Our bodies are like temples. While they're beautiful in every shape and form, they can also be mystifying and downright confusing. Before my husband and I planned on having our first child, we were both clueless about the signs of ovulation and how to determine the best time to conceive—or how to avoid getting pregnant in the early stages of our relationship. As it turns out, many of my friends admit they're just as perplexed as to what goes on when their period comes around.
For those in need of a quick period primer, ovulation is "the process in which a mature egg is released from the ovary," according to the Mayo Clinic. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days, and ovulation occurs approximately 14 days before your next period. During ovulation, "those six days are important because the egg is able to be fertilized for about 12 to 24 hours after it's released, [and] sperm can live inside the female reproductive tract as long as five days after sexual intercourse under the right conditions," says the website.
But here's the kicker: Most women's menstrual cycles vary, which is where it gets tricky when it comes to planning for (or avoiding) a pregnancy. While there are plenty of helpful health apps that make it easy to monitor your period, it's also a good idea to get familiar with the signs of ovulation. Below read on for five ways to tell—because it's about time you demystify that "time of the month" once and for all.
You're Experiencing Bloating and Breast Tenderness
It's not uncommon for your stomach to feel bloated and for your breasts to be tender during ovulation. If you tend to indulge in comfort foods during your period, it's worth noting that you can exacerbate these uncomfortable side effects, explains New York gynecologist Alyssa Dweck, MD. To avoid making these symptoms worse, she recommends avoiding salty and fatty foods or consuming too much caffeine when you're ovulating.
You Notice Slight Abdominal Pain
Fact: Someone women can feel the sensation of their ovary being released, and there's a real term for this, says Lauren Streicher, MD, an associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Known as "mittleschmerz" (which means "middle pain" in German), the intensity of the pain may vary and is a result of excess fluid that feels "like a cyst that bursts," says Streicher.
Your Sex Drive Increases
Nope, that sudden desire to have more sex isn't just in your head. "It's not a huge change, but there is a hormonal surge," says Streicher, and that's because a boost in testosterone during the menstrual cycle can sometimes have an effect on women's sex drives.
Your Body Temperature Is Higher
If you're trying to conceive, one way to determine when you're ovulating is by checking your basal body temperature (BBT), which is the temperature of your body at rest, over a span of a few months. According to The Bump, BBT tends to fall between 97.2 and 97.6 degrees Fahrenheit at the beginning of your cycle, and then it dips slightly before increasing by about 0.4 to 1 degrees after ovulation.
First, make sure you use a thermometer that's specifically designed to measure basal body temperature, says Yvonne Butler Tobah, MD at Mayo Clinic. Check your temperature each morning before getting out of bed, record your numbers, and keep an eye out for any patterns. "You'll be most fertile during the two to three days before your temperature rises," explains Tobah.
Your Vaginal Discharge Is Different
Right before ovulation, most women notice "increased vaginal secretions that are wet and slippery (similar to the consistency of raw egg white)," explains Parents. The body secretes the most amount of this type of vaginal discharge on the day of ovulation, and then it returns back to its usual thicker consistency the day after.
Have you used these signs of ovulation to determine the best time to conceive? Let us know if it worked for you in the comments.