Ovulation, or when an egg is released from your ovary, is the midpoint of your menstrual cycle. Without ovulation, you can’t get pregnant. But aside from the importance of ovulation for fertility, it’s also important for your overall reproductive health.
Learning about your body and tracking ovulation signs can give clues about your fertility, menstrual cycle, and hormones. Many people associate ovulation with fertility, but it also matters for overall hormone balance.
If you aren’t ovulating (anovulation), it’s a warning sign. As you will learn later in this article, ovulation can be impacted by health conditions that affect your hormones, excessive stress, or even your diet.
The good news is that tracking ovulation doesn’t take any fancy equipment. All you need to do is pay attention to your body. This article will teach you all about how to tell if you’re ovulating and what supplements and lifestyle habits support optimal hormone balance for ovulation.
What is Ovulation?
Ovulation is the release of the egg from your ovary. It’s triggered by a surge of luteinizing hormone (LH) that stimulates the release of the egg to be carried into one of your fallopian tubes, where it will stay for about 12 to 24 hours to wait for fertilization. If no fertilization happens, it will eventually break down.
In the months leading up to ovulation, your body prepares multiple follicles or sacs that each holds one egg, but only one will rupture and release. It’s an intricate dance involving many different hormones to prepare your body for ovulation.
Ovulation usually occurs about halfway through your cycle at the end of your follicular phase and marks the beginning of your luteal phase, which (assuming you aren’t pregnant) is followed by your period about two weeks later.
Your body sends you subtle but unmistakable signs you are ovulating. Tracking them can help you better understand your cycle.
Basal Body Temperature Increase (BBT)
Basal body temperature (BBT) charting is a way to monitor daily resting temperature changes during your cycle. Progesterone rises right after ovulation and triggers a slight elevation in your baseline temperature following ovulation until you get your period.
To track BBT, you will take your temperature with a basal thermometer each morning before getting out of bed. The tricky part is that you need to take it at the exact same time every morning, first thing before you do anything else. BBT is a helpful tool for confirmation that ovulation occurred versus predicting when ovulation will happen since the temps usually rise immediately after ovulation.
However, BBT isn’t perfect. Your temperature can be influenced by many different factors like alcohol, being sick, or even stress.
Positive LH Test
As I mentioned above, a surge of LH triggers the release of your egg from the follicle. Testing for LH can help predict ovulation as the surge occurs about a day before the egg is released.
LH strips test your urine for the presence of this hormone. As you get closer to ovulation, LH will rise. Usually, it’s recommended to start testing about day eight of your cycle to catch the surge. If you get a positive test, ovulation should occur within the next two to three days.
Once again, LH testing is not perfect, but it can be part of a holistic plan to better understand your cycle. Since we are all so different, my LH surge can look different from yours, so tracking over time can show consistent patterns for your body.
Fertile Cervical Mucus
Notice vaginal discharge changes throughout your cycle? There’s a reason for that. As you get closer to ovulation, your body prepares for the possibility of fertilization with cervical mucus that is usually described as egg-white texture.
Fertile cervical mucus around ovulation is designed to help sperm survive and swim up to your uterus and increase lubrication to make sex more enjoyable. Some women may notice a lot more discharge, while others may see subtle changes. All are normal. The key is to pay attention to consistency and texture.
Alternatively, cervical discharge during other phases of your cycle is usually creamy, sticky, or watery. Or you will just notice a little less mucus in general.
Increased Sex Drive
Just like your cervical mucus prepares your body for better sex to improve chances of fertilization (even if this isn’t your goal), another sign of ovulation is increased sex drive. Why? Because more sex means you are more likely to make a baby.
Estrogen peaks just before ovulation and is associated with increased sexual desire in women’s hormones and sexuality research. Testosterone also rises, further supporting your sex drive. It’s all nature’s way of helping you get pregnant, which is also why knowing when you ovulate is also critical for those who don’t want to have a baby.
Change in Cervix Position
Getting familiar with the position of your cervix, the very end of the uterus that connects to your vagina is another clue for ovulation. Depending on where you are in your cycle, your cervix can move positions or will feel differently to your touch.
Your cervix will be higher than usual right before ovulation. It will also feel softer and slightly open. When you aren’t fertile, it closes up and feels lower, firmer, and drier.
It can take practice to become familiar with cervical changes, so tracking over a few months can make it easier to note changes.
The lower abdominal pain with a funny name— mittelschmerz— can indicate ovulation. It feels like a sharp pain on one side of your lower abdomen. For most women, it’s like a smaller version of a menstrual cramp that passes after a few hours, although some women describe a more severe pain.
Mittelschmerz is associated with the LH surge as your follicle enlarges. It’s linked to a rise in prostaglandins, inflammatory chemicals that also contribute to the pain associated with your period.
Not every woman who ovulates experiences mittelschmerz. But for those who do, ovulation pain is a sign.
Signs You’re Not Ovulating
The above are all vital signs that point to ovulation, but what if they aren’t happening? Here are some of the signs to look out for that may indicate anovulation.
No LH Surge
If you are testing for LH and don’t have an LH surge, it’s a sign you aren’t ovulating. Remember that LH triggers the release of your egg, so without a surge, there’s likely no ovulation.
No Spike in Basal Body Temperature
If you don’t notice any temperature trends pointing to elevations after tracking your BBT for several weeks, there’s a chance you aren’t ovulating.
Irregular cycles can make it challenging to track your cycles because you really can’t see regular patterns. Even with irregular cycles, you can still ovulate, but it could also mean you aren’t ovulating. If your cycles vary in length, or you skip your period and then get it the next, these are all signs that could indicate you aren’t ovulating.
Amenorrhea or Missing Period
Amenorrhea or not getting your period is an SOS for your body that something is off hormonally. There are multiple reasons for not getting your period, but ovulation is a possible factor. Read here for some of the common causes for a missing period.
Why Am I Not Ovulating?
Since ovulation is a vital piece of hormone health, it’s worth taking a closer look anytime you consistently miss a period or aren’t ovulating.
The most common reason for not ovulating is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS leads to hormone imbalances and polycystic ovaries that interfere with ovulation. These cysts can lead to elevated levels of LH but don’t lead to egg release or ovulation.
Thyroid dysfunction can also contribute to menstrual cycle irregularities like irregular periods and anovulation. Thyroid hormone is needed for follicle development in your ovary and also helps with communication between your brain and your ovaries.
Other reasons can include:
- Being underweight
- Excessive stress
- Eating disorders
- Over exercise
How to Support Ovulation
A healthy lifestyle is foundational for hormone balance and ovulation.
Foods for Ovulation
Foods for ovulation support healthy hormone balance and optimize the body’s natural detoxification processes, including:
- High fiber foods promote estrogen balance.
- Leafy greens contain folate, which could support ovulation.
- Phytonutrients from berries, chocolate, or tea for anti-inflammatory or antioxidant support.
- Vitamin-C containing foods like citrus or bell peppers for ovulatory function.
- Beta-carotene or vitamin A from sweet potatoes or carrots to support healthy eggs.
- Gut-supporting fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, or full fat, unsweetened yogurt if you tolerate dairy.
I know it’s not always easy to put together a hormone-optimizing diet by yourself, so I created a free hormone balancing kit for you. It comes with a 7-day meal plan to help you get started.
Address the Root Cause
Since ovulation is a sign of overall well-balanced hormones, it’s critical to work with a women’s health practitioner to find out the root cause behind why you aren’t ovulating. Testing hormones, including a full thyroid panel, and ruling out other reasons for lack of ovulation is vital to develop your individualized plan for healing.
Discontinue or Limit Alcohol
While it can feel like alcohol takes the edge off a stressful day, there are plenty of reasons to cut back, including how it impacts your hormones. Heavy alcohol intake can negatively impact your cycle, lead to alterations in ovulation, and make it more challenging to get pregnant.
Xenoestrogens are chemicals that mimic estrogen in your body and disrupt the natural balance of your hormones. They are found in everything from beauty products to plastic bottles. Xenoestrogens, or endocrine disruptors, are associated with reduced fertility and cycle disruption, among many other health concerns.
Supplements for Ovulation
On top of lifestyle habits, these supplements can add additional support for ovulation.
Vitex (Chaste Tree Berry)
Vitex is an herb that supports all aspects of hormone balance but can be especially helpful for ovulation because it may stimulate the production of LH. Vitex can also help lower prolactin, which can inhibit ovulation.
You’ll find both Vitex and vitamin B6 in our Balance Women’s Hormone Support formula.
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
NAC is associated with improvements in ovulation and fertility, especially for women with PCOS. It appears to increase glutathione production (an important antioxidant), reduces testosterone to support healthy hormone balance, and enhance ovulation and pregnancy rates for women taking medication for fertility with PCOS. Learn more about Dr. Brighten NAC.
Do You Ovulate the Same Day Every Month?
Ovulation usually occurs right around the middle of your cycle, so this can vary depending on your individual cycle length. The day of ovulation can also vary between months but is usually a few days before or after your cycle midpoint.
Is Conception Date the Same as Ovulation Date?
Ovulation date is not necessarily the same as your conception date, but it can be! Once you ovulate or the egg is released, it will only stay in your fallopian tube for 12 to 24 hours. But if you have sex during that window, the date you conceive can be the same as the day you ovulate.
How Do I Know I’m Ovulating?
In summary, you can track to look for the following signs of ovulation:
- Increased BBT
- LH surge
- Ovarian pain
- High, soft cervical position
- Egg-white cervical mucus
However, if you don’t notice one of these, it doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t ovulating. The overall presentation of one or more of these tracking methods can help you pinpoint ovulation.
If you are concerned that you aren’t ovulating, working with a practitioner to get to the root cause can be an important next step.
Questions or comments about ovulation? Please leave them below!
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