Signs of ovulation

Dr Sarah Johnson

Reviewed by Dr Sarah Johnson on May 17, 2017
Written by Julie Macken.

Signs of ovulation

Ovulation is the name of the process that happens usually once in every menstrual cycle when hormone changes trigger an ovary to release an egg. This typically happens 12 to 16 days before the next period starts. These are the common signs and symptoms of ovulation.

  • Many women experience no ovulation symptoms. Women who experience symptoms find these can vary from cycle to cycle.
  • Some of the signs only occur after ovulation has happened which makes them of little help in predicting a woman’s fertile days in that cycle
  • The LH surge (detected by ovulation tests) happens 24 – 36 hours before ovulation

LH surge

As a woman approaches ovulation, her body produces increasing amounts of a hormone called estrogen, which causes the lining of her uterus to thicken and helps create a sperm friendly environment. These high estrogen levels trigger a sudden increase in another hormone called luteinising hormone (LH). This LH surge causes the release of the mature egg from her ovary - this is ovulation. Ovulation normally occurs 24 to 48 hours after the LH surge, which is why the LH surge is a good predictor of peak fertility.

Temperature rise

A woman’s basal (resting) body temperature rises by 0.4-1.0°C after ovulation. This rise is normally too small for a woman to notice, but can be detected by an accurate thermometer.

Ovulation pain

About one in five women have pain associated with ovulation. The pain may occur just before, during, or after ovulation. There are several explanations for the cause of this ovulation pain. Just prior to ovulation, follicle growth may stretch the surface of the ovary, causing pain. At the time of ovulation, fluid or blood is released from the ruptured egg follicle and may cause irritation of the abdominal lining.

Ovulation pain may be felt on one side one month then switch to the opposite side the next month, or it may be felt on the same side for several months in succession. It typically lasts for only a few minutes but it can last for longer, possibly as long as 24-48 hours, and can be a sharp, cramping, distinctive pain. It is rarely described as severe pain.

Changes in saliva

It has been found that a woman’s saliva changes according to the amount of the hormone estrogen in her body. During a woman’s monthly cycle, there is a large rise in estrogen a few days before ovulation and another smaller rise a few days before her period is due.

Changes in cervical mucus

During a woman’s menstrual cycle, the type and amount of cervical mucus (a secretion made by glands in the cervix) changes. It can be sticky or stretchy, white or cloudy. In the days leading up to ovulation it changes to being clear and stretchy (and is often compared to egg white – leading to the name ‘egg white cervical mucus’). This mucus is supportive to sperm and helps them to reach the egg.