It's possible to predict the most fertile days in your cycle. Learn the physical signs of ovulation, including cramps, cervical mucus, and discharge.
An image of a woman looking at a pregnancy test.
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If you're trying to get pregnant, learning to recognize the signs of ovulation can be a key factor in your success. Ovulation is the process by which your body releases one or more eggs from your ovary. If the egg is fertilized and successfully implants, you're pregnant. But if you miss the fertilization window, you're not.

By learning to identify the physical symptoms of ovulation—before you actually ovulate—you can time sexual intercourse right and boost your odds of getting pregnant. Score!

Here's everything you need to know about ovulation, from what it is to the most common signs.

What Is Ovulation?

As mentioned, ovulation occurs when a mature egg (or eggs) is released from the ovary. The egg then moves down the fallopian tube, where it stays for 12 to 24 hours. During this time, it can be fertilized.

When Do You Ovulate?

Ovulation happens approximately 14 days prior to the start of your menstrual cycle. This is when you are most fertile. However, the days leading up are also part of your fertile window, or ovulation window. This means that if your cycle is normally 28 days longs, your most fertile days are days 12, 13, and 14.

What Are the Signs of Ovulation?

Ovulation pain

Also referred to as mittelschmerz, some people experience ovulation pain, cramps, or twinges when an egg is released. Symptoms can include dull or sharp and sudden pain that's generally mild. It usually lasts a few minutes to a few hours, but may last as long as a day or two.

Basal body temperature

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), immediately following ovulation most individuals will experience a slight but detectable rise in their normal body temperature. By monitoring your basal body temperature first thing in the morning before you rise on a daily basis, and tracking the results on a basal body temperature chart, it's possible to determine that ovulation has occurred. However, conditions such as fever, restless sleep, and exertion can affect the accuracy of the temperature readings.

Ovulation discharge and cervical mucus

According to ACOG, another way to detect impending ovulation is to monitor your vaginal secretions by checking regularly for mucus at the opening of the vagina. In general, your vagina produces the least amount of secretions immediately following the conclusion of your menstrual cycle. The amount and consistency of vaginal secretions follow this pattern for most people:

Soon after your menstrual cycle, you might notice a sticky or "tacky" vaginal secretion. Immediately prior to ovulation, most detect increased vaginal secretions that are wet and slippery (similar to the consistency of raw egg white). Generally, your body produces the greatest amount of this type of vaginal discharge is on the day of ovulation. Immediately following the day of ovulation, your vaginal discharge gradually becomes thicker in consistency, and less is secreted.

Be mindful of the following factors that could affect the amount and consistency of your vaginal secretions:

  • Vaginal infection or sexually transmitted disease
  • Sexual excitement
  • Use of lubricants during intercourse

According to Planned Parenthood, the following factors might also influence your vaginal secretions:

  • Douching
  • Breastfeeding
  • Perimenopause
  • Surgery performed on the cervix

Breast tenderness

Tender or sore breasts can be an indicator of ovulation. This is due to hormonal changes. That said, while some individuals will experience sore breasts right before ovulation, others have found their breasts become tender afterward. Sore breasts can also be an early indicator of pregnancy.

Libido changes

Many individuals experience libido changes before or during ovulation. If you experience an increased sex drive, your fertile window could be near—especially if you notice any of the other aforementioned signs and symptoms.

Are There Any Other Ways to Predict Ovulation?

While the physical signs of ovulation are often good predictors of fertility, some individuals prefer to take a more scientific approach. Many at-home ovulation predictor kits measure the amount of luteinizing hormone (LH) in urine. LH levels typically increase one to two days before ovulation begins. Apps have also been designed to track your ovulation window, and you can also use our free ovulation calculator.

American Baby