Can you ovulate more than once in a menstrual cycle? Do you have MORE than one opportunity to get pregnant between one period and the next?
Perhaps you’ve seen more than one positive result on your ovulation predictor kit (OPK). Or perhaps you’ve seen fertile cervical fluid a couple of different times during your cycle.
And you’ve wondered ‘Did I ovulate twice? Is that even possible?’
In this article, I’m going to give you the facts around ovulation and I’m going to answer the question of whether it’s possible to ovulate more than once in a menstrual cycle.
But before I dive in, I firstly want to clarify exactly what I mean by ovulation and what I mean by a menstrual cycle.
What is ovulation?
Ovulation is the release of a mature egg from one of your ovaries. Once the egg has been released it’s then available to be fertilized by sperm. Needless to say, you can only get pregnant in a given month if you’ve ovulated.
FUN FACT: It’s thought that the process of egg development, from beginning to end, actually takes more than 175 days (more than 6 menstrual cycles), including those last couple of weeks or so before ovulation (1). But ovulation itself, the release of the egg from your ovary, only takes around 15 minutes! A very long journey for such a short finale!
What is a menstrual cycle?
A menstrual cycle, is the timeframe between the start of one period and the start of your next period. We’re often told that a menstrual cycle should be 28 days long. But the truth is, a normal menstrual cycle can be anywhere between 21 and 35 days in length.
Can you ovulate twice in one cycle?
So, CAN you ovulate (release an egg) more than once in a menstrual cycle?
The short answer to this question is NO. But this takes some clarification. Ovulation can only occur at one point in your menstrual cycle. For example, you can’t ovulate one day and then a few days later or a week later, ovulate again.
But it is possible for more than one egg to be released at the one time you ovulate.
If two or more eggs are released, this is known as multiple ovulation. These multiple eggs will be released within 24 hours of each other, not days or weeks apart.
This, of course, is how you get fraternal twins or non-identical twins. If two eggs are released at ovulation, and they both get fertilized, you can get pregnant with two babies at the same time – non-identical twins.
(As an aside, if only one of the two eggs gets fertilized, the other egg will just die off and get reabsorbed by the body. The pregnancy would then continue as a singleton pregnancy).
Now here’s the really important bit. After ovulation, the empty follicle or sac that contained the egg in your ovary, transforms into a gland called the corpus luteum. This corpus luteum starts pumping out the hormone progesterone. It’s the presence of this progesterone that prevents your body from ovulating again in that particular cycle. You can only ovulate again once you get your next period and you start a new menstrual cycle.
– Egg is released from ovary (ovulation)
– Follicle transforms into corpus luteum.
– Corpus luteum secretes progesterone
– Progesterone prevents further ovulation that cycle
Where does the confusion come from?
So where does this confusion around ovulating more than once come from?
Ovulation Predictor Kits
One of the most common sources is the use of ovulation predictor kits or OPKs – those little kits that are designed to help you figure out when you’re ovulating. The problem is that these ovulation tests can sometimes give a positive result more than once during your menstrual cycle. And this can make it look like you’re ovulating more than once. But as I’ve just discussed, this isn’t possible.
The important thing to know here is that OPKs don’t actually detect ovulation itself. What they’re detecting is a hormone called luteinizing hormone (LH), which surges just before you ovulate.
Normally, there’s only one LH surge before ovulation. But it IS possible to have MORE than one LH surge or to have a very long LH surge (2). This can result in multiple positives on your OPK, which can give you the false impression you’re ovulating more than once.
This is one of the many reasons I don’t recommend using OPKs alone to figure out when you’re ovulating. If you’re interested in finding out more about the pros and cons of OPKs and why they can sometimes DELAY the time it takes to conceive, check out my free fertility guide on this topic below.
Another source of confusion around ovulating more than once probably comes from a 2003 scientific study, which really shook up the scientific thinking around egg development and ovulation (3).
The researchers discovered that rather than a single wave or single group of follicles developing and leading to ovulation during one menstrual cycle, two or three waves of follicle development seem to occur. This raised the question as to whether more than one ovulation was possible.
But the important point here, and one that seemed to be ignored by media reporting on this at the time, was that all the women in the study still ovulated only once in their menstrual cycle.
If you’ve seen multiple patches of fertile cervical fluid (instead of the one expected episode before ovulation) this might also have you wondering if you can ovulate twice (or more) in a cycle.
But multiple patches of fertile cervical fluid are usually the result of your body making more than one ‘attempt’ at ovulation, before finally going ahead and releasing the egg. Again, only one ovulation will occur in this situation (though sometimes you might not ovulate at all).
Take home message
So, to summarise. It is NOT possible to ovulate more than once in a menstrual cycle, but you CAN release more than 1 egg during a single ovulation.
(And if you’re keen to know how to find out if you’re ovulating for SURE, check out the blog article below).