The Unexpected Physical Change You May Experience When Ovulating

The human body is pretty darn amazing. Although we sometimes take for granted all of the things the body is capable of, if we really think about it, it's all phenomenal.

Among the fascinating things that the body is capable of is procreation — whether you want kids of your own or you prefer to be that cool aunt or uncle. Just the fact that a fetus is carried around for nine months and then — voilà — you've got yourself a mini-you? It's kind of insane to think about. But before you can get to the pregnancy part, a woman needs to ovulate. Ovulation, after all, is the key component to getting pregnant. "The third phase of your menstrual cycle, ovulation, usually occurs around day 14 of a 28-day menstrual cycle," OB-GYN Amy Roskin, M.D. tells Shape. "During this phase, your ovary releases the mature egg from the follicle."


According to the Mayo Clinic, ovulation lasts only 12 to 24 hours, but due to the hormones in our bodies, a lot of things happen. For example, you're more attractive to others, you primp more than usual, and, of course, your sex drive skyrockets because you're fertile and, from an evolutionary standpoint, we're here to keep the species going. Forever, apparently. 

But these aren't the only changes you may experience during ovulation. In fact, there's one that you may or may not have noticed — although after reading this, you're likely to be more aware of it.

Your sense of smell heightens

Yes! When you're ovulating, things smell stronger, which means they could smell worse or better. It's all because your hypothalamus kicks into gear by sending the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) toward your pituitary gland so the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) can do their thing, per Cleveland Clinic. Or, in other words, all the necessary ovulation hormones come together to create a peak fertility party.


According to a 2013 study, when a woman is ovulating, her awareness of smells — all smells, not just man-related smells — spikes. It's as if she's on guard for any potential fetus, as well as possibly sniffing out any potential partner. "I believe these variations in olfactory sensitivity are closely tied to the functions of the reproductive system, where the capacity to identify certain odors increases at times when procreation is more likely," Jessica McNeil, a doctoral student in psychology and co-author of the study, shared.

But while this may be the case for some women, the study found another interesting factor tied to the phenomenon.

Birth control interferes with this physical change

Birth control pills stops sperm from reaching an egg and, by doing so, prevent pregnancy. But in order to do this successfully, the hormones also need to stop ovulation. So, what does that mean for women who are on the pill and their sense of smell?


Another 2013 study published in "Hormones and Behavior" tested the smell sensitivity between women who are on the pill and women who are not. Around the time of ovulation and immediately after, all participants were given the same items to smell, including fruit, flowers, and male pheromones. Although all women did have a heightened sense of smell at this time, those women who weren't on the pill and were naturally cycling were far more sensitive to musk and the pheromones of men.

The ultimate takeaway brings us right back to the beginning: the human body is pretty darn amazing. Whether your smell sensitivity sharpens when you ovulate or not, just the fact that you ovulate — or don't (thanks to the pill) — is pretty impressive in itself.