17th December, 20214 min read

Ovulation bleeding

Medical reviewer:
Dr Ann Nainan
Dr Ann Nainan
Dr Adiele Hoffman
Dr Adiele Hoffman
Dr Roger Henderson
Dr Roger Henderson
Last reviewed: 15/12/2021
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

What is ovulation bleeding?

Ovulation is when 1 of your 2 ovaries releases an egg, which happens as part of your monthly menstrual cycle.

Sometimes, you may get a bit of light bleeding from your vagina at the time of ovulation. This is known as ovulation bleeding, or ovulation spotting. This bleeding is much lighter than a period, and can vary in colour from light pink to dark brown.

Read on to learn about why you can bleed during ovulation, other possible causes of bleeding between periods, and when to see a doctor.

Is bleeding during ovulation normal?

Ovulation bleeding is usually harmless, but it isn’t that common – research suggests that only about 5% of people who menstruate get it.

Knowing when you’re ovulating can help you work out when you’re most fertile, or most likely to get pregnant. But other methods of working out when you’re ovulating are usually more reliable than spotting. Read more about the signs of ovulation.

Read more about fertility.

What causes bleeding during ovulation?

We don’t know exactly what causes ovulation spotting, but it’s probably related to the hormonal changes that happen in your body around ovulation.

It's thought that the bleeding may be caused by a drop in the hormone oestrogen, which happens just before ovulation.

Research has also found that people with mid-cycle bleeding tend to have higher levels of oestrogen, progesterone and luteinising hormone (LH) around the time of ovulation.

When does ovulation bleeding occur?

Ovulation usually happens around the middle of your menstrual cycle, 10 to 16 days before the start of your next period. So this is when any ovulation spotting can happen. It usually only lasts for 1 or 2 days.

However, not everyone has the same cycle length, and your cycle can also vary slightly from month to month, so you won’t always ovulate on the same day.

Aside from spotting, other signs of ovulation include a slight rise in your resting (basal) body temperature and a change in your cervical mucus. You may notice more discharge, and that it becomes clear and slippery, like raw egg white.

Some people also get ovulation pain(mittelschmerz) in one side of their lower tummy when they ovulate.

Woman holding hands on stomach

What are the other causes of bleeding between periods?

Other than ovulation, there are lots of other possible causes of vaginal bleeding when you’re not on your period. These include:

When to see a doctor

You should call an ambulance or go to your nearest emergency department if you have very bad tummy (abdominal) pain or very heavy vaginal bleeding that won’t stop.

See a doctor as soon as possible if you’re getting bleeding between periods, after sex or after the menopause.

You should also tell your doctor if you have other symptoms as well as bleeding, such as unusual vaginal discharge, pelvic pain or a temperature (fever), or if you’re bruising more easily or bleeding from other parts of your body – such as your gums, or you notice blood in your pee.

To check what your symptoms could mean, use the Healthily symptom checker.

Your health questions answered

  • Do you gain weight during ovulation?

    Answered by: Dr Roger Henderson

    The hormone changes associated with ovulation can cause a feeling of bloating (fluid retention) in some women, and cause some temporary weight gain as a result. Most women find the time of maximum fluid retention is later in their cycle, around the first day of their period. This then gradually disappears during the period along with any temporary weight gain as a result.

  • How can I tell the difference between ovulation bleeding and implantation bleeding?

    Answered by: Dr Roger Henderson

    A small amount of light spotting or bleeding can happen after implantation, when a fertilised egg attaches itself to the wall of your womb (uterus). This usually happens about 10 to 14 days after you become pregnant (conceive), whereas ovulation bleeding happens in the middle of your menstrual cycle. For some people, implantation bleeding can be an early sign of pregnancy. The bleeding is light, stops on its own and doesn't need treatment.

Key takeaways

  • ovulation bleeding is light bleeding that can happen when you release an egg (ovulate) during your monthly menstrual cycle
  • it’s normal, but only a small number of people get it
  • it’s thought to be due to hormonal changes that happen during ovulation
  • other signs of ovulation include a rise in body temperature and changes in cervical mucus
  • see a doctor if you’re concerned about any bleeding or spotting, or you notice bleeding after sex or the menopause
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