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White background. Blue text on the left reads "How do I know when I'm ovulating?" On the right is a blue icon of a uterus with fallopian tube and ovaries. Inside the ovaries are two blue question marks.

How do I know when I’m ovulating?

Wait, what’s ovulation?

Physical Signs of Ovulation

There are a number of signs that can indicate you are ovulating. These could be physical (e.g., light spotting, tender breasts, light cramping, etc.) or even behavioral (e.g., increased sex drive, etc.). Now, these signs are pretty general, and can be caused by lots of things other than ovulation. Some signs to look for that are more specific to ovulation include:

Changes to Cervical Mucus

Rise in Basal Body Temperature

Is there a test? How much is it? How does it work?

Ovulation Tests are at-home tests you can do to figure out if you’re ovulating. They work by measuring levels of Luteinizing Hormone in your urine. When you have a rise in Luteinizing Hormone, that’s a signal to your ovaries to release an egg. If the tests sense that your hormones are at a certain level, then it can be assumed that ovulation will be occurring within the next 12-36 hours.

Taking the test is similar to taking a pregnancy test: all you have to do is pee on a stick or strip and wait a few minutes for the indicator to appear.

Prices for Ovulation Tests vary depending on the type and amount you buy at once. Generally, a package of test strips are between $10-15, but some digital testing kits can be around $40-90. The digital kits aren’t necessarily more accurate than the more affordable packages.

These are available at many drug stores and pharmacies, and sometimes at the dollar store. Some sexual health clinics (like Planned Parenthood Toronto) can provide ovulation test kits for free.

What about Period Tracking Apps that tell you when you’re ovulating?

Period Tracking Apps can definitely help predict when you might ovulate. But a prediction isn’t the same as doing a test. Ovulation can be earlier or later than expected because of a number of factors (like stress, illness, medications, etc.), and not all of that is factored in when apps are making a prediction. Apps generate their data based on averages. They are a good guess, but they’re not exact.

What should I do if I have sex when I’m ovulating?

There are a number of things you can do!

If you know ahead of time that you might be ovulating, this might be a time where you use different birth control methods together to minimize risk (maybe a combination of condoms, pulling out, VCF, or others). Or this might be a time where you avoid sex where there is a risk of pregnancy, and try other activities that are not penetrative vaginal sex.

If you realize that maybe you were ovulating during sex, and you think there is a risk of pregnancy, you can take an emergency contraceptive pill on the off-chance that you haven’t ovulated yet or try to get a copper IUD inserted within 7 days. Otherwise all there is to do is wait until it’s been 14 days and you can take a pregnancy test.

REMEMBER
Just because you were ovulating when you had sex doesn’t mean that pregnancy is guaranteed. It just means that there was an increased risk of pregnancy. Risk is just a chance, not a definite result. For more, please see What is Risk: Pregnancy Edition.

Resources:

If you have questions about this topic, feel free to contact one of our peer educators. [Link]