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Illustration of a uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries

Illustration by Marta Pucci and Katrin Friedmann

Cycle A-Z

Ovulation bleeding 101

What it is, and how to know if you’re experiencing it

by Clár McWeeney, Former Content Manager at Clue Reviewed by Maegan Boutot, Science Writer for Clue
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Ovulation is when an ovary releases an egg. The egg travels down the fallopian tube towards the uterus. If it’s not fertilized within 24 hours after it’s released, it will break down and will be shed two weeks later with your period.

So how do you know when ovulation is happening?

As ovulation approaches, your body produces more cervical fluid. You can see this fluid in your underwear or on toilet paper when you use the bathroom. It becomes stretchier, clearer, and more wet and slippery—like a raw egg white. This fluid tends to “peak” about 1 to 2 days before ovulation, when estrogen is highest (1). A surge in luteinizing hormone (LH) occurs and triggers the egg to be released from the follicle 36 to 40 hours after the spike in estrogen (2).

Some people feel ovulation pain or “mittelschmerz”—a sharp or cramp-like pain felt on either side of the lower abdomen, that can last a few hours or days (3).

Tracking your basal body temperature (BBT) can also allow you to detect ovulation (1) — as progesterone rises to prepare the uterus for implantation of a fertilized egg, it causes a slight increase in your BBT (4). You can also use ovulation prediction tests/kits (OPKs).

For some people, ovulation comes with a bit of blood or spotting.

Spotting is any bleeding that happens outside of your regular period. Spotting occurs in about 5% to 13% of menstruating people (5,6). Ovulation bleeding probably occurs in 5% or less of people (5).

Spotting can be caused by other factors too, like contraceptive use (birth control pill, IUDs, other hormonal contraceptives), pregnancy, fibroids, polyps, infections, physical uterine changes, bleeding disorders, and cancerous changes.

A hand holding a phone with the Clue app opened

Download Clue and track bleeding episodes and spotting.

It’s often said that midcycle bleeding not associated with a reproductive condition, like fibroids, is caused by low estrogen levels during the middle of the cycle (7,8). However,one study found that people who experience midcycle  bleeding have higher levels of the hormones estrogen and LH—around ovulation (54). Spotters also had higher estrogen and progesterone in the luteal phase of the cycle (5).

Since we’re curious, we asked the Clue community if anyone had experienced ovulation bleeding.

In my experience, ovulation bleeding appears as a very light red, almost pink-ish hue, within my fertile cervical fluid. Here are some other folks’ experiences:

“I learned about ovulation bleeding when I was trying to conceive. When it would happen, I would always be confused as to whether it was ovulation bleeding or implantation bleeding. It’s mostly a rare occurrence for me, since I don’t ovulate every cycle. For me, the months that I have ovulation bleeding I notice that my periods are lighter but my PMS cramps are stronger. During months when I don’t have it, my cycle is longer, my periods are heavier, and my breasts are more tender. I also tend to have more ovulation bleeding when I’m taking supplements that change my hormone levels.” - Karly

“A few months ago I experienced a small bleed during ovulation. It was so light I don’t know if I would even call it a bleed, more like spotting. Initially I freaked out. I track my periods and my symptoms rigorously so I wasn’t sure why it was happening. When I clicked into the Clue app to log this, I checked out the information page on bleeding and it says that spotting around ovulation is a normal phenomenon. I knew I was ovulating that day, so Clue helped me put two and two together. This really put my mind at ease. Even though I do experience slight ovulation pain, before I knew that some spotting was normal I was worried there could be something wrong. It’s happened to me the past three months now, so it’s become somewhat of a regular occurrence. Ovulation bleeding has definitely made me more aware of my fertile window, as it usually only happens on the day Clue predicts I will ovulate." - Amy

“After my pregnancy and breastfeeding in the second cycle, it suddenly occurred—blood lines in the discharge. I’d never heard of it before and kind of freaked out while calling my OB/GYN, because I thought my irregular cycle history from my mid-twenties to thirty was back. The doctor quickly explained to me that what I was experiencing was ovulation bleeding, and happens to a lot of people with regular cycles. I felt calm again, but yet every time it happened I was still kind of perplexed by it. But I’m aware I’m ovulating, and learning more about my cycle and my fertile days makes me feel more secure with my body.” - Katrin

There’s still a huge knowledge gap when it comes to menstrual health and fertility.

Although researchers are starting to study ovulation spotting, they still don’t know exactly why it happens, or whether it is a sign of something to be addressed with a healthcare provider. But there is currently no evidence that ovulation spotting is a cause for concern.

Irregular bleeding and inconsistent spotting can be a predictor of other underlying health issues. If you regularly bleed between periods or you experience unusual heavy bleeding between your periods, talk to your healthcare provider.

If you regularly bleed between periods or you experience unusual heavy bleeding between your periods, talk about it with your healthcare provider.

Article was originally published on Oct. 11, 2017.