I think most women and men by now are aware that when a woman ovulates it means that she may get pregnant, and that her libido is often quite high around this time, so I don’t think I need to bother going into the details of the what why and how of those things. But, I thought I might share with you some of the lesser known, more subtle, psychological, behavioral and physiological changes that can occur for women around the time of ovulation, and the (generally unconscious) effects these can have on the men around them.

Unlike many other animals, who engage in overt and highly obvious displays when it’s prime time to mate, as humans have evolved, the signs and signals around peak fertility times have become far less obvious, with many people having no conscious awareness of the subtle processes in play (Haselton et al., 2007). But they are happening!

As Haselton and Gildersleeve (2011) found, physiologically speaking, it’s not just the egg getting ready to drop that is all that’s going on. When approaching, and at the time of ovulation. Research has found that the natural scent that a woman emits (Miller & Maner, 2011), the pitch of their voice (Haselton & Gildersleeve, 2011), and skin tone and facial appearance (Samson et al. 2011) all become more attractive and arousing.

But wait, there’s more! Not only do women experience these physiological changes of better skin, appealing aroma and a more attractive pitch to their voice, but there also appear to be several behavioral changes which enhance these physiological benefits. Haselton et al. (2007) found that women also pay more attention to self-grooming, style of dress and ornamentation at this time. And if they’re going on a shopping spree, this is when they are more likely to buy sexy and alluring clothing to enhance their appearance, as opposed to more conservative choices (Durant et al. 2010). And still there’s more! Women have also reported that not only do they look better but they feel more attractive (Roder, Brewer & Fink, 2009), more social, more desirable and more powerful (Haselton & Gangestad, 2006).

So, this is all pretty good news for women, but what impact does this potent little cocktail have on men? Well, they are most definitely not immune (even if they are unaware) to these cyclic changes. And there is clear evidence to suggest that the type of feminine energy women radiate at this time can cause men to engage in a variety of different behaviors as well.

It appears that men who are partnered with women exhibit greater jealousy and possessiveness around the time their partner is ovulating, an effect that becomes stronger the more sexually satisfied she is (Haselton & Gangestad, 2006). And, it has also been found, that when exposed to various primes indicating ovulation, such as the olfactory, visual and aural cues discussed above, these can prompt an increase in a variety male mating behaviors, including changes in perception, cognition and decision making (Miller & Maner, 2011).

One relatively concrete (and perhaps quite blunt) example of this in action can be seen in a study conducted by Miller, Tybur & Jordan (2007). Miller et al. gathered data on the amount of tips professional lap dancers received depending on what stage of their cycle they were in and if they were using a hormonal contraceptive (thus inhibiting the natural ovulatory process). Interestingly, they found that the women who were not using hormonal contraceptives made significantly greater sums of money per hour during the highly fertile stage of the cycle in comparison to any other stage. In addition to this they found that overall, no matter what stage of their cycle they were in, they on average earned more overall than their counterparts who were on the pill.

And there you have it! So perhaps next time you have a presentation to do, want to have a crack at that guy you’ve fancied for a while, or even want to try your hand at a little lap dancing, you might want to check where you’re at in your cycle before scheduling it, to take advantage of all those lovely little benefits of female physiology!

– Judi Reed, 2012

Durant, K. M., Griskevicius, V., Hill, S. E., Perilloux, C. & Li, N. P. (2010). Ovulation, Female Competition, and Product Choice: Hormonal Influences on Consumer Behavior, Journal of consumer research, Inc. Vol. 37.

Haselton, M. & Gangestad, S. W. (2006). Conditional expression of women’s desires and men’s mate guarding across the ovulatory cycle. Hormones and Behavior Vol. 49, pp 509–518.

Haselton, M. & Gildersleeve, K. (2011). Can men detect ovulation, Current Directions in Psychological Science, Vol. 20, pp 87-92.

Haselton, M., Mortizaie, M., Pillsworth, E. G., Bleske-Recheck, A. & Frederick, D. (2007). Ovulatory shifts in human female ornamentation: Near ovulation women dress to impress, Hormones and Behaviour, Vol 51. pp 40-45.

Miller, S. L. & Maner, J. K. (2011). Ovulation as a Male Mating Prime: Subtle Signs of Women’s Fertility Influence Men’s Mating Cognition and Behavior, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 100, pp 295-308.

Miller, G., Tybur, J. M. & Jordan, D. (2007). Ovulatory cycle effects on tip earnings by lap dancers: Economic evidence for human estrus? Evolution and Human Behavior. Vol. 28, pp 375–381.

Röder, S., Brewer G., & Fink, B. (2009). Menstrual cycle shifts in women’s self-perception and motivation: A daily report method. Personality and Individual Differences. Vol. 47, pp 616–619.

Samson, N., Fink, B. & and Matts, P. (2011). Does a Woman’s Skin Color
Indicate Her Fertility Level? Preliminary Findings, Swiss Journal of Psychology, Vol. 70, pp 199–202

Miller, G., Tybur, J. M. & Jordan, D. (2007). Ovulatory cycle effects on tip earnings by lap dancers: Economic evidence for human estrus? Evolution and Human Behavior. Vol. 28, pp 375–381.