How Do You Know When Ovulation Is Over?
Predicting when ovulation starts is one thing, but trying to tell when it's over is an entirely different challenge. For some of us, the start of ovulation is obvious – maybe you get cramps, a little bit of bloating, some cravings, and the inexplicable urge to buy a dozen baby onesies, but what about when it's all over? When is it time to close the blinds on your fertility window and resume your regularly scheduled programming?
Fear not if you're tired of playing the ovulation guessing game with your body. There are ways to pinpoint when ovulation has ended so you can plan your goals for conception accordingly. In addition, by understanding the reproductive science behind ovulation and learning about your hormones' different roles in the process, you can more easily identify the signs that signal that ovulation has ended.
What is ovulation?
If you’ve ever wondered why your breasts feel a little more tender than usual, why you have more watery cervical mucus in your underwear, or why your significant other looks especially tempting, it's probably because your body is gearing up for ovulation. Ovulation is the main event of the menstrual cycle. It happens when your ovary releases an egg, hoping it will be fertilized by sperm and start a new life. The process involves a finely choreographed dance of hormones within your body every month.
How do hormones impact ovulation?
The ovulation process starts with the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which stimulates your ovaries to produce follicles, each containing an egg. As the follicles grow, they produce estrogen, a hormone that makes you feel like the goddess you are and prepares your body for a potential pregnancy.
Then comes the luteinizing hormone (LH), which spikes right before ovulation, signaling the mature follicle to burst open and release the egg into the fallopian tube. This surge of LH is like a starting gun for the sperm race, and it's when your body is most fertile. Your E3G, a urine metabolite of estradiol, also rises 1 to 3 days before an LH surge.
After ovulation, the hormone progesterone is produced by the leftover follicle, known as the corpus luteum. This helps thicken the uterine lining in preparation for a fertilized egg to, hopefully, implant in the uterus. Progesterone is also responsible for some of the lovely premenstrual symptoms you may experience, such as bloating and mood swings.
And then there's the real star of the show – pregnanediol-3-glucuronide (pDG), the hormone that confirms that ovulation has occurred. pDG is the urine metabolite of progesterone (i.e., the hormone your ovary just released after ovulation). So by measuring the levels of pDG in your urine or blood, it’s possible to tell that ovulation has come and gone.
How can you track when you are ovulating?
All of these hormones play an important role in the ovulation process, but it's not like you can take a magnifying glass to your uterus to tell exactly what stage your body is in the process. Luckily, there are ways you can gauge when ovulation is over.
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During ovulation, cervical mucus becomes slippery and watery, which helps the sperm travel more easily. After ovulation, the mucus gets thicker and has more of a creamy consistency. This is because, during the first half of the menstrual cycle, estrogen levels rise, which causes the cervix to produce more thin, clear, and stretchy mucus.
After ovulation, estrogen levels decrease, and progesterone levels rise. Progesterone causes cervical mucus to become thick, opaque, and sticky, creating a mucus plug that helps to prevent bacteria and sperm from entering the uterus.
Your basal body temperature (BBT) indicates that your ovulatory phase may have wrapped. BBT is the body's resting temperature and can change throughout the menstrual cycle due to hormonal fluctuations. After ovulation, BBT typically rises by about 0.5 to 1 degree Fahrenheit and stays elevated until the next period. Estrogen is the hormone responsible for that first drop in BBT that occurs just before ovulation. After ovulation, progesterone takes over as the dominant hormone and increases BBT, which lasts until the next menstrual period.
Some women also experience decreased sexual desire or arousal after ovulation, which can indicate that the fertile window has closed. You can thank the estrogen-progesterone duo again for that. After ovulation, progesterone levels rise, and estrogen levels decrease, making you feel less lusty toward your partner than you might have been a few days ago.
Finally, during ovulation, your uterus is high, soft, and open. This allows it to accept sperm so you can get pregnant more easily. When ovulation is over, the uterus returns to its original position. It will feel hard to the touch, kind of like the tip of your nose, if you press on it.
While all of the above are indicators of ovulation, it may still be difficult to pinpoint your precise fertile window resulting in false positives and errors. If you're looking for a more reliable method, you might be interested in hormone monitoring. At-home solutions like Mira are nothing like your everyday OPK strips. Designed by in-house scientists and OBGYNs with exclusive technology to ensure your results are trustworthy, Mira’s wands use immunofluorescent technology—just like labs do—and their approach offers 99% accuracy.
What’s the best way to tell when ovulation is over?
The best way to tell if ovulation is over is to know what's happening in your body. A urine or blood test from your doctor can help you figure it out, but these tests can be time-consuming and inconvenient. As we said, you can't exactly put a magnifying glass to your uterus and peek inside – but you can come close to it.
Historically, if you wanted to check these hormone levels, you would have to go to the lab and take a test. But nowadays, much more convenient options exist: at-home kits are much more powerful than simple OPK strips but still simple and non-invasive. Mira Monitor is one of these tools!
With Mira, you can skip the lab and track the different fertility hormones responsible for ovulation, all in your home. You can both predict and confirm ovulation to confidently know your fertile window: just download the Mira app to watch all your hormonal ups and downs on the chart on your smartphone. You can check exact values of your hormones daily, and clearly see how many days are in each phase of your cycle, ending the guesswork once and for all! Use code RESCRIPTED to get $40 off the Mira Kit and bundles.
Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo is a freelance writer, infertility and women’s rights advocate, former stand-up comic, author of the blog, “The 2 Week Wait,” and proud IVF Mom. Her articles have been featured in Time magazine, Huffington Post, and ScaryMommy. She has been interviewed on news outlets such as CNN, NPR, and BBC, where she has demonstrated her ability to make even reproductive issues fun and educational. You can follow her "infertility humor" on Instagram at @jennjaypal.