What is ovulation? Everything you need to know about ovulation

(547 ratings)
Ovulation guide, pregnancy test, pregnancy
If you’re trying to get pregnant, understanding ovulation and the impact it has on your fertility is important – but can also be really confusing!

Here, we separate the facts from the fiction on everything from the early signs of ovulation to questions about eggs and sperm, and share plenty of sex tips for conception too.

What happens when you ovulate?
How long does your cycle last?
What triggers ovulation?
How can you tell if you're ovulating?
Do ovulation prediction charts and temperature kits make a difference?
How long do the sperm and egg live?
Can you only conceive if you have sex on the day you ovulate?
When should you have sex?
What should I do after sex to boost my chances?
Can ovulation be painful?
Why can it be so difficult to get pregnant?

What happens when you ovulate?

Every month your body prepares itself for a pregnancy, so each month you release an egg from your ovum. This usually happens mid-cycle, about 14 days into your cycle, but cycles do vary from person to person. The release of eggs usually alternates, with one of your ovaries releasing an egg one month and the other the next, and the egg then travels down your fallopian tube to the womb. If the egg isn't fertilised by a sperm it's then shed with your womb lining during your period.

How long does your cycle last?

Every woman is different. The average cycle is 28 days, but many healthy, fertile women will have a cycle slightly shorter or longer than this, so won't necessarily ovulate on day 14. If yours isn't spot on 28 days, don't worry - it doesn't mean there's a problem with your fertility. When you ovulate depends on the due date of your next period and not the previous one - for instance, if your cycle regularly lasts 31 days, you should ovulate on day 17. So if you have sex on your prime fertile days, between days 14 and 17, you have a good chance of falling pregnant. Confused? Our ovulation calculator can help.

What triggers ovulation?

It's all down to hormones. You produce Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) during the first part of your cycle, which triggers your body to start the process of maturing eggs for ovulation. High levels of oestrogen produced at this time trigger a release of LH, Luteinizing Hormone, causing the mature egg to burst from the follicle. That is ovulation. Normally, only one egg will be large enough to burst through the follicle during ovulation but occasionally two will, which is how non-identical twins are conceived.

How can you tell if you’re ovulating?

If you learn to 'read' your body and get to know your cycle you should be able to tell when you're ovulating. The key is to look out for changes in your cervical secretions. After your period you can feel quite dry for a day or so and then get a sticky, whitish type of secretion. Then, when you start to ovulate the secretion from your vagina will change to a clear, sticky, mucus-like discharge. It's wettish and stretchy, like raw egg white, and normally quite noticeable, so start looking out for it. This is a sure sign you're ovulating.

Do ovulation prediction kits and temperature charts make a difference?

They can be a useful guide to tell you when you're ovulating, but can also be inaccurate on timing. Ovulation kits work by testing your urine for a hormone surge which occurs just before ovulation, but the time you get the result, the window of opportunity may have passed. Something called basal body temperature (BBT) measurements can also be used, but these rely on the fact that your body temperature increases a very small amount after ovulation - again, you may have already ovulated by the time you get this information, so it's too late to conceive. Learning to read your body and pinpointing the fertile time in your cycle is cheaper and often more effective.

How long do the sperm and egg live?

An egg lives for about 12-24 hours after you ovulate, and sperm can live for five to seven days. Ideally, you need a lot of sperm on stand-by to 'pounce' on that egg when it's released, so have sex in the days leading up to when you ovulate and a day after. You only release the one egg, but a single ejaculation from your partner will supply millions of sperm, so keep the supply up by having lots of sex.

Can you only conceive if you have sex on the day you ovulate?

No, that's a myth. Because sperm can live for up to a week after ejaculation, they may still be in your fallopian tube when you ovulate, and so able to fertilise an egg. Research shows that even if you have sex six days prior to ovulation you stand a good chance of conceiving. If you wait to have sex only on the day you ovulate, you may miss your chance of pregnancy altogether.

When should you have sex?

Recommendations from the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists are that you should avoid timed intercourse and instead have sex several times a week around the time of ovulation. This is thought to be the best way to have a good chance of pregnancy, so don't get hung up about having sex on the day you ovulate, and don't assume you are ovulating on the 14th day of your cycle. Just have lots of sex in that week around ovulation, and make sure you keep it about having fun rather than obsessing over making a baby - our sex tips might help.

What should I do after sex to boost my chances?

As fertility expert Zita West, says, 'There's no need for extreme measures such as putting your legs up in the air or doing handstands!' Many women invest in a fertility pillow because they think it will help the sperm get to the right place but there is little evidence to suggest these work. What Zita does recommend is lying still for 20-30 minutes after you've had sex to allow the sperm time to make their way up to the womb and fallopian tubes. If you do get up and feel some of the seminal fluid leave you, don't panic. This doesn't mean that you won't have been successful - even if you lose up to half the sperm released, there should still be more than enough for you to conceive.

Can ovulation be painful?

Some women get a sharp pain in their lower abdomen, called mittelschmerz, as the ripe egg is released by the ovary. Rarely women may lose a small amount of blood when they ovulate too but a huge amount of pain shouldn't be felt. If you are bleeding between periods or experiencing a lot of discomfort, you should consult your doctor straight away.

Continued below...

Why can it be so difficult to get pregnant?

Humans just aren't very fertile as a species. You only have a one in three chance of conceiving every month - and that's just when you're a healthy twenty-something. As you get into your thirties those chances become less with fertility typically dropping in women from the age of 35. However, remember that 1 in 7 couples doesn't get pregnant within a year of trying - but half of these will get pregnant in the next year, without fertility treatment. The worst thing you can do is get stressed about getting pregnant, so try not to worry, and enjoy trying!

Your rating

Average rating

  • 4
(547 ratings)

Your comments

stacay worral

Hi i was wonderin if you can help me i'm 19 nearly 20 and me and my partner have been trying for a baby for three years now but still no luck cn you help me please i am worried somethink might be wrong with me and i went to the doctors and i explained to them but they won't help me and they said that i'm to young to be worrying about that please say that you can help me thanks


hi iv bin trying for a baby for at least over a year im only 20 do you think ther is something worng my periods are regular but nothing has happend

Diane sinclair

i already have 2 children but really want another one. my periods are regular, they come between the 3rd and 4th week from the start of my last one, but only last a day or 2. can this affect my chances of conceiving? also my husband did quite a lot of drugs in his youth, will that cause problems too?


hello, i try to know when am ovulating but i can't,am looking for baby boy i need help to knowhow i work for that.

chantell pasher

i am trying to have a babie and i am having truble with my ovulation i can not get it to come out right for me i would like to find out how to make it work for me will u please help me...thank you




hi im 32 and trying to conceive my 3rd child after having the contraceptive injection having not had the injection since july and still not having regular periods im wondering how long it is all going to take


how do i read my cycle is it from the first day of mensration or the last day

joanne richardson

i start with pain in my right lower abdomen from about the 12,13,14,15, day of my circle and get constipated could this be normal,need some advice


i a have dificiltys to get pregnant, for 12 yaers the doctors say that everyting its o.k i had 2 ectopik pregnancys. what do you think i should?


my periods r at difrent dates ow do i no im ovulating????????????????

jacqueline herron

been trying for a baby for 4 yrs i had 2 misscarries i had to give birth this year afr easter found out it was a little girl we would like to try for another baby my son whos 8 its very hard don kow why things happen


i have 2 children and have been trying to get pregnant since jan o7 my periods are short and painful can you give me any advise.


hi im 33 have pcos and long for another child. i found out i have pcos 5 years ago when trying for my son. i was told i wasnt ovulating. and was given clomid to start. with luck i didnt need to take then as i fell with out at that time i didnt have ant signs of ovulating.. and now im trying again i still dont have ant signs. could i still become pregnant with out these signs. many thanks p baldwin

Paul Jackson

Does a whoman ovulate every month?


i gave you thanks for your news letter.I got so many interestig advises so keet it over thanks


sometimes my periods are irregular when do i kno when im ovulating?


maybe it is not something wrong with your eggs, but with his sperm!


Hi am having issues calculating my ovulation,my period was on the1st of august stoped on the 4th,i have 24days circle when is my exact ovulation day and when can I have intercourse to get a boy


I've been trying for 28 months to fall pregnant I have periods every month sometimes 21 days 25 days 26 days or 28 days they come I no my ovulation days but still nothing not once have I so much fallen pregnant is there definitely something wrong? Any useful tips? I am aged 19


Oooh!! Sorry, you don't have to have sex everytime. This gonna help to strength the sperms from your boy. Try to jump days when having sex during Ovolution period and this is going to make strong all the weakest "Y" from your boy. A good advice is to make sure you do a sex while targeting the Ovolution period. Me and my girl friend waited for an year and a half till she conceive. As a good friend of me (a doctor) gave an advice of jumping a day during ovolution so as to make my sperms more stronger to reach the an egg


I think you need to try and spell a little better and grow up before having a child. As a mother you can't afford to be having "STDs". It's simply irresponsible. Please learn to spell for the sake of your child.

Jasmin M,20

Hello ladies, my name is Jasmin and I am 20 years old. I've been trying to conceive for almost over a year now. Nothing is happening! :( I have my period every month but the dates are not the same. Me and my partner are worried that something might be wrong with either myself or him. I've been to the doctors and they told me to give it 18 months before they can do tests. And that I should have sex as many times as I can a day everyday...still not working :/


Hi , I am 32 and I have a boy which is 13 yrs old . In the last over 2 years I tried to get pregnant and nothing happened :( . Today my partner just told me that I am not capable which really hurts :(( . I wonder why is this ? Why can't I get pregnant any more . P.S. I forgot to add that when I was 20 I had a coil for about 2-3 months ...don't think this is the reason tho cause after I had it out I felt pregnant and in that time I had an abortion :( . May I get some advice and help please??? Many thanks


i came off the pill the end of june and had the normal withdrawl bleed and then the begining of this month august had a bleed for 4 days but i am not sure weather this is my real period?


ive been trying to concieve now for 4-5 months now and just found out i am pregnant. Just wanted to let people know who are trying to concieve that you will in time. I was doing everything too and thought i would get pregnant straight away but i didnt and when i seemed to not stress about it then i get a positive trust me dont think about getting pregnant and you soon will good luck.xx


TO CONCEIVE A BOY....Have intercourse extremely close to ovulation. This means no more than 24 hours before and no more than 12 hours past. By doing this you can help the aggressive y chromosomes get closer to the cervix and increase the chance of having a baby boy.


hi there my name is emma and im 20 years old, ive been trying for a baby now for 8 months, ive been doing everything that people have advised me and im having sex when i ovulate and im talking folic acid so what am i doing wrong, i am really starting to worry i have no health problems so what could it be? please help me, its very scary to think i could be infertile at age 20, thanks please post bk x


When i trying plan a baby with my fiance so whats wrong with my eggs? My fiance said me whats wrong with ur eggs, i said i dont know why..I will see doctor and how i get pregnant. I been two Ovulating test so they not ready..

Beth Williams

Hi Im 41 had a miscarrage last october at 9weeks Iv been trying to get pregnant ever since but no luck. My periods are regular but heavy. I even use the ovulation Calender but still no luck any advice please. :-(

charlotte m 19

very long sorry but may help A woman has a fertile time lasting about two days in the middle of her monthly menstrual cycle. The fertile time starts when the woman ovulates (produces an egg) and ends about two days later. The most likely way to get pregnant is to have sex in this fertile time or up to two days before it. But the problem is accurately identifying this fertile time as it varies from woman to woman and also in individuals. It usually happens about two weeks before the period, but it could be earlier or later. If you want to get pregnant, there are two ways to time sex to coincide with the fertile time. One way is to have sex every day. If you are too tired for this, take your temperature every morning at the same time before you get out of bed and record it carefully. While your temperature will vary slightly from day to day, it will rise sharply by about 0.2 degrees C and stay up at the time of ovulation. That's the time. Enjoy two days of frantic sex. Some women can also feel the time of ovulation by a change in the way they feel inside, or by bleeding slightly. This method is often advocated as a contraceptive-free way of actually avoiding getting pregnant, but it is not reliable enough. There are many other reasons why your temperature might rise, leading to the impression that three days later you are safe. You can't really rely on using this knowledge as a foolproof method of contraception, as it is too hard to tell exactly when ovulation occurs. Interesting to note that the texture of vaginal mucus also changes during the fertile period and many women feel higher libido at this time as well. Oh, and if the woman puts a pillow under her hips during intercourse it increases penetration and hence improves the chance of conception! Which brings us nicely on to the fact that...... Women Need Orgasms! According to an interesting TV documentary on sex recently, fertility is increased when the woman has an orgasm during or after the man. A man, while ejaculating, deposits a pool of semen at the back of the woman's vagina. When a woman orgasms, her cervix pushes forward - dipping itself into this pool several times. The likelihood of sperm entering the uterus through the cervix is therefore increased greatly when the woman orgasms. So, although you don't need an orgasm to get pregnant, it certainly helps, and it makes things a bit more fun, too. Anyway, there are other ways to get pregnant. Artificial insemination involves the relatively unromantic injection of semen into the woman's vagina. Sometimes this semen was previously frozen by anonymous donors - who typically were paid for their contribution. This allows a single mother (or a lesbian couple) to give birth without the necessity of recognizing a legal father. Occasionally, a man will freeze his own sperm before undergoing a fertility-busting medical treatment like chemotherapy and will re-use it for procreative purposes later. It is also possible for a woman to have fertilized eggs from her own ovaries or from a female donor implanted in her uterus. This involves costly surgery, and so is typically only done when the woman has already exhausted other fertility treatments. In the most extreme cases, a fertilized egg will be forced to divide several times before the multiple eggs are implanted in the potential mother. This extremely expensive method often results in multiple births.

charlotte m 19

hello girls im charlotte age 19 20 in may i to am having a lot of trubel geting pregnant agen my 1st was a miscarriage at 6weeks god it kild me be for that me and my partner wer trying for a baby it ternd out i had an std witch that stopt me from geting pregnant so we tryd agen got no wer in the end i gave up set my mind on ather things then i got pregnats in april had miscarriage in march at 6weeks now still til this day stil trying so then i thor to my sen its happenin agen im trying so hard geting my sen down every time i get a pg what im tryin to say is keep trying yes do but stop doing it to hard stop thing about it put ya mind somwer els try not to think about it i no thats hard wen u wont somthing so bad but it helpt me sounds sad but it did but i do hop for the best for all ov u and hop u all becom mums in good time all my best xx


i had a eptopic how do i no when im ovulating


I am trying to get pregnant for the past 8 months but it would not work. My partner is getting fedup with me. I am also worried. I am not familiar with my ovulation. I need your help.

lin martin

i was on depo shot in october 2004 came of it in 2007 november and been on pregnacareplus since then and been having irregular periods. i became pregnant in january 2009 and had miscarriage in march 2009 since then am trying to get pregnant but is not happening i have one son from previouse relationship and he is 5yrs now. am about to get married very soon and i have been with my boy friend almost 4yrs now. i have been to see my doctor and he conduct series of test but everything is normal. pls help me as am really worried.


hi I would like to know if there is any way i can get ababy boy i have 2 beatiful girls so i would love to have abrother for my girls.

Arianne about 2 months

i gave birth two months ago..i had ovulate last two weeks and i had sex last time without any protection. could i be get pregnant?

sian-louise newton

my daughter has just gne 2 in may. my periods are irregular and i lost a baby april last year how do i know if i can get pregnant after my loss as ive been trying for a month ans still havnt concieved??


I am just wondering i am trying for a baby at the moment and it just isnt happening i have no idea when i ovulate so should i just do it every 2nd day of the month and see what happens.......i have a 5 year old son but would love a bubby girl...please help


I delievered a baby boy last year in august, but the baby died and i have been trying to get pregnant again for the past eight months.and again i have been having pains in stomach anytime it is getting close to m y period with heavy flow pls can u tell me what is wrong with me


i have been trying for a baby for 14 months now,me and partner are healthy,ive recently taken two test which say negative as i am 2 months late with my period,im at a loose end and dont know what todo next,help!


i have realy irregular periods i can go for 3 moths with out onw. we have been tryin for a baby for 4 years now and nothing is happening. i have had test and they come back normal and yes he is fine i know that its me as pass partners have kids and i never got pregnat with them. im realy at a lose end now can any one please help me?

comments powered by Disqus

FREE Newsletter