ovulation frequently asked questions

How do I calculate when I am ovulating?

The timing of ovulation is complex and can take some studying of your body and cycles to figure out. By using a combination of methods such as observing your cervical fluid, taking your basal body temperature daily, and tracking your periods, you can better identify your time of ovulation.

The American Pregnancy Association encourages women to learn about the fertility awareness method of tracking cycles and combine that with using ovulation predictor kits to best understand when you are ovulating. The Association estimates that ovulation occurs anywhere between 11-21 days after the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP), or 12-16 days from when you expect the next menstrual period to start. Order a Fertility Kit or Monitor

Don’t women ovulate on the 14th day after their period starts?

Unfortunately, this is a myth that many, including healthcare professionals, still believe. The “14th-day” thinking appears to come from either taking the average of when all women ovulate or from just dividing the 28-day cycle in half. This is not an accurate way to calculate ovulation because many women do NOT ovulate on the 14th day of their cycle.

The day of ovulation differs from woman to woman and can even be different from month to month for an individual woman. For a woman with a 28-day cycle, the window of ovulation is day 11 through day 21 of your cycle. Ovulation could occur on any one day during this window.

During my ovulation time, how many days am I really fertile?

During your window of ovulation, an egg is only available to be fertilized for about 12-24 hours. But since sperm can live in the body for 3-5 days after sex, and the egg is available for one day, your most fertile time is considered to be about 5-7 days.

Can I ovulate during my period?

The answer to this question depends on what is considered a period. Menstruation or a period is the bleeding that occurs when the endometrium is shed 12 to 16 days after ovulation. With this definition of a period, you cannot ovulate while on your period.

However, some women experience mid-cycle or ovulatory bleeding (bleeding that occurs around ovulation) and may mistake it for a period. This can be seen in some women who have very irregular cycles, maybe coming once every 3 months or 2-3 times in one month, although it can occur in women with regular cycles as well. They may experience what appears to be a period, but, in reality, this is most likely ovulatory bleeding. Ovulation can occur when you experience mid-cycle or ovulatory bleeding.

Keep in mind that while you cannot technically ovulate while on a period because sperm can live in the body for 3-5 days after sex, pregnancy could occur from intercourse that takes place during a period.

Can I ovulate right after my period?

The answer to this question is determined by how many days are in your cycle. The number of days in your cycle is calculated by counting the number of days from the beginning of one period to the beginning of the next period. If you have a short cycle, for example, 21 days, and you bleed for 7 days, then you could ovulate right after your period.

This is because ovulation generally occurs 12-16 days before your next period begins, and this would estimate you ovulating at days 6-10 of your cycle.

Can I get pregnant during my period?

While conception cannot occur while you are on your period, pregnancy can occur from intercourse that takes place during a period.  This is because sperm can live in the body for up to five days, and if a woman ovulates soon after her period, then conception could take place from intercourse that occurred during her period. Keep in mind that you can get pregnant while experiencing mid-cycle or ovulatory bleeding. (See above for clarification regarding ovulatory bleeding and menstruation).

Can I ovulate without detecting the stretchy white cervical fluid?

Ovulation can take place even if you do not notice the “stretchy egg-white” fluid that we assume accompanies ovulation. Every woman can experience her own type of cervical fluid. Ovulation is assumed to take place on the day a woman has the most amount of wet fluid. If a woman is not experiencing “egg white” cervical fluid, natural products are available to help increase cervical fluid production.

What does it mean if I have the stretchy cervical fluid on more than one day?

Many women can experience cervical fluid a few days before ovulation actually takes place and can even have it after ovulation has finished.  When studying your cervical fluid to determine when you are ovulating, look for the 12-24 hour time-frame with the greatest amount of wet fluid.

This generally occurs around ovulation when an egg is available for fertilization, although intercourse that happens on the few days before this can also result in pregnancy.

If an ovulation predictor test kit says positive, that means that I am for sure ovulating, right?

Ovulation predictor kits determine whether the luteinizing hormone (LH) is detected. The luteinizing hormone (LH) rises right before ovulation occurs. Therefore the kits are supposed to detect whether you’re going to ovulate but cannot ensure that you do ovulate.

Women may have a high level of the LH if they have certain conditions such as polycystic ovaries, premature ovarian failure (POF), or for women over age 40 who are experiencing perimenopause. Also, women with Luteinized Unruptured Follicle Syndrome (LUFS) may have a surge in the LH hormone without ovulating. Any of these conditions could result in a false-positive result on an ovulation predictor test.

What are the signs of ovulation?

The signs of ovulation can be any of the following, although many women may only notice one or two of these:

  • Change in cervical fluid
  • Change in cervical position and cervical firmness
  • A brief twinge of pain or a dull ache that is felt on one side of the abdomen
  • Light spotting
  • Increase in sex drive
  • An elevated level of the luteinizing hormone which can be detected on an ovulation test
  • Basal body temperature chart that shows a consistent change
  • Breast tenderness
  • Abdominal bloating
  • A heightened sense of vision, smell, or taste.

Can a woman ovulate more than once during each cycle?

A woman should not ovulate more than once during each cycle. This is due to a careful balance of hormones and their levels – it takes just the right timing and release of hormones to bring on the release of a mature egg. Therefore, she cannot get pregnant more than once during a cycle. Remember, if you are not using a tracking method such as OPKs, basal body temperature, or cervical mucus, there is no guaranteed way to pin down the day you are ovulating. Many period tracking apps will give you your “day of ovulation,” but this is only an estimation of when it might happen. Thus, two days (or more) after the predicted ovulation day may not be a “safe” day to have sex to avoid pregnancy, since it’s possible that you have not actually ovulated yet.

There was a study published in 2003 by Canadian researchers claiming that it is possible for a woman to ovulate more than once in a single cycle. However, this research used a small sample size and the results have never been confirmed or replicated. Thus, it is still the general understanding that women only ovulate once per cycle.

Multiple ovulation is another phenomenon that can occur and is when two or more eggs are released in a single cycle. The eggs are released during one 24 hour period and are responsible for the birth of fraternal twins. It is believed that this may occur in as many as 5-10% of all cycles but does not result in that many twins due to a type of miscarriage referred to as the “vanishing twin phenomenon.”

Can I ovulate without having a period?

Since a woman releases an egg 12-16 days before her expected period, it is possible for women to get pregnant without having periods. Women who are not menstruating due to a certain condition (i.e. low body weight, breastfeeding, perimenopause, etc…) risk the chance of getting pregnant because ovulation could start again at any point.

If you ovulate and do not start your period a couple of weeks later, you may want to take a pregnancy test.

For those who want to conceive, the lack of periods could make it more difficult to know the timing of ovulation if you are not charting your basal temperature and cervical fluid changes.  But if you are not having periods and wanting to prevent pregnancy, a form of contraception should be used since there is no way to know when ovulation will occur.

Can I have a period and still not have ovulated?

Having a period does not necessarily mean that ovulation has taken place. Some women may have what is called an anovulatory cycle, (meaning ovulation has not occurred). During an anovulatory cycle, women may experience some bleeding which may appear to be a period, although this is actually not a true period.

This bleeding is caused by either a buildup in the uterine lining that can no longer sustain itself or by a drop in estrogen. The main way to decipher if ovulation is, in fact, taking place is by tracking your basal body temperature.

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Next Steps and Related Articles

It is helpful to learn about ovulation and health matters that directly related to your efforts to get pregnant. You can also explore the articles below to learn more about ovulation and getting pregnant.

Compiled using information from the following sources:

1. Weschler, T. (2002). Taking charge of your fertility. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

2. Baerwald A.R., Adams G.P., Pierson R.A. A new model for ovarian follicular development during the human menstrual cycle. Fertility and Sterility. July 2003. doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0015-0282(03)00544-2