Causes - Ovulation - Symptoms

In this section we explain how ovulation works and what symptoms you can expect when you ovulate.

Ovulation cycles vary
Here are some facts about women’s ovulation cycles:

  1. Ovulation occurs during the middle of the menstrual cycle and menstrual cycles last, on average, about 28 days. 
  2. The day of ovulation can vary dramatically from woman to woman and from month to month. 
  3. Many women have 28-day cycles and ovulate around day 14 of their cycles. 
  4. Ovulation can occur between days 11 and 21 during a 28-day cycle. 
  5. The actual day of ovulation can vary even more for women with cycles longer or shorter than 28 days.

Since the day of ovulation can vary so much, it is helpful to know some physical signs that may signal that ovulation is near. Common signs of ovulation include changes in vaginal discharge throughout the month and slight alterations in body temperature throughout the month. 

Vaginal secretions
As ovulation gets closer, you may notice that you have an increase in vaginal wetness. Vaginal secretions may become thicker and change in consistency. Several days before ovulation, your cervical mucus takes on a different appearance. It may become very wet and slippery with the consistency of raw egg whites. When you notice this clear, slippery egg-white cervical mucus, ovulation may be near and fertility is usually at its peak.

Body temperature
Your basal body temperature (BBT) usually increases slightly (less than one degree) right after ovulation occurs. You can easily track your own BBT and observe this temperature shift with a basal thermometer. 

Other signs of ovulation
Other signs of ovulation may include Mittelschmerz, a slight pain or cramping felt on one side of the lower abdomen around the time of ovulation. Some women notice an increase in libido as ovulation day approaches, while others feel that their breasts become more tender. Other changes in the cervix or vagina may also become noticeable near ovulation.

Keep in mind that women's cycles vary drastically, and some of you may never experience some of the symptoms presented here. This may indicate problems with ovulation. Try keeping track of your ovulation symptoms. If you spend several months tracking your cycles, and do not see any patterns emerging, discuss this with your doctor.

Hormones and ovulation
For ovulation to go smoothly, your hormones must be in balance. The hormones follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), estrogen, luteinizing hormone (LH), and progesterone all play an important role in the ovulation process. Here is how these hormones work.

Follicle stimulating hormone and estrogen
After your period starts, the ovulation cycle begins. Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is released. Your ovarian follicles and eggs begin to mature and develop. Estrogen levels rise as your body prepares for ovulation.

Luteinizing hormone
About 2 weeks after your period starts, luteinizing hormone (LH) levels rise sharply. This is known as the LH surge. Within 1 to 2 days, you will ovulate and progesterone levels will rise.

Progesterone
Following the LH surge and ovulation, progesterone levels rise. This rise in progesterone prepares your uterus for possible implantation of a fertilized egg.

Ideally, your hormones will work in perfect harmony and ovulation will be seamless. Unfortunately, hormone disorders are common causes of infertility and ovulation problems. Your doctor may be able to prescribe you fertility drugs to correct ovulation problems caused by hormone disorders.