What Is Ovulation Bleeding?

Why you might be spotting between periods and what you should do

Ovulation bleeding is light vaginal bleeding that happens when you ovulate. Ovulation occurs when you release an egg from your ovary in the middle of your menstrual cycle. 

Ovulation bleeding may be caused by higher levels of hormones around the time you ovulate. While there are many potential reasons for bleeding between periods, spotting during ovulation isn't all that common. In fact, one 2012 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that only about 2.8% of healthy young women experience bleeding at this point in their cycle.

However, more research is needed on people who may have irregular periods, other health conditions, or breakthrough bleeding while on birth control

What to Know About Ovulation Bleeding

Verywell / Danie Drankwalter

Although spotting during ovulation typically isn’t cause for concern, unexpected bleeding at any time can be worrisome. So how do you know when you’re dealing with normal ovulation bleeding versus implantation bleeding or something else? And when should you call a doctor? 

Read on to learn more, including why you may be prone to ovulation spotting, how to tell what type of bleeding you’re dealing with, and what to do next. 

Who Has Ovulation Bleeding?

If you’ve noticed that you bleed a little mid-cycle, your hormones may be to blame. Research suggests that people who have higher levels of estrogen, progesterone, and luteinizing hormone (LH) around the time they ovulate seem to be more likely to experience spotting during ovulation.

When Does Ovulation Bleeding Occur?

Ovulation bleeding can happen when your body releases an egg, which may be anywhere from 13 to 20 days into your menstrual cycle. (If you’re new to tracking your cycles, the first day of your period marks the beginning of each cycle.)

Of course, our bodies don’t always operate on set calendars. Exactly when you ovulate can vary by a couple of days from cycle to cycle.

How Long Can Ovulation Bleeding Last?

Ovulation lasts about 12 to 48 hours per monthly cycle. Ovulation bleeding tends to correspond with this timeframe. Most women only experience one day of spotting during ovulation.

Signs of Ovulation Bleeding

Ovulation bleeding tends to look like a few drops of blood on toilet paper or your underwear. Because it’s often mixed with cervical fluid (which increases during ovulation), it could appear light pink or red in color. 

If you’re trying to conceive or want to avoid becoming pregnant, this could serve as an indicator that you’ve entered your fertility window.

But since ovulation bleeding is pretty uncommon, other symptoms of ovulation could be more reliable such as a change in your basal body temperature (it declines slightly then sharply rises after ovulation), or the consistency of your cervical fluid (which should resemble egg whites around this time).

Other Reasons for Spotting

Another type of spotting you may have heard of is implantation bleeding, which happens when a fertilized egg attaches to your uterus or womb. While this doesn’t always happen, for some people it’s one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. So it helps to know the difference between the two. 

Here, timing is key. Implantation bleeding tends to occur around when you expect your next period. Like ovulation bleeding, it’s usually much lighter and shorter than bleeding during a period.

Beyond ovulation and implantation, unexpected bleeding between periods can happen for a slew of different reasons. These may include: 

  • Hormonal changes due to puberty or perimenopause
  • Endometriosis
  • Ovarian cysts 
  • Fibroids or polyps 
  • Pregnancy 
  • Bleeding disorders 
  • Trauma
  • Cigarette smoking
  • An infection such as a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • Problems with birth control pills or an intrauterine device (IUD)
  • In rare cases, uterine, cervical, or ovarian cancer

Does Spotting on Ovulation Day Mean Pregnancy?

Spotting during ovulation does not mean you are pregnant. Ovulation occurs earlier in your menstrual cycle, usually around day 14. Implantation happens toward the end of your cycle, between days 20 to 24.

When to Call Your Healthcare Provider

Because it can be difficult to tell the difference between ovulation bleeding and other reasons for spotting, call a healthcare professional if you’ve noticed unexpected bleeding between periods. 

In particular, spotting other than during your period, bleeding after sex, bleeding after menopause, or particularly heavy or long periods is your cue to schedule an appointment to get checked out.

In the meantime, start tracking your symptoms with a calendar or ovulation app. With some questions, a pelvic exam, and in some cases imaging or additional tests, your obstetric care professional should be able to determine what’s at the root of your irregular bleeding and provide a treatment plan.

Signs of an Emergency

Vaginal bleeding that is not due to your period can sometimes signal a medical emergency. If your spotting is accompanied by other unusual symptoms, such as pelvic pain, dizziness, or fatigue, you should get medical attention right away.

Summary

Spotting during ovulation is not common, but it also isn't cause for concern. Ovulation bleeding happens when you ovulate—usually around the 14th day of your cycle. It tends to last for one day and shouldn't be heavy. The blood is often light pink or red in color.

Spotting during ovulation is not a sign of pregnancy, but there are other reasons why you may be spotting between periods, some of which can be serious. Contact your healthcare provider if you experience any other unusual symptoms in addition to spotting, such as pain or dizziness.

A Word From Verywell

For some people, a little ovulation bleeding is a normal part of the menstrual cycle thanks to shifting hormones and the release of an egg from your ovary. But if you’re experiencing spotting between periods without a clear explanation, reach out to a healthcare professional to talk it out as soon as you can.

While some spotting can be nothing to worry about, it’s best to be sure for your peace of mind and well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does ovulation bleeding look like?

    Ovulation bleeding is usually described as a few drops of blood on toilet paper or underwear. It can appear light pink or red, and may be present for about one or two days.

  • Is cramping during ovulation normal?

    Yes, cramping during ovulation is normal. Some women experience this pain as either a dull cramp or sharp, localized pain. These can be treated by taking a hot bath or using an over-the-counter painkiller. If the pain or discomfort becomes intolerable, it may be a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider.

  • What is implantation bleeding?

    Implantation bleeding can take place after implantation, or when an egg is fertilized and attaches to the uterine wall. Some women experience spotting or light bleeding as a result. For some people, it can be an early sign of pregnancy.

  • When should you take a pregnancy test if bleeding between periods?

    Implantation happens at the end of your cycle, just before your period starts. If you notice spotting a few days before your period, go ahead and take a pregnancy test.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Dasharathy SS, Mumford SL, Pollack AZ, et al. Menstrual bleeding patterns among regularly menstruating womenAmerican Journal of Epidemiology. 2012;175(6):536-545. doi:10.1093/aje/kwr356

  2. Office on Women's Health. Trying to conceive.

  3. Office on Women's Health. Period problems.

  4. Wehn, D. Bleeding between periods? How to tell if it’s a problem. Cleveland Clinic.

  5. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Abnormal uterine bleeding.

  6. Ochoa-Bernal MA, Fazleabas AT. Physiologic events of embryo implantation and decidualization in human and non-human primates. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Mar;21(6):1973. doi:10.3390/ijms21061973

  7. Mount Sinai. Vaginal bleeding between periods.

  8. National Health Services (NHS). Ovulation pain.

By Lauren Krouse
Lauren Krouse is a journalist especially interested in covering women’s health, mental health, and social determinants of health. Her work appears in Women's Health, Prevention, and Self, among other publications.