For a lot of women, menstruation is a challenging time. OK, maybe “challenging” is an understatement. There are mind-numbing cramps, energy-sapping fatigue and bad moods that feel impossible to shake. And while over-the-counter medication and simple lifestyle adjustments—such as resting with a heating pad on your abdomen or eating certain foods—usually do the trick, survival boils down to simply waiting for time to pass.
Unfortunately, the weeks before a period (approximately two weeks), otherwise known as ovulation, can be just as taxing. Ovulation is when an egg is released from your ovary and travels down the fallopian tube. Once released, it becomes available for fertilization by a sperm for pregnancy. Otherwise, it sheds along with your uterine lining during your period. Some women experience a few noticeable body shifts during this time, others don’t.
Besides the more serious side effects of ovulation that could be cause for concern, such as heavy spotting and depression, there are a couple of annoying but otherwise normal things to look out for if you’re the latter.
Increase in Body Temperature
According to Maria Canter, MD, director of Urogynecology Center of Northern Virginia, a change in basal body temperature, a.k.a. the temperature of your body at rest, can be expected. However, the difference is typically so small, you may not even feel it. For women, this number is usually around 97 degrees Fahrenheit.
“When there’s a slight increase in the temperature, that is when you may suspect you have ovulated. This happens as a result of increased progesterone that’s released from the corpus luteum after ovulation,” says Canter. “In other words, when the egg is released from the ovarian cyst, the progesterone rises, increasing body temperature. The increase in temperature can be approximately 0.4°F.”
If your body temperature is so high that it feels like an actual fever, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Vaginal discharge is completely normal and usually signifies hormonal shifts before and after your period. During ovulation, your cervical mucus may become a bit thicker and clearer. Canter also notes that it’ll likely not have a particular odor or color.
If your discharge is accompanied by a strong, unpleasant odor, that could mean you’re dealing with a yeast infection or an unbalanced amount of good and bad bacteria. In this case, see a gynecologist immediately.
For some of us, cramps aren’t just period-specific. Abdominal discomfort is another unfortunate side effect that can rear its ugly head during your ovulation cycle.
“Discomfort that occurs with ovulation is typically transient. It can be a dull ache or sharp sensation,” says Canter. “It occurs only in the lower abdomen on the side of ovulation. It is not uncommon for this pain to be associated with light spotting. It also can last several minutes, a few hours, or even up to one to two days.” It should never last longer than a couple of days.
Finally, a change we can happily deal with! Ovaries produce both testosterone (male sex hormone) and estrogen (female sex hormone). At the start of your ovulation cycle, testosterone levels remain the same, while estrogen levels decrease. As a result, there is a spike in sexual desire.
If you’re planning to get pregnant, this definitely makes the process a lot easier and enjoyable. On the other hand, if you’re trying to prevent pregnancy, triple-check that you’re armed with contraception.
According to certain studies, there can also be heightened sense of smell, taste and vision. Canter says this is thought to be related to the transient spike in estrogen just prior to ovulation.