Woman using periodical app to calculate ovulation while wearing gym leggings and trainers

Heard the word ovulation but not sure what it means or when it happens? Don’t worry – it’s just a part of your monthly menstrual cycle, and we’ll go through how it works.

There’s one moment that happens every menstrual cycle when an egg (sometimes called an ovum) gets released from your ovaries. This moment is what is sometimes referred to as ovulation!

But how and why does ovulation happen? Well, each month, hormonal changes cause one of your ovaries to release a mature egg, which passes into one of your fallopian tubes. If, during its journey to the uterus (womb), the egg meets a sperm, it can become fertilised, and you can get pregnant. But if the egg isn’t fertilised, it instead passes out of your body combined with some blood and the uterine lining, which has thickened to prepare for a fertilised egg. This combination of blood and lining is your menstrual fluid.

If you’d like to learn more about the body parts involved in ovulation, our guide on getting to know your V-Zone and reproductive system can help. If you’d like to learn more about ovulation itself, keep reading...

Ovulating uterus diagram
1-Fimbriae 2-Egg 3-Fallopian tube

So what are the signs and symptoms of ovulation?

Some people never know when they’re ovulating, and that’s pretty normal – knowing when you’re ovulating isn’t something to spend too much time thinking about. Amazingly, some people can actually feel the moment when they ovulate [1]! Apart from this very rare exception, it’s not always easy to know when you’re ovulating, but there are a few tell-tale signs. 

Ovulation symptoms include sudden constant pain in the lower abdomen, known as ‘mittelschmerz’ (German for ‘middle pain’). This tends to be a mild pain, so if you’re in agony, or the pain goes on for a long time, this could be the sign of something different like endometriosis and you should see a doctor. 

There are some other signs that you might notice, that could be a hint to what’s going on inside your body. You may experience a dull ache in your back or a sudden drop in body temperature when you’re ovulating. One common sign is that your discharge may become slippery like raw egg white or your breasts may feel tender. Some people find they are more sensitive to taste and smells too. It’s normal to experience any of these from time to time.

What is ovulation discharge like?

Discharge refers to the flows that occur outside of your period, throughout your menstrual cycle – it can be different colours and consistencies, and some days you may not have any at all! Around the time when you ovulate, your discharge tends to be see-through and heavy, almost like raw egg white. There’s also likely to be a lot of it.
When the luteal phase starts after ovulation, the amount of discharge should decrease and become drier, stickier and creamier. You can find out more about discharge and ovulation on our page all about discharge.

When will I ovulate?

Female bodies aren’t an exact science, and they can’t be measured as such – they naturally ebb and flow, changing month to month. When you ovulate depends on so many factors, making it pretty tricky to predict exactly.
Typically, ovulation can occur anywhere between the 11th and 21st day of your cycle. This is when your body is at its most fertile (likely to become pregnant). Post-ovulation symptoms, known as the ‘luteal phase’, include your discharge becoming less slippery and creamier, as well as your body slightly rising in temperature. Providing you’re not pregnant, your period should arrive around 14 days after ovulation takes place.

Calculating ovulation – how long do you ovulate for?

Ovulation itself is an instantaneous event, as it describes the moment an egg is released from the ovary. The egg lives for about 12-24 hours after being released, which is sometimes referred to as your ovulation cycle. But it doesn’t mean that day is the only time that you could possibly get pregnant. Your ‘fertile window’ starts days before you ovulate, as sperm can live for up to 7 days inside a person’s body.
If you’d like to, you can roughly estimate when your fertile window and ovulation might be by using a period tracker , by consistently taking your temperature throughout your cycle, or by using an ovulation predictor kit that can detect levels of hormones in your pee! If you’re calculating ovulation for fertility reasons (whether to become pregnant or to be child-free by choice), you may want to seek advice from a medical professional to be sure.
Ovulation can seem complicated, but it’s simple once you know more about it. If you’d like to continue learning about the ins and outs of your cycle, why not read our in-depth articles to find out all about PMS or what are periods, really?

Medical disclaimer

The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your doctor for guidance about a specific medical condition.


[1]  Marinho AO, Sallam HN, Goessens L, Collins WP, Campbell S. Ovulation side and occurrence of mittelschmerz in spontaneous and induced ovarian cycles. British medical journal (Clinical research ed.). 1982 Feb 27;284(6316):632.

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