To increase your chances of becoming pregnant, the best time to have sex is around ovulation. But when does ovulation occur? Ovulation is the name given to the process of an egg being released from the ovaries and its journey down a fallopian tube towards the uterus ready for fertilisation and implantation. During ovulation is when you are most fertile. Ovulation lasts around 24 hours.
Do I ovulate before or after my period?
A commonly asked question is ‘do I ovulate before or after my period?’ Ovulation occurs in your menstrual cycle after your period. If you would like to know when does ovulation occur though, it may be more beneficial to look at your predicted ovulation the number of days before your next period is due. As ovulation is a continuous cycle you can either count days before or after your period if you are planning the best time to get pregnant.
When does ovulation occur?
On average, a woman’s menstrual cycle lasts for 28 days. Your cycle begins on the first day of your period and is referred to as Day 1.
The exact day you will ovulate during your cycle is difficult to predict without tracking (read more below). Although on average it usually occurs about half way through your cycle, day 14, give or take a couple of days either side. So on an average 28-day menstrual cycle, this makes ovulation slightly easier to predict, as it will be around the mid point of your cycle.
The simple answer for when does ovulation occur is that you will likely ovulate on day 14 of a 28-day cycle.
But what happens if you don’t have an average 28-day cycle, when does ovulation occur?
The one relative constant with ovulation is that the released egg will be discharged from the body 10 to 16 days after ovulation if unfertilised, via a menstrual period.
If your menstrual cycle usually lasts for more than or less than the average 28 days, day 14 or even the mid point of your cycle is not likely to be your day of ovulation. In order to predict when ovulation is likely to happen, a count back from your next expected period date may be of more use. Your ovulation will be 10 to 16 days before your next expected period. This will offer you a 6-day window of when ovulation should occur. The period of time after ovulation and before your period is called the luteal phase.
For example: if you usually have a 24-day cycle you will ovulate as early as day 8 of your cycle (16 days before period), up to day 14 (10 days before period). If you usually have a 34-day menstrual cycle, you may ovulate between day 18 and 24 of your cycle (counting backwards).
How long does ovulation last?
Once ovulation has happened and the egg has been released, it will have a lifespan of between 12 and 24 hours. In order to be fertilised, it must happen within time of being released. This doesn’t give much time for fertilization to take place. Sperm can live for up to 5 days so when deposited prior to ovulation it can be waiting in the uterus and fallopian tubes ready to fertilise the egg.
How to tell when you are ovulating
If you would like a more accurate measure of when does ovulation occur, there are a few ways to track ovulation.
Firstly there are some physical signs that may indicate you are ovulating. The most reliable of which is a change to your vaginal discharge. During ovulation it will change from being white or creamy to being clear and stretchy/slippery (often referred to as egg white). Other signs that may tell when you are ovulating include tender breasts, belly bloating, an increased sex drive, a change in cervical position and firmness, pain in your abdomen and an increase to your basal body temperature.
It is possible to monitor and predict your ovulation day combining a few of these early pregnancy signs known as the fertility awareness process.
One of the most accurate ways to know for sure you are ovulating is by using a fertility monitor. Most are a urine-based test that detect the rise in luteinsing hormone, LH, released 24-48 hours prior to ovulation. This is the hormone that triggers the ovary to release an egg.
Products that test when ovulation will occur include:
Clearblue digital ovulation test – will indicate your 2 most fertile days
Clearblue fertility monitor – identifies up to 6 fertile days
Cyclotest baby fertility monitor – UK
First Response ovulation test
Lady-Comp fertility monitor – US
OvaCue fertility monitor