For women who wish to become or avoid becoming pregnant, it is important to be familiar with the signs of ovulation and ovulation symptoms. In most women, ovulation occurs about halfway through the menstrual cycle, or on about Day 14 of a 28 day cycle. Because male sperm can survive for more than 48 hours in the uterus, women are fertile for at least two days preceding ovulation and on the day of ovulation. The ovum disintegrates after 12 to 24 hours if it is not fertilized. Common ovulation symptoms that indicate fertility include vaginal discharge, an increased sex drive or libido, abdominal cramps and pain, breast tenderness or soreness, changing hormone levels, and increased body temperature, as well as a number of less common signs such night sweats, hot flashes, migraines, dizziness and nausea. If a woman learns about the different ovulation symptoms and pays attention to her body, she will likely pinpoint when she is ovulating and be able to create an ovulation calendar to calculate and keep track of future ovulation.
What Happens During Ovulation
During the first half of the menstrual cycle, the uterus prepares to receive a fertilized egg. The lining of the uterine wall thickens and hormone levels change. One or both of the woman’s ovaries begin to grow follicles which contain eggs. When an egg matures, it is released and travels through the fallopian tubes to the uterus. Once the egg is released, the process of ovulation is complete and the ovulation cycle ends. Most ovulation symptoms occur before the release of the mature egg.
Vaginal discharge is the most common of ovulation symptoms. The fluid may be clear or creamy-white as the mucus in the cervix thins to facilitate the passage of sperm into the uterus. The cervix becomes softer and higher than during the rest of the menstrual cycle. The increase in vaginal discharge causes the vaginal walls to become slippery. The amount of discharge varies between women and may go unnoticed by some women, but some women may be able to find the vaginal discharge on their underwear as an indicator.
Increased Sexual Appetite
As women approach the fertile period of their menstrual cycle, they may experience an increase in sexual desire. Women experience an increase in hormone levels during ovulation, which is likely responsible for the increased sex drive and other ovulation symptoms. An increased sexual libido during ovulation is common, but may not be experienced by all women since ovulation symptoms vary widely between women.
Abdominal Discomfort or Pain
One of the more common ovulation symptoms is abdominal pain or discomfort. Some women experience this as light cramping while others may have a pain in the lower abdomen on one side. This discomfort normally occurs before the ovum is released by the follicle and ceases when the ovulation cycle is complete. The pain may be accompanied by spotting but this is one of the fairly rare symptoms of ovulation.
Breast Tenderness or Soreness
Another one of the more common signs of ovulation is tenderness or soreness of the breast, which is associated with elevated progesterone levels. In some cases, breast or nipple tenderness may just be an increased sensitivity, while in others, there may be pain or discomfort. If breast tenderness occurs after ovulation, or is accompanied by an increase in the size of the breasts, it may be a symptom of pregnancy rather than an ovulation symptom.
While not common, some women experience a heightened sense of smell, taste or vision as ovulation symptoms. Sensitive taste buds may make them dislike foods they otherwise enjoy or crave certain foods they may not often eat. Many women may be unaware of the heightened sensitivity to smell or taste, or attribute it to something other than ovulation. While it seems to be one of the rarer ovulation signs, heightened senses have been reported by a significant number of women just prior to ovulation.
Basal Body Temperature
The basal body temperature is a relatively accurate way to determine the time of ovulation. Usually the basal body temperature remains consistent, but as ovulation approaches, the temperature often decreases slightly. Once a mature ovum is released by a follicle, there is usually a sharp spike in basal body temperature. By tracking basal body temperature for several months using an ovulation calendar, women can predict or calculate when ovulation is most likely to occur.
Testing Hormone Levels
Another method for accurately determining the time of ovulation is a urine or saliva kit that measures the amount of estrogen present in body fluids. At the time of ovulation, estrogen and progesterone levels are elevated, which may be the reason for some of the physical symptoms women experience. Hormone levels usually peak right before an ovum is released, but it may be necessary to track hormone levels for several months to accurately predict ovulation.
Although normally a symptom of menopause, some women may experience night sweats following ovulation due to a change in progesterone levels. Progesterone is the hormone which is believed to be responsible for causing night sweats and some women report night sweats as an ovulation symptom which occurs at the end of the ovulation cycle. Night sweats can also be an early symptom of pregnancy.
Like night sweats, hot flashes are usually associated with menopause or perimenopause (also known as the transition to menopause), but may occur during ovulation or menstruation due to changes in hormone levels. Women taking Clomid to encourage fertility and ovulation report hot flashes as a sign of ovulation more often than women who are not taking medication to induce ovulation. Hot flashes may not be a signal of ovulation but may only be an indication of changing hormone levels.
Women who are prone to migraine headaches may experience an increase in the number or severity of migraine symptoms around the time of ovulation. This ovulation symptom does not usually occur in patients who do not suffer from migraines. Some women have reported headaches and lower back pain around the time of ovulation, which may be due to the fluctuations in hormone levels that occur during this time.
Dizziness and Nausea
Dizziness and nausea are not normal ovulating symptoms and may indicate the presence of an ovarian cyst. Women who complained of dizziness and nausea either immediately following their menstrual cycle or during the time they would expect to ovulate often had a history of ovarian cysts. These symptoms may indicate a serious health problem and should be reported to a doctor as soon as possible.
Ovulation symptoms are not the same for every woman and the best ways to determine the time of ovulation are by charting basal body temperature, using a urine test to determine hormone levels, or using an ovulation calendar to chart and detail regular signs of ovulation to be used as an ovulation predictor. Women with regular menstrual cycles usually ovulate on the 14th day after the first day of their menstrual cycle, but an ovulation calendar is not always the most accurate way to determine the time of ovulation since menstrual cycles vary among different women. Overall, women who can identify their body’s ovulation symptoms are more likely to accurately determine whether they are ovulating or not. Keep an eye out for the above signs of ovulation and your body will surely present some symptoms that will let you know.