The signs and symptoms of ovulation

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If you're hoping to conceive, one of the most important things you need to know about is ovulation.

This is because the best time of month to try for a baby is around ovulation.

Obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Kelly Griffin recommends having intercourse every second day from day 10 - 16 (if you have a regular 28 day cycle) to maximise your chances of falling pregnant.

She says research shows the highest chance of falling pregnant is when you have intercourse in the one to two days leading up to ovulation and on the day you ovulate.

Ovulation is when an egg is released from your ovaries. Once released, it can hopefully meet a sperm and get fertilised, thus starting your journey towards motherhood.

Levels of different hormones change during ovulation, leading to various signs and symptoms.

Mind you, not everyone feels the same things.

In fact, midwife Amanda Bude reassures that it's "not at all abnormal" to "notice no signs" of ovulation. This can occur because a woman doesn't have many signs of ovulating, or because she's not aware of the signs in the first place.

Here are the most common signs and symptoms of ovulation:

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1. Pain

Ovulation pain - or mittelschmerz as it's also known (which is German for 'middle pain') - is one of the most common signs of ovulation.

Bude describes it as "a mild sensation of pain around the ovary" which occurs after the egg has been released (because the fluid irritates the surrounding area).

Many women describe ovulation pain as being like period pain. Some women also experience abdominal bloating.

2. Cervical mucus change

When you're trying to conceive, you will likely notice changes in your cervical mucus throughout your cycle. (Keep in mind that being on the pill reduces these variations).

When you're ovulating, your cervical mucus changes quite a bit.

Firstly, it increases in volume. That's why, Bude says, many women report feeling "wetter down there" at this time. It also changes consistency, becoming "clear, stringy and egg-white looking".

Your mucus changes when ovulating in order to create a welcoming environment for sperm, thus increasing your chances of falling pregnant.

3. Regular periods

One of the big signs of ovulation is simply having regular periods. If your periods are irregular, you're less likely to be ovulating regularly.

According to obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Kelly Griffin, if your cycle cycles lasts anywhere between 25 and 35 days, you are likely to be ovulating.

If you have regular periods, you're likely to ovulate once a month. This occurs roughly two weeks before you get your period. So if you have a 28 day cycle (meaning you get your period every 28 days), ovulation usually occurs around day 14.

4. Change in sex drive/smell/taste

As part of nature's way of trying to improve your chances of falling pregnant, you're likely to notice an increase in libido when you're ovulating. ("One of my patients called it 'wanting to release her inner cave woman'," Bude notes.)

However, not all the signs of ovulation are noticed below the belt.

Bude says many women also report a heightened sense of smell, taste and sometimes even vision. She attributes these changes to being a "primitive urge to look for the ideal mate!".

5. Rise in basal body temperature

Dr Griffin says your basal body temperature rises slightly "one to two days after" you have ovulated (not at the actual time of ovulation).

According to Better Health Channel, that rise is only about half a degree Celsius.

To get an accurate reading of your body temperature, Dr Griffin says you need to test it "first thing in the morning, before getting out of bed, eating or drinking".

Dr Griffin says your body temperature rises because the hormone changes at ovulation affect the part of the brain responsible for temperature control.

6. Change in cervix

Your cervix is the opening to your uterus (womb). Throughout your cycle, your cervix changes consistency.

If you touch your cervix with your fingers, you may detect these changes, says Bude. "Some woman notice that their cervix gets softer and higher in position [when ovulating]," she says.

7. Other changes

Some women also experience breast tenderness or nipple sensitivity when ovulating, while others complain of spotting, says Bude.

Again, you can thank your hormones for those changes.

So what should I do if I don't think I'm ovulating?

If you're trying to fall pregnant and are worried you may not be ovulating, Dr Griffin recommends seeing your GP.

Your GP can do a fertility assessment and refer you to a gynaecologist if needed.