Ovulation Bleeding or Spotting: What does it mean?
Written by: Dr. Amy Beckley, PhD, Founder and Inventor of the Proov test — the first and only FDA-cleared test to confirm successful ovulation at home.
Written on 7/6/21
For many women, ovulation isn’t a time when they’re used to spotting and it can be surprising.
You may be familiar with ovulation pain — often a one-sided ache that occurs around ovulation. While not super common, it can be a sign that ovulation is happening in women who experience it.
Another sign that ovulation may be happening is ovulation bleeding or spotting. For many women, ovulation isn’t a time when they’re used to spotting and it can be surprising. Keep reading to learn more about ovulation bleeding or spotting and what it means!
How do I know when ovulation is coming?
Ovulation is one of the most important events during your cycle. It marks the end of the follicular phase and the beginning of the luteal phase, and it’s when your ovaries release an egg.
If you’re trying to conceive, ovulation is of course very important — after all, without an egg there is no chance at conception. However, ovulation is also an important marker of overall health, which is why you want to make sure you do ovulate regularly even if you are not trying for a baby.
While it is common for a woman to have an anovulatory cycle every now and then (i.e. a cycle in which ovulation does not occur), tracking ovulation ensures they don’t become a pattern. While anovulation can hurt your chances at conception, it also can be a sign of an underlying health problem. Here are some methods you can try to track ovulation:
Ovulation tests measure luteinizing hormone (LH) levels in urine to detect the LH surge that triggers the follicle to release the egg. These tests are considered positive when the test line is as dark or darker than the control line. Ovulation tests are the most accurate way to predict ovulation as they directly measure your hormone levels, compared to something like an ovulation calculator.
Ovulation should occur about 12-36 hours after the first positive ovulation test or LH surge. Note that while ovulation tests predict when ovulation is going to occur, they do not actually confirm whether or not it has happened.
Cervical mucus monitoring
Cervical mucus monitoring is probably one of the oldest methods for predicting ovulation. As hormones change throughout your cycle, so does your cervical mucus. As you approach ovulation and LH starts going up, your cervical fluid becomes similar to egg whites: clear, stretchy, and sperm-friendly. This signals you are entering your fertile period.
Basal body temperature (BBT) tracking
BBT tracking involves monitoring the subtle changes in your body’s lowest resting temperature that occur around ovulation. Before ovulation, your BBT should slightly dip. Then after ovulation occurs, it should rise and remain elevated for a few days. It’s important to note that BBT can be easily influenced by many factors, including room temperature, alcohol consumption, or snuggling a loved one.
What is ovulation bleeding and what causes it?
Ovulation bleeding or spotting is light bleeding that might happen around the time ovulation occurs. It’s pretty rare with just 5% of women experiencing it.
Ovulation bleeding is likely caused by the change in estrogen levels that occurs during your cycle. In the first part of the cycle, the maturing follicle produces estrogen. Once estrogen reaches a certain level, it causes an LH surge which triggers the follicle to release an egg.
Immediately after ovulation, progesterone increases and estrogen levels drop. This drop in estrogen can cause ovulation bleeding in the middle of your cycle which sometimes is accompanied by Mittelschmerz, or ovulation pain.
A drop in estrogen can cause ovulation bleeding in the middle of your cycle which sometimes is accompanied by Mittelschmerz, or ovulation pain.
How long does ovulation bleeding last?
Ovulation bleeding is usually pretty light, sometimes even lighter than implantation bleeding. It typically lasts no longer than a few hours but can last up to a couple of days.
If you experience unusual bleeding between periods, especially if it happens regularly and it is accompanied by other symptoms, you may want to consult your doctor.
Should I be concerned about ovulation bleeding?
Ovulation bleeding is typically nothing to be concerned about. Shifts in hormone levels may sometimes cause light, atypical vaginal bleeding. As long as it goes away and doesn’t come with any other symptoms, it likely doesn’t require a visit to your doctor.
But it’s important to know and track your cycle to ensure what you are experiencing is indeed ovulation spotting since other underlying conditions can also cause abnormal bleeding during your cycle. Here are a few to look out for:
Fibroids: Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that may develop inside or outside the uterus. They are usually asymptomatic, but may sometimes cause irregular bleeding.
Endometriosis: Endometriosis is a common disorder in which tissue similar to your uterine lining grows outside your uterus. Although one of its many symptoms is heavy bleeding during periods, endometriosis may also cause bleeding between cycles.
Hormonal imbalances: Thyroid issues causing hormonal imbalance may cause mid-cycle bleeding. The same is true for the contraceptive pill or fertility medications as all of them have an impact on your hormonal balance.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): STIs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, may cause inflammation of the cervical tissue, which in turn may cause bleeding between periods, especially after intercourse.
As long as ovulation bleeding goes away and doesn’t come with any other symptoms, it likely doesn’t require a visit to your doctor.
Is ovulation bleeding the same as implantation bleeding?
Ovulation bleeding and implantation bleeding are not the same. Although they are both harmless and occur outside your period, the timing of the two is completely different.
Ovulation bleeding occurs around the time the egg is released. For most women, this happens usually mid-cycle and it is caused by a shift in hormones.
Implantation bleeding, on the other hand, occurs around days 7 to 10 past ovulation, during the “implantation window”, in the case that fertilization occurred. Once the fertilized egg completes its journey down the fallopian tube, it then finds a place to implant itself into the uterine lining. As it tries to do that, small blood vessels might burst and cause light spotting or bleeding that, for some women, may be confused with a light period.
While ovulation bleeding is typically nothing to worry about, tracking your cycle can help you better understand your symptoms and know when to consult your doctor.