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What is Ovulation Spotting?

Autumn Rivers
Updated Feb 24, 2024
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Many women associate light vaginal bleeding, or spotting, only with their period. The truth is that spotting can occur at other times in the menstrual cycle, as well. A small percentage of women experience ovulation spotting, and it typically occurs about two weeks before their expected period. It is rare to have this ovulation symptom, but it is considered a good sign of fertility for those who do.

Some women may confuse ovulation spotting with the spotting they get before their period begins, but this light bleeding should be observed about two weeks before the start of the next period. It is usually pink or brown, and lasts one to two days. Since ovulation spotting typically occurs a day or two before ovulation, it is a good idea to have intercourse on the day that it is noticed in order to conceive. This is especially true if it is accompanied by cervical mucus that resembles egg whites, since this is the most fertile mucus.

There are a few possible reasons for ovulation spotting. One of the theories is that the egg causes some bleeding after it ruptures from the follicle when ovulation occurs. The other main theory is that the bleeding is caused by changes in hormones. More estrogen than usual is released just before ovulation, and this sudden change could bring on some light spotting.

The bleeding is usually so light in amount that it may be missed unless the woman is keeping an eye out for it. It may be a few small spots of brown or pink blood, or it could be a single streak that shows up upon wiping. It may also be mistaken for implantation bleeding, which usually occurs about a week after ovulation, when the fertilized egg implants into the uterine lining.

A good way to be sure that the spotting is indeed due to ovulation rather than menstruation or implantation is to observe other signs. When the ovulation spotting occurs, the woman should notice that her basal body temperature increases within the next couple of days. She should also observe egg white cervical mucus, and her cervix should feel higher and softer than usual. Many women experience cramping during ovulation, called mittelschmerz, which is also assumed to be caused by the egg rupturing through the follicle. When ovulation spotting is combined with any of these signs, it is likely the best time for intercourse to take place if the goal is conception.

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Autumn Rivers
By Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for WiseGeek, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.
Discussion Comments
By anon335157 — On May 18, 2013

This happened to me as well. I had my period in early May, and it lasted for the usual three to five days. Then, just this past Thursday, about 10 days later, I started having vaginal bleeding only when I wipe. I have. No blood on the liner, but now it is three days later and there is still light bleeding when I wipe. I'm not on any birth control, I'm a virgin, and I'm scared. Could this be ovulation bleeding? I have really, really light cramping, almost like I can't feel them. I'm turning 24.

By ElizaBennett — On Mar 31, 2012

@Kat919 - That's funny about your friend! I'm glad she figured it out in time. It's kind of funny that we're trained to think of bleeding as signaling *in*fertility, but that's just when you have your period. *Spotting* can be a sign of fertility! For instance, if you are nursing a baby and relying on LAM (lactational amenorrhea method) of birth control, noticing spotting could be a sign that your fertility is returning. (Personally, I find LAM to be a bit risky. Some women's fertility does come back sooner and then you have Irish twins!)

As far as your personal situation, if you are not seeing that clear eggwhite cervical fluid and you aren't lucky enough to have ovulation spotting, you might try checking your cervix. A lot of women are reluctant to try it because of the "ick" factor, but it really helps you know when to do the deed and gives you much more warning than an ovulation predictor kit.

By Kat919 — On Mar 30, 2012

I've never experienced spotting around ovulation myself, but a friend of mine used to be really confused by it. She had such unusually heavy ovulation spotting that she thought she was having her period every two weeks! But she thought they alternated between light and heavy periods.

Fortunately, she eventually figured it out. Also fortunately, it was before she started trying to get pregnant, and she had never had unprotected sex during her "light periods"! That could have been unfortunate. After she understood what was happening, when she was ready to try to get pregnant, she had no trouble at all. She knew exactly when to have sex and she actually got pregnant her first time through! Some of us are not lucky enough to have such clear signs.

Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for WiseGeek, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.
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