Do You Have More Sex Appeal When You're Ovulating?

Feeling a little bit flushed during ovulation? As a human, you’re not “in heat” like other animals are during peak fertility, but you can, in fact, physically radiate your fertility.

By Andrea Mew4 min read
Pexels/Ozan Çulha

Fertility means so much more to your health than just conception. But some women may not feel inclined to take a deep dive into their reproductive health until they’re actively trying to have a child. It’s not in our best interest, however, to become body literate in reaction to medical issues such as menstrual irregularities or infertility. We’ve only got one body, so we better be educated on how it works so we can feel our best every day.

Here’s the thing, though – fertility ebbs and flows based on a variety of factors like age, pre-existing health conditions, medications and supplements, nutrition, and more. As such, it inherently affects how we feel on the inside and present on the outside. The ancient Chinese believed that your facial skin reflects your inner health, and as it turns out, traditional wisdom may not be too far off. Whether we realize it or not, our faces can actually signal our fertility to men in surprising ways – and research shows they may be able to detect it.

What Does “Peak Female Fertility” Look Like Anyway?

Our natural capability to conceive and carry a child is known as female fertility, but the biomarkers that get us there are also indicative of our overall health as women. Unless something rapidly shifts with transhumanist medicine to revolutionize birth and standardize conception sans sex (a process called in vitro gametogenesis), we need natural eggs and sperm to reproduce.

Though there have been significant strides in medicine to treat varying degrees of infertility, there is a general standard for a safe and healthy pregnancy. The man needs healthy sperm, and the woman needs to produce healthy eggs and have unblocked fallopian tubes to allow insemination. Then, that fertilized egg (an embryo of sufficient quality) should be able to be implanted in her uterus, where the embryo will then hopefully be carried to full term.

Conditions, diseases, and other disorders that affect female fertility also have a significant impact on a woman’s health. For instance, ovulation disorders (such as endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome) make up about 25% of infertility cases, and they may also lead a woman to develop abnormal hair growth and acne on the face and body, gain weight, feel bloated and fatigued, and even struggle with anxiety and depression. Any of these factors can cause a gal to look less vibrant and exude far less joie de vivre.

Your feminine vitality is largely dependent on balanced female hormones, or at minimum, managed hormone levels if you require medication and/or supplementation. Eating a diet rich in certain nutrients, maintaining a healthy body weight and fat composition, and reducing unnecessary aging to your egg supply and ovaries can not only contribute to healthier ovulation and an increased ability to conceive, but it can also help you feel much more at home in your body.

We know that our vital signs indicate how well our body is functioning. Pulse rate, respiration rate, body temperature, and blood pressure are the four most common vital signs, but some consider a healthy menstrual cycle to be a fifth vital sign. We also know that our physical appearance – to an extent– can cue onlookers into how well we’re doing on the inside. What we’re starting to learn now through evolutionary psychology is how fertility-related physiological mechanisms affect mating patterns and partner preferences. 

Subtle Changes “Leak Information” About Your Fertility 

Humans are generally thought of as naturally sexy mammals because, unlike animals that go into heat (known as estrus) to outwardly advertise fertility, we lack a visible estrus period. Or so scientists have thought. Typically, animals in estrus, like a female dog, for example, will experience genital swelling, or in the case of ground squirrels, males can smell via pheromones when a female is fertile.

That said, our bodies do advertise reproductive value whether we realize it or not. For instance, many women have fat reserves (like on our hips and breasts) that suggest we could carry and nourish a child. Researchers also think that females having smaller feet and bodies or less body hair is a product of evolutionarily-driven sexual selection since it can indicate youthfulness. 

One particularly interesting study out of the University of Cambridge suggested that when a woman is ovulating, her face actually gets redder. But, this increased redness of facial skin during our most fertile point was also found to be just below the threshold of detectability. The researchers found that facial redness fluctuates in tandem with a woman’s body temperature during her cycle. Indeed, our faces technically get redder during ovulation and then dip in redness once we begin menstruating. 

Other studies back up this hypothesis, explaining that skin tone, and not overall face shape, actually becomes more attractive during ovulation. Researchers explained that while we don’t outwardly advertise ovulation, we “leak information” about our fertility status. But these visual and involuntary cues are mostly impossible to pick up on unless scrutinized in a laboratory setting. 

Still, many other studies have suggested that women experience physical changes around ovulation. Men have rated the odor of fertile women as more attractive than non-fertile women. Women at periods of high fertility were rated to have more attractive vocal pitches. What’s more, women’s soft tissue (breasts in particular) has been found to be less asymmetrical, and therefore, more attractive during ovulation.

An interesting phenomenon was observed in one study where researchers analyzed female facial attractiveness among pregnant and non-pregnant women: non-pregnant women were rated as having higher facial attractiveness than the women who were pregnant, even in early stages of gestation. 

But again, these are all subtle, almost imperceptible cues that most men probably don’t correlate with fertility. 

3 Possible Reasons Women Evolved To Conceal Ovulation

From the female perspective, some evolutionary psychologists have suggested that women developed concealed ovulation as a result of female intrasexual competition. What this would mean is that human females evolved to lack a visible estrus so that women wouldn’t be rivals with one another. Therefore, they could have more children, avoid female-female aggression, and form more successful parenting relationships with their male mate.

A recent investigation out of Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, titled “A Preliminary Investigation Into Individual Differences that Predict Men’s Preferences for Cues to Fertility in Women’s Faces,” proposed several hypotheses from the male perspective for or against concealed ovulation.

The “Paternal Investment Hypothesis” explains that concealed ovulation developed to secure paternal investment. In practice, this means that a man would be more likely to invest resources and overall commitment in a relationship all throughout her menstrual cycle (instead of just during ovulation) because he can’t tell when a woman is fertile.

Then, there’s the “Reduced Infanticide Hypothesis,” which explains that concealed ovulation evolved to confuse paternity. In some animals, males may kill the offspring of their rival mates, so this function suggests that concealed ovulation makes it more difficult for a man to know if the child is genuinely his or not. Therefore, he’d be less likely to kill the child.

Finally, the researchers looked at the “Cuckoldry Hypothesis,” which means that concealed ovulation developed to prevent men from becoming cuckold to other men going after their mate. In practice, if a man doesn’t know when a woman is fertile, he may feel inclined to guard his woman more thoroughly as a protection against infidelity.

In the same study, the researchers investigated sociosexuality, meaning an individual's willingness to have sex in the absence of a committed relationship. They believe that while men generally prefer female faces that have higher fertile cues, most cannot consciously distinguish whether or not a woman is ovulating. 

They did find, however, that men with lower sociosexuality – those who have a reduced libido – preferred female faces with more ovulatory cues, while men with high sociosexuality were less choosy about which faces they preferred.

So, the verdict is still out on whether or not men (having a high sex drive or not) can pick up on ovulatory cues. If virility is related in any way, shape, or form to picking up on fertility, perhaps that’s also linked to the fact that men get turned on more often and more easily. 

Overall, the study didn’t determine if one hypothesis rules over the others, but that doesn’t invalidate the hypotheses entirely. More research needs to be done on the function of women “leaking” information about our ovulatory status and just how good men may be at picking up on the hints that we drop. 

Closing Thoughts

Our sex appeal is something biologically built into our neurology as a vehicle to continue our species’ existence. It’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of! 

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