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What Are Ovulation Symptoms?

Learn how to detect ovulation symptoms.

By tracking their menstrual cycle, women may be able to better understand ovulation symptoms. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
By tracking their menstrual cycle, women may be able to better understand ovulation symptoms.

Since fertility is highest during ovulation, it's important for any woman trying to conceive or avoid pregnancy to understand the basics, and to know what are ovulation symptoms.

What is Ovulation? Ovulation is the process of releasing an egg from the ovary to the fallopian tube. During this stage, unprotected sexual intercourse can result in fertilization of the egg. Sperm can remain active in the body for three to five days, though the egg dissolves after just one day if left unfertilized. This means that the fertility period surrounding ovulation lasts about five to seven days.

Ovulation Symptoms

Several symptoms can indicate whether a woman is ovulating or approaching ovulation. Many of these symptoms are subtle, so doctors recommend using a combination of methods to pinpoint ovulation. One of the most observable symptoms is an increase in cervical mucus, which is a vaginal discharge that resembles egg whites. Cervical fluid can appear over the course of several days, but the day with the most discharge suggests the start of ovulation. Women can track this over a period of several months to predict ovulation. 

The body exhibits other ovulation symptoms, though only some may be outwardly noticeable. Ovulation is a process that varies widely between women. Some may experience light spotting or bleeding, increased libido, bloating and cramping in the abdomen and tender breasts. 

There are also several symptoms that women may not necessarily feel, but can be used to track and predict ovulation. A rise in base body temperature, measured by a basal thermometer, occurs during ovulation. A basal thermometer is more accurate than a standard thermometer and is designed to measure the body's base temperature immediately upon waking. To predict ovulation using basal temperature, a woman must take and record her body temperature over the course of several months. The period of heightened fertility will always occur in the two or three days preceding the increase in base temperature. 

Another key ovulation symptom is the presence of luteinizing hormone (LH), which can be measured with an ovulation predictor test. This increase in luteinizing hormone causes the release of the egg from the ovary, which occurs within 24 to 36 hours of the hormone surge. The ovulation predictor test detects the hormone in urine; its presence indicates that a woman is likely to ovulate in the next couple of days.

Calculating Ovulation

Finally, women can calculate ovulation by paying close attention to their monthly periods. The average monthly cycle lasts between 28 and 32 days. Ovulation occurs for the average woman between the 11th and 21st days of the cycle, counting the first day as the first day of the last regular menstruation. Keeping track of the specific timeline of the menstruation cycle can help with family planning. Massachusetts General Hospital's Vincent Obstetrics and Gynecology Services Center is among the better-known U.S. programs for fertility issues and provides excellent answers to questions about fertility and ovulation. To get help with tracking and recording the ovulation cycle, check out Web sites like FertilityFriend.com.

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