SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Ovulation is a phase of the female menstrual cycle that involves the release of an egg (ovum) from one of the ovaries.
- It generally occurs about two weeks before the start of the menstrual period.
- Most ovulation predictor kits work by measuring the level of luteinising hormone (LH) in the woman’s urine – a rise in LH levels indicates that you are about to ovulate.
- Some women who aren’t ovulating regularly can be helped by reproductive technologies.
On this page
When you start trying for a baby, it’s important to understand ovulation, when it happens and how you can improve your chances of falling pregnant.
What is ovulation?
Ovulation is part of the female menstrual cycle. An egg is released from an ovary and moves along a fallopian tube towards your uterus.
When does ovulation happen?
Ovulation usually happens once each month, about two weeks before your next period. Ovulation can last from 16 to 32 hours.
Ovulation does not happen if you are:
- on the contraceptive pill
Ovulation and pregnancy
It is possible to get pregnant in the five days before ovulation and on the day of ovulation, but it’s more likely in the three days leading up to and including ovulation. Once the egg is released, it will survive up to 24 hours. If sperm reaches the egg during this time, you may get pregnant.
How do you know when you are ovulating?
If you have regular menstrual cycles, you are likely to be ovulating each month.
When you are ovulating, you may notice:
- your vaginal discharge or mucus is slick and slippery (like egg white)
- abdominal pain, often on one side of the tummy
- premenstrual symptoms (e.g. breast enlargement and tenderness, abdominal bloating and moodiness).
Ovulation predictor kits
You can use an ovulation predictor kit to predict when you are most likely to be fertile. Most kits work by measuring the level of luteinising hormone (LH) in your urine. A positive result means you are likely to ovulate within the next 24 to 36 hours.
This ovulation calculator or ovulation calendar can help you work out your most fertile time. These are the days you are most likely to get pregnant. It can also estimate your due date if you do become pregnant during your next fertile days. Your fertility has an easy to use calculator.
Why you might not ovulate regularly
Some women do not ovulate regularly. This is common in the first two to three years after your periods start and during the lead-up to menopause. Some conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and amenorrhoea (when periods stop due to excessive exercise or eating disorders) may cause irregular ovulation. Women with certain hormone conditions do not ovulate at all.
Tests to check if you are ovulating
You can ask your doctor for a medical test to make sure you are ovulating. For example, a blood test that checks for progesterone – a certain level of progesterone means ovulation has taken place.
Tablets and injections
If you are not ovulating regularly, tablets and injections can increase the hormones that control ovulation. The dose of medication must be carefully controlled to reduce the chance of a multiple pregnancy.
Read more about fertility treatment on the VARTA website.
Improve your chances of ovulation
There are lots of ways to improve your chances of ovulation.
For example, you can:
- maintain a healthy weight by eating regular, well-balanced meals
- exercise regularly – but avoid excessive exercise
- manage your stress levels with relaxation or mindfulness techniques.
For more detailed information, related resources, articles and podcasts, visit Jean Hailes for Women’s Health.
Where to get help
- Your GP
- Jean Hailes for Women’s Health
- Gynaecologist or IVF unit
- Specialised women’s health clinic
- Sexual Health Victoria (SHV). To book an appointment call SHV Melbourne CBD Clinic: (03) 9660 4700 or call SHV Box Hill Clinic: (03) 9257 0100 or (free call): 1800 013 952. These services are youth friendly.
- Ovulation testing, myDr, MediMedia Australia, St Leonards, NSW.
- Menstrual cycle, Better Health Channel, Department of Health, State Government of Victoria, Australia.
- Physiology, Ovulation. StatPearls [Internet]. JE Holesh, AN Bass, M Lord, (2021), Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Accessed Jan 2022.