Written by Sarah Mansell Published on 16th January 2022 Updated on 23rd May 2022

Ovulation is the period in your menstrual cycle when a mature egg is released from the ovary. After it's released, the egg moves down the fallopian tube and stays there for 12 to 24 hours, where it can be fertilized. That’s the basics, but as with all things, there’s a lot more to it. From the process to the outcome, there’s so much to learn about ovulation. A study of 1,000 women aged between 18-40 years found that approximately 40% were unfamiliar with the ovulatory cycle. Considering it happens to most women once a month, we found that pretty shocking, so it’s time to unlock the mysteries of ovulation. 

What actually is ovulation?

Like we already mentioned, ovulation is the process that usually happens once in every menstrual cycle when hormone changes trigger an ovary to release an egg. The body reacts to a high surge of hormones by releasing an egg into the fallopian tubes. Once the ovaries release the egg, the levels of estrogen in the body begin to fall. Because the egg is in your fallopian tube, there’s a higher chance of it being fertilized by sperm if you’re having sex, which is why you’re most fertile while you’re ovulating. 


When does ovulation happen?

The average menstrual cycle lasts between 28 and 35 days and according to the NHS, ovulation usually occurs around 10-16 days before your period starts. Using a period tracker app or marking dates on your calendar can help you become more familiar with your cycle and understand what phase you’re at. Although not everyone has a clockwork menstrual cycle, in general ovulation occurs in the four days before or four days after your cycle’s midpoint.

How long does ovulation last?

For something that is discussed so much, ovulation only actually lasts for around one day. Yep, just 24 hours. The body triggers the release of an egg from the ovaries and once that egg starts its journey towards the uterus, it only stays viable for one day. 

How do I know if I’m ovulating?

There are a number of ways to keep track of when you’re ovulating. A period tracker app is a simple way to keep tabs on what’s going on, but they’re not always completely accurate. You can also purchase over-the-counter ovulation kits which help you identify when you’re most likely to ovulate by measuring the level of hormones in your urine.

But without that, your body has its own ways of telling you when you’re ovulating. For example, during ovulation, your cervix starts producing more mucus to help sperm make their way to the egg that’s been released, so you might notice clear discharge in your underwear. Your Basal body temperature may increase slightly — typically less than a 1/2 degree F (0.3 C) — when you ovulate, and you'll need an accurate thermometer to measure this. You might also experience some breast tenderness or bloating. 

When am I most fertile?

If you’re trying to get pregnant, or indeed, trying to avoid getting pregnant, it’s worthwhile knowing when you’re at your most fertile. The best chance of getting pregnant is when you have sex one to two days before ovulation. Your fertile window is considered to be in the six days leading up to ovulation, so if you’re actively trying to conceive, clear the diary and get to bed at least every other day during this period. 

Some women use period trackers and ovulation trackers as a natural form of contraception, and if you’re not trying to conceive it’s so important to use contraception in your fertile window. To be safe, you should use it throughout the month, because you can still get pregnant outside of those six days. 

What prevents ovulation?

If you’re tracking your ovulation and it doesn’t seem consistent, there could be a few reasons for this. Hormonal birth control and certain health condition can prevent ovulation, including polycystic ovary syndrome, eating disorders, and some genetic conditions. If you have any concerns at all about your menstrual cycle, always talk to a professional. Similarly, if you’ve been trying to conceive for longer than a year, it’s good to seek medical advice. 

It’s about bloody time

About bloody time that we started talking more openly about periods, ovulation, and all the other mad clever stuff our body does every month. Hopefully, this information will help you understand the ins and outs of ovulation, why it happens, when it happens, and how it happens.