stretches the surface of the ovary which can cause pain, typically lasting minutes to a few hours. Known as Mittelschmerz, German for "middle pain" as the pain generally occurs in the middle of a woman's cycle.
2 Light Spotting
Light spotting experienced in the middle of a woman's cycle can also be an indication that ovulation has very recently occurred. It is thought that small amounts of blood are released as a mature egg bursts from the follicle responsible for producing it. This blood eventually makes its way down to the uterus and is ultimately shed via light vaginal bleeding.
In addition, some women report increased cervical mucus, which is tinged pink, or has a bit of blood mixed in with it during the time of ovulation. And, in fact, this is considered by many fertility experts to be an extremely good sign that a woman if very fertile and ovulation has successfully occurred. A woman trying to conceive should be sure to note any mid cycle spotting, as it can be one of the body's most telling signs that ovulation has occurred. This can be an even more accurate sign for a woman who does not otherwise experience any mid cycle spotting.
1 Position Of Cervix
Women can also take a more hands on approach to deciphering where they are in their monthly cycle by checking the position of their cervix. While this may sound like a scary notion, becoming familiar with one's body and its functioning is empowering when it comes to understanding as much as possible about what the body does to prepare for pregnancy. The cervix acts as a gatekeeper to the uterus, remaining hard and dry, similar to what the tip of a woman's nose might feel like when checked with two clean fingers. Before ovulation, women describe the cervix as feeling low, firm, and unyielding.
However, during ovulation, a woman will notice that the cervix seems to shift higher and that it feels softer and wetter. This is due to the fact that it naturally opens and becomes more receptive to sperm, in the hopes that conception will occur. The body truly is a remarkable system, full of secrets and clues to its inner workings at the same time. With a little bit of sleuthing, the mystery behind the timing of ovulation can hopefully become a little less perplexing.