All About Ovulation
Medically reviewed by: Dr. Uma Lerner
There are so many things about sex that can make you nervous -- am I doing this right?! Are they enjoying this as much as I am? If you know that a baby isn't in your future plans, worrying about getting pregnant can be another thing that kills the mood.
So many Aavia members have questions about ovulation and want to know when they can get pregnant. The good news is that you are unlikely to get pregnant every day of your hormone cycle, and we’re here to put your mind at ease <3
What is ovulation?
Every hormone cycle, your body prepares for a possible pregnancy by releasing a mature egg from your ovaries into your fallopian tube. The release of this egg is called ovulation. Pregnancy starts when this egg is fertilized by sperm.
If you are not on birth control and have penetrative sex around the time an egg is released, you can get pregnant. Because sperm can live within the body for up to five days, it's possible for this sperm to fertilize an egg, even if you avoid sex the day of ovulation. A fertilized egg will travel from the fallopian tubes to the uterus, attach to the lining of the uterus, and develop into a fetus!
Fortunately, the window when you are most likely to get pregnant is only a small part of your overall hormone cycle, and there are many ways to avoid pregnancy if that is a goal of yours!
Hormonal birth control, like the pill, patch, implant, or IUD, is the most effective way to prevent pregnancy. If you are not on birth control, experts advise using a barrier method like condoms or avoiding sex in the five days before ovulation, the day of ovulation, and the day after ovulation to minimize the chance of getting pregnant.
When in my hormone cycle do I ovulate?
Ovulation is what divides your follicular and luteal phases. If you have regular periods, ovulation generally occurs 14 days before the first day of your next period.
During the follicular phase– the first 14 to 21 days of your hormone cycle that starts with your period– estrogen and luteinizing hormone increase to help the ovaries release an egg. The follicular phase ends with ovulation.
The luteal phase, when progesterone levels rise and estrogen levels drop, starts just after ovulation. If you don't get pregnant during this time, progesterone levels drop and your uterus sheds its lining, triggering your next period!
How can I tell that I am ovulating?
With a practice and a commitment to consistency, you can learn your body’s cues to find out when you are ovulating.
- Cycle tracking: If you have very, very regular periods, you can generally figure out when you are ovulating with a little counting. With regular periods on a roughly 28-day cycle, simply count backward 14 days from the first day of your next period– the two or three days before that day are when you are most likely to get pregnant. However, if you have a longer, shorter, or an irregular cycle from stress, environmental changes, or a condition like PCOS, it can be hard to rely on cycle tracking alone. Tracking your period for several cycles, plus looking for other signs of ovulation can help you figure out your body’s patterns.
- Discharge: Ever notice how your discharge changes through your hormone cycle? During ovulation, your discharge looks like egg whites– wet, clear, and slippery. Tracking the changes to your discharge can help you detect when you are ovulating.
- Body temperature: Many people who track their fertility without using hormonal birth control use their basal body temperature to detect ovulation. To do this, you need to use a special thermometer to measure your body’s temperature the moment you wake up. Your body temperature will be slightly higher around ovulation.
- Ovulation tests: You can buy tests that detect ovulation by detecting higher levels of luteinizing hormone in your pee. They look like pregnancy tests and can be over 80% effective in detecting ovulation when used correctly!
DISCLAIMER: Tracking your ovulation has a much higher rate of unintended pregnancy than hormonal birth control and requires a commitment to tracking your body’s changes every. single. day. For people who can’t (or don’t want to) take hormonal birth control, tracking your ovulation– plus using barrier protection methods like condoms– can reduce the risk of pregnancy. Apps like Aavia are not considered substitutes for birth control and should not be used to prevent pregnancy.
Do I ovulate on birth control?
Nope! As long as you take your birth control correctly (or you have a long-lasting form of birth control like the implant or IUD), the hormones in your birth control will prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation, thinning the cervical mucus, and thickening the cervical mucus, giving you triple protection against getting pregnant!
I had unprotected sex. What can I do to prevent pregnancy?
If you’ve had unprotected sex and want to minimize the risk of pregnancy, emergency contraception (aka the morning-after pill) prevents ovulation from happening in the first place! The morning-after pill uses a hormone called levonorgestrel to delay ovulation. It’s most effective within 72 hours of unprotected sex, so it’s best to take it as soon as possible.
You can buy the morning-after pill in pharmacies and stores like Walmart and Target, as well as some health clinics like Planned Parenthood if you call ahead! There’s no age requirement to buy it in the store, but your doctor might be able to help you get it for free if you have insurance or Medicaid!
Download the Aavia app to join hundreds of others for community support and care — no questions are off limits. #NOBABIES4ME :)