How do I know when I'm ovulating?
What is ovulation & how to tell when it happens
It's easy to think the main event of the menstrual cycle is the period (thanks to the bleeding, cramping and mood changes), but the much quieter ovulation is an equally important event. Knowing when you ovulate is key to understanding many aspects of sex and reproductive health, like the “fertile window” (the most likely time frame to get pregnant during your cycle) and how many birth control methods (including the morning-after pill) work.
So the big question is: how can you tell when you’re ovulating? We’re covering all things ovulation, including what it is, when it's most likely to happen, physical clues that signal ovulation and how to keep track of it (if you so desire).
What is Ovulation?
Ovulation is a core part of both the menstrual cycle and the reproductive process. Let’s start with ovulation and the menstrual cycle.
Ovulation describes the release of an egg from an ovary. From there, the egg travels down the fallopian tube and stays there for 12-24 hours. The vast majority of the time, the egg will disintegrate or pass quietly out of the uterus.
Ovulation, though brief, is a pivotal part of the menstrual cycle and the hormones that drive it. A single menstrual cycle starts on the first day of your period (considered “day 1”). Ovulation is triggered by something called the LH (lutenizing hormone) surge, which typically occurs about two weeks into the menstrual cycle (around “day 14”). Once the egg has disintegrated or passed from the uterus, the body prepares for its next period. Hormone signaling tells the uterus lining to freshen up and essentially get rid of the top layers. The signaling and preparation to remove the top layers takes about two weeks, and the lining comes out in the form of a period. This results in another period and “day 1” of the next menstrual cycle.
Ovulation and Pregnancy
Ovulation that leads to pregnancy comes down to timing of sex and optimal conditions. While sex in the days leading up to and during ovulation will not always result in pregnancy, this is the time in your menstrual cycle when you’re most fertile and, therefore, have the highest probability of becoming pregnant. To get a better sense of the process, here's a quick timeline:
- Eggs develop in follicles in your ovaries
The follicular phase is the first stage of each menstrual cycle. This is when the body releases follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) to help eggs mature inside tiny sacs in your ovaries (called follicles). The follicles prepare multiple eggs, but only one will be released.
- One follicle becomes dominant
As your cycle progresses, a few developing follicles are considered candidates. Eventually, one follicle emerges as the dominant candidate, continuing to mature while the others regress.
- Release of an egg
When the dominant egg is sufficiently mature, the follicle will release it into the fallopian tube. This is ovulation and is stimulated by a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH) levels.
- Fertilization and implantation
Following release, the egg remains viable (usable) for about 12 to 24 hours. During this period, if the egg encounters a sperm in the fallopian tube, fertilization can occur. The fertilized egg then travels down the fallopian tube and reaches the uterus within 6 to 12 days for implantation into the uterine lining. If the fertilized egg implants into the uterus and continues to develop, then a pregnancy has begun.
- No fertilization
If the egg does not encounter a sperm in the fallopian tube, it will not be fertilized. At this point, the egg will disintegrate or pass from the uterus after 12-24 hours.
Fun Facts About Your Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation
Everyone's cycle is different. There are a lot of factors that can influence its timing and schedule, like diet, stress, travel and exercise. However, it’s called a “cycle” because your period and ovulation should usually happen around the same time from one cycle to the next. This is because hormones drive this entire process, and their rises and falls are pretty darn precise. They also have some subtle and not-so-subtle side effects that, if you’re paying attention, may help you figure out exactly where you are in your cycle.
Phases of the Menstrual Cycle
There are four phases of the menstrual cycle:
The menstrual cycle officially kicks off with menstruation. This is when the uterus sheds its lining and some blood is lost, producing your period.
The Follicular Phase
This phase also begins on the first day of menstruation and encompasses the entire menstruation period through ovulation. During this phase the brain slowly ramps up the release of FSH. FSH does two things: it prepares the egg for ovulation and causes release of estrogen from the ovaries. This phase concludes with ovulation.
Ovulation typically occurs around the middle of the menstrual cycle, approximately 14 to 15 days after the first day of your period. Rising estrogen levels will trigger your brain to release LH very quickly (called the LH surge) which in turn causes ovulation.
The Luteal Phase
During the luteal phase, the now-empty follicle (in the ovary) changes into a corpus luteum and releases progesterone and estrogen. These hormones will fluctuate depending on the presence or absence of implantation (whether or not a fertilized egg has stick to the wall of the uterus). If you become pregnant, your body will begin producing human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is the hormone that is detectable with pregnancy tests. If you don't become pregnant, your body will prepare for your next period, which usually happens about 14 days after ovulation. And the cycle starts all over again.
How long does ovulation last?
Ovulation itself doesn't actually last that long—it’s usually over within 12- 24 hours. However, the 5 days leading up to and the 24 hours after ovulation are considered your “fertile window,” the timeframe within which conception can occur. The five days before ovulation are within that window because sperm can survive up to five days in the female reproductive tract.
When does ovulation occur?
The length of the menstrual cycle influences the timing of ovulation. In a typical 28-day cycle, ovulation would occur around day 14. But cycle lengths can vary, which can affect the timing of ovulation. Other factors can influence the duration and regularity of your cycle as well, like stress, exercise, travel, change in routine, smoking, illness, and more.
Other weird but fun facts about ovulation:
- You're hotter, literally: You may experience an increase in body temperature during ovulation, making you slightly warmer.
- You're hotter, figuratively: According to studies, men found their female partners more attractive during their fertile phase. Women might also feel sexier during ovulation.
- And you're hornier: Hormonal estrogen is high during your ovulation stage, and yes, it can definitely increase your sex drive. You may feel an increased sex drive during the days before ovulation and the day of.
How Do You Know When You're Ovulating?
There are a few different ways to determine when you're ovulating. Schedule tracking methods will be discussed first, and signs and symptoms will follow. Keep in mind that no two bodies are the same, and one person’s ovulation experience may be different than the next.
Track your cycle
Tracking your menstrual cycle is the most common method. This involves keeping a record of your periods' start and end dates over several months to identify patterns. Ovulation happens, on average, 14 days before your next period.
The calendar method is used to determine your fertile window. It requires tracking your period for 6 to 12 cycles and identifying your longest and shortest cycle duration. From the total days of your shortest cycle, subtract 18. This is considered the first fertile day of your cycle. From the total days of your longest cycle, subtract 11. This is considered the last day of your fertile window.
The calendar method works best for a menstrual cycle that is somewhat regular. It also requires recalculation if your cycle duration changes at any point in time.
A variation of the calendar method, the standard days method works best for people with consistent cycles that last between 26 and 32 days. It identifies a fixed fertility window between days 8 and 19 of the menstrual cycle. Some track it using apps or even a bracelet or necklace with corresponding beads.
There are a lot of things happening in your body during the ovulation phase, some of which people are able to feel and see. Here are some symptoms to be aware of that can help you identify if and when you’re ovulating.
Cervical mucus changes
In the days before and after ovulation, cervical mucus (vaginal discharge) can be white or off-white, thin and watery or dry and tacky. However, as ovulation approaches, cervical mucus becomes clear, mucus-like, slippery, and stretchy, resembling egg whites. This fertile mucus facilitates the passage of sperm into the uterus and can show up in your underwear or when you wipe.
Mild pelvic discomfort or cramps can occur during ovulation. Depending on which ovary releases the egg, it might be felt on either your left or right side. This phenomenon, known as mittelschmerz (meaning "middle pain" in German), can be a physical indicator of ovulation. The pain usually lasts no longer than 24 hours.
Basal Body Temperature Method (BBT)
Your BBT rises slightly (like ½ a degree) after ovulation due to increased progesterone levels. To find out when you ovulate, take your temperature with a digital thermometer around the same time every morning before getting out of bed. Track these temperatures over the course of a few cycles and see if you identify a pattern. Ovulation will happen right before a rise in BBT. You’re most fertile about 2-3 days before your temperature rises.
Changes in saliva
A change in saliva can happen during ovulation. Though it’s unlikely you’ll notice a difference, this change is used by many home ovulation kits. When it's observed under a microscope, the saliva has fern-like patterns. This is associated with increased estrogen levels (seen about 24 hours before ovulation).
Did you have unprotected sex during or close to ovulation and don't want to get pregnant? Julie can help.
If you're not tracking your menstrual cycle, it can be hard to know when ovulation will come. And if you happen to have unprotected sex around this time, trying to figure out if you were ovulating or if you were about to ovulate can feel stressful. To prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex, take Julie, an over-the-counter morning-after pill, ASAP. It can help prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. Julie will not work if you’ve already ovulated. Find out more about Julie effectiveness during ovulation.
Julie is FDA-approved and legal in all 50 states. Pick it up at Target, CVS, Walmart, or order it through GoPuff (and get it in 30 minutes). No ID, credit card, or insurance is required.
Although the information above may be useful, it shouldn’t replace the advice of your healthcare professional. For questions about emergency contraception or birth control, please talk to your healthcare professional.
There are a few medications that may interact with the morning-after pill. The most common medications include:
-Some anti-HIV medications
-Some anti-seizure medications
-Rifampin (an antibiotic mainly used to treat tuberculosis)
-St. John’s wort
If you have concerns about a medicine you are taking potentially interacting with the morning-after pill, please consult with a pharmacist or medical provider.
No, studies have confirmed that taking two pills will not change the effectiveness of the morning-after pill, even for those with higher BMIs.
Essentially nothing. Julie is not an abortion pill and it will not harm or end an existing pregnancy. Julie helps prevent pregnancy by stopping or delaying ovulation, but if you’re pregnant, then there’s no ovulation to stop. The medication, levonorgestrel, won’t harm you or your fetus if you do end up taking Julie while pregnant. This makes Julie a great option for people who want to be safe after unprotected sex—if you aren’t pregnant yet, it may stop a pregnancy from occurring, and if you are already pregnant, it won’t impact the fetus.
No. The morning-after pill only stops ovulation short-term. When you take it after unprotected sex, it reduces your chance of getting pregnant now. When you start a new cycle next month, you’ll go through a brand new ovulation phase, which is a new opportunity to get pregnant. So if you’re planning on having babies in the future, rest assured your chances of getting pregnant won’t be affected by Julie.
After taking Julie you can continue on with your regular birth control method if you have one (for example, continue taking birth control pills).
You will know Julie has been effective when you get your next period, which should come at the expected time, or within a week of the expected time. If your period is delayed beyond 1 week, it is possible you may be pregnant. You should get a pregnancy test and follow up with your healthcare professional.
Julie is a backup or emergency method and should not be used as a regular birth control method. Consult with your doctor about a birth control method that makes sense for you.
Please know that taking a dose of Julie will only protect you from one instance of unprotected sex, it will not prevent pregnancy from unprotected sex over the coming days or weeks. If you have unprotected sex in the future and want to prevent pregnancy, be sure to take a new dose of Julie and talk to your doctor about the best birth control options for you.
Your menstrual bleeding patterns may change temporarily after using levonorgestrel. If you find that your period is more than a week late, take a pregnancy test to confirm whether the contraceptive has worked.
Technically, no. Julie can be used by anyone with a uterus regardless of weight. However, studies have shown that the effectiveness of the morning-after pill does decrease in people who have a body mass index (BMI) over 25. For those with a BMI under 25, pregnancy risk after taking the morning-after pill is less than 2%. For those with a BMI over 29.9, the risk of pregnancy increases to 5.8% - meaning that out of every 100 individuals with a BMI over 29.9 who take Julie, six may become pregnant.
Why? Unfortunately, we don’t really know. There is only preliminary research testing the efficacy of the morning-after pill on people with a BMI over 25 and 30. Read more here.
Julie is not an abortion pill and will not harm an existing pregnancy nor will it be effective if a woman is already pregnant.
Julie is a progestin‑only emergency contraception product that helps prevent pregnancy before it starts when taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex.
Julie is a backup method of preventing pregnancy and should not be used as regular birth control. Use as directed.
The medication in the morning-after pill, levonorgestrel, temporarily blocks or delays ovulation, which is when your ovary releases an egg. It essentially puts the emergency brakes on your ovaries so an egg can’t be released. If there’s no egg, then there’s nothing for sperm to fertilize, which means a pregnancy can’t develop.
Read more about how the morning-after pill works here.
The morning-after pill, like Julie, is 89% effective when taken within 72 hours (or 3 days) after unprotected sex. The golden rule is the sooner you take it, the better it will work.
One thing to note: Weight does impact the effectiveness of the morning-after pill. If your BMI is over 25, Julie may not be the best option for you, but there are other options if you have access to a medical provider. Ella® is another type of emergency contraception pill that works more effectively for women with a BMI under 30. Like Julie, it’s a one-time pill but it does require a prescription from your provider. Copper and hormonal IUDs are the most effective form of emergency contraceptive and are not affected by weight at all. However, they do need to be inserted by a healthcare professional up to 5 days after having unprotected sex.
Learn more about how weight impacts Julie here.
You do not need to see a doctor before or after taking Julie because the pill is available without a prescription. However, there are a few reasons you might want to speak with a doctor after unprotected sex. The first reason is that unprotected sex carries the risk of catching sexually-transmitted infections. The second reason is that the morning-after pill is not as effective as regular birth control. A doctor will be able to counsel you on better options if you plan to remain sexually active.
Since emergency contraception can affect the length of your menstrual cycle, your period might come about a week later or earlier than usual after taking Julie. If your period is more than one week late, consider the possibility of pregnancy.
No, the morning-after pill (including Julie) and the abortion pill are two very different medications. The morning-after pill prevents a pregnancy from starting by stopping an egg from being released. If there’s no egg, there’s no chance of pregnancy. Plus, it’s FDA-approved and legal in all 50 states.
On the other hand, the abortion pill ends an existing pregnancy, which is something that the morning-after pill cannot do. If you’re already pregnant, the morning-after pill and the medicine within it, levonorgestrel, cannot end the pregnancy or impact it in any way.
See more common morning-after pill myths here.
No. No one needs a prescription to purchase Julie or EC. However, some insurances require a prescription for reimbursement. Some pharmacies and places where EC is sold may tell you that you need a prescription. You do not.
The morning-after pill—like Julie— is one of the most common and convenient forms of emergency contraception. It’s an over-the-counter pill found at retail chains like Target, CVS, and Walmart nationwide. The morning-after pill is made of the hormone levonorgestrel, the same hormone found in many birth control pills and is FDA-approved and legal in all 50 states. When used correctly, it can significantly reduce your chance of getting pregnant. It doesn’t require a prescription, ID, or credit card, and can be purchased easily by anyone (you, your partner, your friend, or the nice guy from GoPuff). Learn more about the morning-after pill here.
The morning-after pill is a backup method of preventing pregnancy and should not be used as regular birth control.
You should take Julie if you had unprotected penis-to-vagina sex and:
- You didn’t use any form of birth control
- Your birth control method failed—e.g. the condom broke or slipped off
- You missed 2 or more doses of your regular birth control pill
- You’re not sure if he pulled out in time
Remember to take Julie ASAP to have the best chance of it working. It’s 89% effective when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, but can be effective up to 120 hours after. Learn more about Julie here.
No. No one needs a prescription to purchase Julie or other brands of the morning-after pill. However, some insurance companies require a prescription for reimbursement. Some pharmacies and other places where emergency contraceptives are sold may tell you that you need a prescription. You do not.
Take the Julie tablet orally (swallowed). It is preferable to take it with water, and you can take it with or without food. Do not insert Julie vaginally.
No. We know this is a common misconception so let’s break it down. Using Julie (no matter how many times you take it) does not affect your fertility — and it will not prevent you from becoming pregnant in the future. You should feel free to use Julie whenever you think it’s necessary. Julie (and all EC) is not recommended as an ongoing form of birth control because it’s not as effective at preventing pregnancy as birth control methods like the IUD, patch, pill, ring, or shot. Also, frequent use of EC may cause periods to become irregular and unpredictable. That’s it!
You can get Julie at your local CVS, Target, Walmart or on our website.
No, that’s not recommended. Emergency contraceptives, like Julie, work when you take them after sex. That’s because emergency contraception prevents pregnancy by delaying when you ovulate, which is when an egg is released from the ovary. Sperm can live inside you for up to 5 days, so if you take Julie and then have unprotected sex, the medication might not be able to delay ovulation for the entire length of the sperm’s life, creating a potential for pregnancy.
Learn more about how Julie works here.
Yes. You are not alone. Often times, people who buy EC are feeling stressed out, concerned, embarrassed, confused or ashamed. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone, you have nothing to be ashamed about, and the Julie community is here to support you. By taking Julie after unprotected sex, you are taking control of your future and taking a safe, effective, approved method of preventing pregnancy.
Julie and other over-the-counter morning-after pills contain a high amount of levonorgestrel, a synthetic hormone that’s also in some birth control pills. The extra amount of this hormone can affect your menstrual cycle and cause some side effects. Most side effects come and go within hours of taking the pill, but some can last up to a couple of days. Learn more about Julie's side effects here.
- Bleeding/spotting between periods
- Temporary changes to a period cycle (the next period comes early or late)
- Heavier or lighter next period
- Abdominal pain
- Breast tenderness
For more information about Julie side effects and how long they last, read this.
Side effects like nausea, abdominal pain, and fatigue can start within a few hours of taking the morning-after pill. If you vomit within two hours of taking the pill, it’s important to talk to a healthcare professional to find out if you should take another dose.
Most side effects are easily manageable, but sometimes they can be annoying. If that headache just won’t go away or your breasts are super tender, it’s safe to take ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or any over-the-counter pain reliever—they won’t interact or interfere with levonorgestrel.
Listen to your body. After all, you’ve just taken a pill that affects your hormones. Feeling a little weird is normal. Rest, keep yourself hydrated, and give yourself some extra compassion.
No. Julie is not what is commonly called “the abortion pill” or “medication abortion”. The active ingredient in the abortion pill is mifepristone. Pregnancy needs a hormone called progesterone to grow normally. Mifepristone blocks your body’s own progesterone, stopping the pregnancy from growing. Julie does not and will not impact an existing pregnancy, and works by delaying ovulation before there is a pregnancy.
The FDA recently made an update in December 2022 to remove any language suggesting that Julie may prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. We are currently working on removing this outdated disclaimer but you may still see it present on some of our packaging in the meantime. Please disregard these statements because they are out of date. Julie will not impact an existing pregnancy.
Your cycle might be temporarily affected after taking Julie. That’s because there’s a higher dose of levonorgestrel compared to what’s found in daily birth control pills. It’s likely to impact your body’s natural hormone levels for a short period of time. This might result in an earlier or later period.
If your period is delayed beyond one week, it is possible you may be pregnant. You should get a pregnancy test and follow up with your healthcare professional if positive. Your period might also be lighter or heavier than usual, or you might experience spotting in between cycles. If your schedule is impacted beyond a month or two, it’s worth checking in with your medical provider. Read more about how Julie might affect your period here.
No! The most common side effects are changes in your period, nausea, lower stomach pain, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, and breast tenderness. These symptoms typically go away within a few hours and shouldn’t last more than a couple of days. If you have any side effects that bother you, call your healthcare professional. Read more about Julie's side effects here.
Yes. You are not alone. Oftentimes, people who buy EC are feeling stressed out, concerned, embarrassed, confused or ashamed. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone, you have nothing to be ashamed about, and the Julie community is here to support you. By taking Julie after unprotected sex, you are taking control of your future and taking a safe, effective, approved method of preventing pregnancy. If you want to share your experience and talk with others in our community, head to our Tik Tok, Instagram, and Quora space, After Sex, where all sex questions and commentary are welcome.
It depends. Some people get their period a few days earlier or later than they were expecting, while some have reported a delay in menstruation beyond a week. Stress can also delay your period, which can be heightened when taking emergency contraception. If your period is more than one week late, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re pregnant, but it is recommended to take a pregnancy test.
Waiting for your period to arrive can be stressful, especially after taking emergency contraception, but just know that it might be totally normal. A delayed or early period is actually one of the most common side effects of taking the morning-after pill. Levonorgestrel, the hormone in Julie, delays ovulation, which can move the timing of your cycle back a few days. Your period might also be lighter or heavier than usual, or you might experience spotting in between cycles. If your period is delayed beyond one week, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re pregnant, but it is recommended to take a pregnancy test. You can read more about how Julie might affect your period here.
The best thing to do after taking Julie is to rest and hydrate. If you’re feeling any side effects, you can take over-the-counter painkillers to make yourself feel more comfortable. A heating pad or hot water bottle can also help if you’re having stomach pain or cramping. If you can, a day on the couch with Netflix or a good book often does the trick. Read more about managing Julie side effects here.
Typically just for one menstrual cycle. Most people notice that their period starts either a few days early or a few days late, though some people have reported a two-week delay in menstruation. If you are not pregnant, your cycle should return to normal the next time you get your period. If changes last beyond a month or two, it’s best to check in with a doctor.
Read more about changes to your period after taking Julie here.