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What does ovulation feel like?

by Dr. Tessa Commers
Julie Medical Advisor
Before SexGeneral Sex

Ovulation Symptoms

Periods tend to get the most attention when it comes to understanding your menstrual cycle, but ovulation is an equally important event that can cause some subtle symptoms as well. Not everyone with a uterus will experience symptoms, but many do, and being aware of these natural cues from your body can be very helpful, especially if you are trying to conceive or want to avoid getting pregnant.

Read on to learn about the most common ovulation signs and symptoms, and what to look out for if you don’t want to get pregnant.

What is Ovulation?

First, let’s recap. Ovulation is a natural and essential part of the female reproductive cycle. It is the process by which a mature egg is released from one of the ovaries into a fallopian tube. This is where, if present, a sperm can fertilize an egg (one of the essential first steps in pregnancy).

For anyone trying to get pregnant or trying to avoid getting pregnant, the timing of ovulation is crucial since it’s around this time during the menstrual cycle that fertility is highest.

When Do You Ovulate?

Ovulation does not follow a calendar schedule but, like a period, does reliably happen around the same time in a cycle. It occurs mid-cycle, usually about 14 days before a period. For example, in a typical 28-day cycle, ovulation usually occurs around day 14 (the first day of your period is considered day one). However, menstrual cycles can vary significantly from person to person, ranging from 21 to 35 days or more. This means ovulation happens on different days for different people.

Why You're Most Fertile

Understanding why you’re the most fertile during your ovulation phase is essential for those planning to conceive or avoid pregnancy. During ovulation, the chances of becoming pregnant are at their highest because:

  • Egg Availability: This is the only time a mature egg is released from the ovary to be fertilized by sperm. The egg is viable (able to be fertilized) for 12-24 hours.
  • Cervical Mucus: The quality and quantity of cervical mucus change during ovulation creates a more hospitable environment for sperm to swim through.
  • Hormonal Surge: A luteinizing hormone (LH) surge triggers the egg's release and prepares the body for possible conception.

Signs of Ovulation

Ovulation symptoms can be more subtle for some and more intense for others, but many people are able to notice some changes in their body that can help identify when they’re ovulating. The more you tune into these changes and try to be aware of them, the more likely you’ll be able to notice them. Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of ovulation.

Cervical Mucus Changes

One of the most obvious signs of ovulation is a change in cervical mucus. In the days before and after ovulation, cervical mucus can be white or off-white, thin and watery or dry and tacky. However, as ovulation approaches, your body produces more estrogen. This causes cervical mucus to become 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.

Mid-Cycle Cramps (Mittelschmerz)

Mild pelvic discomfort or cramps can occur during ovulation. Depending on which ovary releases the egg, the pain may occur on either your left or right side. This phenomenon is known as mittelschmerz (meaning "middle pain" in German). Fortunately, the discomfort usually lasts no longer than 24 hours.

Basal Body Temperature (BBT) Method

Another method to track ovulation is by monitoring your basal body temperature. Your BBT rises slightly (about half 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. While many use this method to track ovulation for pregnancy, it’s not foolproof. Temperature may rise sooner in some, and others may not have a temperature change at all. It’s takes time and consistent tracking to determine if your BBT is a reliable indicator of ovulatio.

Changes in Saliva

Though it's unlikely you'll notice a difference, a change in saliva can happen during ovulation. When observed under a microscope, the saliva exhibits fern-like patterns. This is associated with increased estrogen levels, typically seen about 24 hours before ovulation. However, smoking, drinking, and brushing your teeth can all affect the visibility of this change.

Heightened Senses

Some people report heightened senses, such as a heightened sense of smell or taste during ovulation. Hormonal changes during ovulation can cause this subtle symptom.

Breast Soreness or Tenderness

Breast soreness or tenderness is another symptom that some women experience during ovulation. Some even report sore nipples. Hormonal fluctuations, particularly increases in estrogen and progesterone, can cause this discomfort.

Appetite Changes

Ovulation can also impact your appetite. Some report changes in food cravings or appetite during this phase of their cycle, and can vary from increased hunger to a decrease in appetite.

Libido Changes

Your libido, or sex drive, can fluctuate throughout your menstrual cycle and often peaks during ovulation. Many report feeling more sexually aroused and interested in intimacy during ovulation.


Mild bloating can also occur during ovulation, thanks to increased water retention in the body. This is typically a temporary symptom and usually subsides after ovulation.

What you should know about ovulation if you’re not trying to get pregnant

Ovulation is often the primary focus for those who want to become pregnant. The five days leading up to and the 24 hours after ovulation (known as the “fertile window”) are when you’re most fertile, but knowing when you’re ovulating can also be a powerful tool for avoiding pregnancy.

While the most reliable way to avoid pregnancy is a long-term birth control method (the pill, ring, patch, IUD, etc.), many individuals do not wish to use or are unable to use hormonal medications. In these cases, barrier methods (like condoms) and the pull-out method can be combined with ovulation tracking for a very effective form of birth control. A person that uses this method makes sure they are using a backup method during the fertile window (the five days leading up to and the 24 hours after ovulation) when engaging in penetrative vaginal sex.

Julie can help prevent pregnancy before ovulation.

If you have unprotected sex, forgot to take your birth control pill, the condom broke, or you aren’t sure where you are in your cycle, Julie is a great way to help prevent pregnancy. As an over-the-counter morning-after pill, Julie can help prevent pregnancy within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

Julie and other OTC morning-after pills help prevent pregnancy by delaying the release of the egg from the ovary. If the egg isn’t there, then it can’t be fertilized by the sperm.

However, Julie will not work if you’ve already ovulated. Find out more about Julie's 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.