What is ovulation?

Ovulation is when one of your ovaries releases an egg. The egg starts ripening in your ovary at the start of your menstrual cycle, and when it’s ripe it is released into one of your fallopian tubes.

This usually happens about 14 days before your next period. So if your cycle is 28 days long you will ovulate around day 14, and if it’s 30 days long you will ovulate around day 16.

How can I tell if I’m ovulating?

Some women find it easier to spot ovulation symptoms than others. Signs to watch out for include:

Thinner cervical mucus and more of it: As ovulation approaches, rising levels of oestrogen increase the amount of cervical mucus you produce and make it thinner and stretchier. Just before ovulation it will change from white or creamy coloured to become thin, watery and transparent, rather like egg white. Sperm can happily live in this slippery fertile mucus for 72 hours or more.

Pain in your tummy: Some women experience mild pain when they ovulate. This will usually be on one side of your lower back or abdomen. This varies for each woman and can feel like a dull ache through to a stabbing pain.

Changes in your cervix: Around the time of ovulation, the feel and position of your cervix changes. Instead of feeling hard, closed and dry it feels soft, open and wet. It also feels higher inside your vagina.

Tenderness in your breasts: High levels of oestrogen just before ovulation may make your breasts feel tender or tingly.

Spotting: A few women have spotting or light bleeding when they ovulate. This is caused by the effects of dropping oestrogen levels on the lining of your womb.

Other ways to detect ovulation

You can also pinpoint when you ovulate by using an ovulation kit. These can detect the surge in luteinising hormone (LH) just before you ovulate.

Your temperature rises by roughly 0.5c just after you ovulate. Charting your temperature over several cycles can help to give you a clearer picture of when your fertile days are.

To do this, you will need to use a special thermometer called a basal body temperature thermometer. These are available from most chemists and online. Make sure you follow the instructions carefully.

Knowing when you are at your most fertile can increase your chances of getting pregnant.