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What is ovulation, and how do I know when I’m ovulating?

It’s pretty easy to tell when you have your period, right? Yup! Periods make themselves known. But ovulation can be harder to spot. 

Some folks will experience pain with ovulation (around day 14 of your cycle), and for others there’s only the subtlest of clues it’s happening.

What is ovulation?

Ovulation happens at the time in your cycle that’s between the follicular phase and the luteal phase and normally lasts around 12 hours. 

Ovulation is the time when a mature egg is released from an ovary. Folks with female hormones are born with millions of dormant egg cells in their bodies. As these eggs mature, they are released by a complex series of signals between your brain and body. 

How does my body know it’s time to ovulate? 

A part of your brain called the pituitary gland (main player in hormone regulation), cues the release of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which lets your body know it’s time to ovulate. Estrogen levels are also rising and together with FSH, they let your body know that an egg is ready to go! With the help of luteinising hormone (LH), an egg releases and starts to travel through a fallopian tube to your ovary, ready for possible pregnancy.

For most folks with cycles, ovulation happens once a month until menopause (unless you’re pregnant or breastfeeding). 


Why is ovulation important?

Ovulation marks the most fertile time in your menstrual cycle. If you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s helpful to track when you’re ovulating and have sex around these dates. 

How do I know if I’m ovulating?

Clear, stretchy discharge

For most folks, vaginal discharge will change two to three days before you ovulate and this can be your best clue that you’re getting close to ovulating. There’s often a lot more right now (up to 30 times more!) and it’s clearer and wetter than at other times in your cycle.

You can check your discharge between your finger and thumb - if it stretches without breaking, you’re likely in your fertile phase. 

Mild cramping

Some folks experience a twinge in the lower stomach or some cramps around ovulation (as the egg is released) and you might also notice increased energy and a higher sex drive. 

Increased body temperature

You can check your basal body temperature (BBT - your temperature when you’re resting). BBT usually drops a tiny bit just before an egg is released, and then rises above average for a few days after ovulation has occurred. 

Your BBT is usually between 36.1°C (97F) and 36.4°C (97.5F). After ovulation it rises to between 36.4°C (97.6F) and 37°C (98.6F). 

If you want even more certainty, grab an ovulation prediction kit from the pharmacy - this can measure your levels of luteinising hormone (LH). Ovulation usually happens about 12 hours after LH levels peak.

Did you find this article helpful? 

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