How Long Does Ovulation Last?

How long does ovulation last?  While many factors in the cycles of women can be vastly different – length of the cycle, length and intensity of menstrual periods, regularity and timing of ovulation – one thing remains relatively consistent, and that is the length of the ovulation.  Also consistent is the small window of fertility in which conception is possible after ovulation.  This is because the egg and sperm can only survive for specific lengths of time, so ovulation and the window of fertility are always limited by those factors.  In fact, for a woman to get pregnant, many biological factors have to fall into place at just the right time.

Viability of egg and sperm

Once the egg is released from the ovary, it makes its way down the fallopian tube and is viable for about 24 hours.  If it is not fertilized in that timeframe, it dissolves and pregnancy cannot occur.  Fertilization of the egg by the sperm must take place within the fallopian tube, so the sperm must have contact with the egg during that 24 hour viable period.  If fertilization occurs, the egg will continue down the fallopian tube into the uterus where it will implant into the uterine wall.  Sperm can survive for up to three days, so intercourse for a few days before the egg enters the fallopian tube can still result in a pregnancy.

So, just how long does ovulation last?  The simple answer is 24 hours if you are trying to determine the window of viability of the egg to be fertilized.  But if you consider that sperm can remain alive longer inside the fallopian tubes, there is actually about a three day window, since you may become pregnant if you have had intercourse up to three days before ovulation occurs.  The symptoms of ovulation may actually last quite a bit longer.

If you are trying to get pregnant, tracking your cycles will help you to predict when this small window of fertility will occur each month.  If you have intercourse starting a few days before ovulation, your chances of getting pregnant will be significantly improved.


Ovulation Cramps

Not all women experience pain during ovulation, but if you are one who does, you might be curious about what you are experiencing and what exactly causes ovulation cramps.  Pain during ovulation is known as “mittelschmerz”, a German word that means “middle pain”.  Only about 20 percent of women experience this and in most cases it does not require medical attention.  It can actually be a good symptom to experience if you are trying to get pregnant, as it is a good indicator of when you are fertile.

To understand why you may be feeling pain during ovulation, it helps to understand some basic things about the ovulation process.  Ovulation occurs as the release of a mature egg from the ovary makes its way to the uterus.  During a regular monthly cycle, one egg is released from a follicle into the fallopian tube, which is the connector between the ovary and the uterus.  On rare occasions, two eggs or more may be released, resulting in multiples if the eggs are fertilized.  During the release of the egg from the fallopian tube, some women experience ovulation cramps – as mild as a slight twinge or pinching sensation for some or as severe as bad menstrual cramps for others.

Factors Usually Associated with Ovulation Cramps

There are a few factors to consider when determining if pain you are feeling is from ovulation:

•    Pain is only felt on one side, since only one egg is typically released a month, from the right or left ovary
•    Occurs around the time ovulation is expected (around day 11 – 20 in a typical 28-32 day cycle)
•    Occurs in the lower abdomen near the ovaries (close to your hip bone)
•    Lasts from just a few minutes to a few days
•    Is accompanied by other symptoms of ovulation, which can be easily detected if you chart your cycles

There is not a lot known about why some women experience pain during ovulation and some do not.  Some experts believe it occurs as a result of the rupture of the follicle – the sac that holds the egg, which bursts upon the release of the egg.   Some also believe the cramping can be a result of the egg moving through the fallopian tube toward the uterus.  But severe pain during ovulation may be indicative of another medical problem – such as appendicitis or ovarian cysts – so if you are at all in doubt, you should seek advice from your doctor.

Ovulation Pain Relief

Ovulation pain always goes away on its own within a couple days, but if it is bothersome to you, here are a few ways to help ease your discomfort:
•    Take a mild over-the-counter pain reliever such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen
•    Relax in a warm bath or use a heating pad on a low setting on your abdomen
•    If you are not trying to get pregnant, birth control pills are an effective way to stop ovulation pain because they prevent ovulation

Again, if you have any concerns about pains you are feeling, seek advice from your doctor.

Ovulation After Miscarriage

If you have ever had a miscarriage, you know how emotionally devastating they are.  They are also difficult on your body, disrupting your regular cycles until your hormones and reproductive system return to normal, often leaving you wondering about the chances of ovulation after miscarriage.  Your cycles and ovulation will return to normal at some point after a miscarriage, but at what point depends on many factors, including how far along you were in your pregnancy, how difficult the miscarriage was, and how regular your normal cycles are.

Because of the fluctuations in your hormones after a miscarriage, your cycles will need some time to adjust and return to normal.  For some women this happens relatively quickly, but for others, unfortunately, this process can be long and frustrating.  After a miscarriage, you can continue to use cycle tracking methods to get a better picture of how quickly your body is getting back on track.  It might take a couple months of tracking before you notice any regularity returning to your cycles, but in most cases, your period will resume four to six weeks after the miscarriage.

If you have had a miscarriage and want to try to conceive again, the best thing to do is talk to your doctor about when it is okay to start trying.  Some doctors recommend waiting until you have one normal cycle, while others might recommend having up to three normal cycles.  This all varies by the doctor and by how far along your pregnancy was when you miscarried.  Your body may need a longer recovery time if your miscarriage was not an early one or if it was a difficult one (prolonged bleeding, infection, or a variety of other factors).  For a very early miscarriage, your doctor might not see a need for you to wait at all before trying to conceive again.

How soon does ovulation after miscarriage occur?

Ovulation after miscarriage can occur as soon as two to four weeks if your miscarriage was spontaneous and complete.  When your cycle returns to normal, you will most likely be ovulating regularly again and will be able to get pregnant.  There really isn’t much evidence that ovulation after miscarriage is hindered because of the miscarriage, but until your cycle returns to a point of regularity you might not be able to determine this.

It is always best to talk with your doctor before deciding to conceive after miscarriage to determine what is right for your individual situation.  However, if you track your cycles and are aware of when you ovulate, you will be at a great advantage when trying to conceive after miscarriage because you will have a better understanding of when your cycles are back to regular and you should be able to tell when/if ovulation occurs.

Symptoms Of Ovulation

As your body goes through reproductive changes each month, there are some real physical symptoms of ovulation you can watch for to help predict when you are fertile.  I go into some of these in my article titled When Am I Ovulating?, but I will go a little more into the obvious physical symptoms of ovulation here.

The easiest noticeable symptoms of ovulation are cervical mucus and ovulation cramps.  A much more subtle change is temperature shifts – which I also cover in When Am I Ovulating?

Ovulation Discharge

For women who take notice of how their vaginal discharge changes throughout the month, detecting ovulation by cervical mucus can be pretty simple.  The reason for the change in cervical mucus during ovulation is to create an environment to keep sperm sustainable an allow it to move through the cervix.  During ovulation, the amount of cervical mucus increases and its texture changes.   It becomes clear, slippery, somewhat sticky, and can be “stretched” between your fingertips.

You may be able to examine your cervical fluid simply by checking the toilet paper after you use the restroom.  If you are producing a lot of cervical fluid, it will usually be visible on the toilet paper.  If it is not, you can check by inserting clean fingers into the vagina and extracting some of the fluid near your cervix.

As you approach ovulation, you will notice the above changes taking place in the fluid.  When the consistency of the fluid most closely resembles raw egg white – mostly clear, slippery, and stretchy, you are likely at your most fertile time of the month when ovulation will occur.

Ovulation Cramps

Some women experience pain or cramping during ovulation.  The pain can feel as minor as a twinge or pinch to pretty severe, often similar to menstruation cramps.  The reason for the pain is in how eggs are released from the ovaries – tiny sacs called follicles that contain the eggs rupture when the egg is released.  Ovulation cramping is thought to be from this rupture and can last a few minutes to a few hours.  It is not known for sure why this causes pain in some women but not in others.  If you feel cramping during ovulation, you will most likely feel it in your lower abdomen and only on one side.

Some women never feel anything when the egg is released from the ovary, but for others it is quite noticeable.  If you are checking your cervical mucus and feel cramping around the same time you have fertile mucus, you are probably feeling ovulation cramps.  Once you learn to recognize the cramps for what they are, the cramps, combined with your other physical symptoms (cervical mucus and body temperature) can give you a very accurate picture of when you are ovulating each month.

Recognizing your ovulation symptoms can be very beneficial if you are trying to get pregnant, or if you are trying to avoid pregnancy.

When Am I Ovulating?

Whether trying to get pregnant or trying not to get pregnant, a very common question from women is: When am I ovulating? This is not a question that has a universal answer because all women have different bodies with different cycles. However, there are a few ways you can help determine your likely ovulation date. To get the most accurate prediction of your ovulation, it is best to use a combination of methods, including tracking your menstrual cycles, studying your cervical fluid, and taking your body temperature. There are also ovulation kits and fertility monitors available that can assist you. By tracking your cycles and paying attention to ovulation symptoms, you will most likely become very aware of your body and cycles and be able to feel when ovulation is about to happen.

Is there a certain day in my cycle I can count on ovulation to occur?

A very common misconception is that women are fertile on day 14 of their cycle. This is something that many people have believed for years, but it simply isn’t always the case. Some women do ovulate on day 14, but it can vary by woman and even by month, even if you have a 28-day cycle. If you have a typical 28 to 32 day menstrual cycle (with day 1 being the start of your period), ovulation can take place between days 11 through 21. Again, this can vary depending on a number of factors, including your cycle length and regularity of your periods. So relying solely on counting days in your cycle is not an accurate way to predict ovulation.

How do I tell when I am most fertile?

A great first step to predict when you are ovulating is to start tracking your cycles. This can be as simple as keeping a calendar and noting the start and end of each of your cycles. Day 1 of your cycle is the day your period starts. By doing this you will be able to note how long your cycles are and how regular they are. Most women have 28 to 31 or 32-day cycles, but many also have very short cycles, very long cycles, or cycles that are different every month. By tracking this information, you will already be a step ahead on determining your likely ovulation and it will also become useful to your doctor if you have menstrual problems or trouble getting pregnant.

The next step in tracking your cycles is to chart your basal body temperature – the lowest temperature your body reaches in a day. The best time to take your temperature is first thing in the morning – right after you wake up but before you get out of bed. Try to take your temperature at the same time every morning. This is best done with a thermometer specifically designed for basal body temperature readings, because they show very small shifts in your temperature that regular thermometers cannot. These thermometers are available online and at most drugstores and usually come with handy charts for tracking your temperature each day. Try not to read too much into your daily temperature, but at the end of your cycle, you will likely notice a temperature shift on the graph around your ovulation time. By doing this over several cycles, you will probably see a pattern in what your temperature does throughout the month. Usually, your temperature will shift up slightly right after ovulation and stay elevated until the start of your next cycle. By doing this over a few months, you will be able to predict what day you are likely ovulating.

The last step that will help you determine your ovulation is to check your cervical mucus. Doing this in combination with the two methods mentioned above can give you a very accurate sense of when you are ovulating. The consistency, color, and amount of cervical discharge changes throughout the month as your hormones change. As you get close to ovulating (a couple days before) you will probably notice the mucus becoming clear, slippery, and somewhat stretchy – very similar to raw egg whites. This is the discharge you will see when you are fertile, as it is the best consistency to help sperm reach the egg. This can last for about 3 days, and you are probably most fertile on the last day of this discharge.

You can keep track of your cycles, temperature, and cervical mucous each month on a fertility chart and start to get a pretty accurate idea of when you are ovulating. This can help you get pregnant or avoid getting pregnant and will help you become aware of the changes your body experiences throughout the month.