Almost every month, your ovaries develop egg-containing follicles in preparation for ovulation. Every cycle, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) promotes the development of around 5-12 follicles, and the most mature follicle gets released at ovulation. The growing follicles produce the female hormone oestrogen. The high oestrogen levels in your blood also cause increasing levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) which trigger ovulation in your body. It takes around 12-24 hours after the LH surge for ovulation to occur and this happens when the mature follicle bursts through the ovarian wall.
Ovulation is the human body’s way of allowing us to reproduce; without it, pregnancy would be impossible. When a woman ovulates, her body is preparing for her to become pregnant. When an ovary releases an egg, that’s ovulation. There are things you may not know about ovulation but are worthwhile especially if you are trying to get pregnant.
1) Ovulation happens about two weeks before menstruation begins
From day 1 of your menstrual cycle i.e. when your period begins, until ovulation is called the follicular phase. From ovulation until the end of your period is called the luteal phase, which usually lasts 12 to 16 days. External factors less influence the luteal phase, and it is the more stable/predictable phase of the cycle. Generally speaking, the second half of your cycle, when in balance should be between 10 and 16 days – i.e., the luteal phase after ovulation, if shorter, might indicate progesterone deficiency. Suspect progesterone deficiency if you experience headaches and spotting mid cycle. There may also be implantation issues if the endometrium breaks down too soon (i.e., shorter luteal phase) – a common and treatable cause of recurrent miscarriage.
Daily charting your cycle will help you to work out the lengths of your follicular and luteal phases, which is handy information when planning for pregnancy. Unfortunately, with irregular cycles, ovulation can sometimes be harder to track, but still worthwhile.
2) Changes in cervical fluid during your menstrual cycle
Cervical fluid changes throughout every cycle, it goes from absent to sticky, wet, translucent and white, to something similar to egg whites. Where the cervical fluid is not present a woman is at her least fertile phase of her cycle. You are most fertile when cervical fluid most resembles egg whites. This egg white change can help determine when ovulation will occur, and this will happen to vary degrees for different women. The day of ovulation is the day of the highest production of this cervical fluid.
3) Did you know the changes in cervical fluid around the time of ovulation assist sperms swim towards their goal?
Well, as cervical fluid becomes wetter, it helps propel sperm toward the egg for fertilization. Its makeup also protects the sperm in the process. If you were to stretch this mucus between your thumb and index finger, you would notice it extends the span of the finger and thumb. This consistency is similar to sperm and creates an ideal environment for them to reach the egg.
4) When more than one egg is released, more than one baby can result
The release of two or more eggs by the ovaries leads to giving birth to fraternal twins, triplets or higher multiples can be conceived. Although a small percentage of women might release two or more eggs within a 24 hour period. It isn’t possible to release more eggs after fertilization, due to hormonal changes in the body which will prevent any future eggs release to protect and nurture the pregnancy.
5) Ovulation tests kits can help you know when you are ovulating
With ovulation kits, you test your urine for the rise in hormones associated with ovulation. Ovulation prediction tests can help detect changes in your body that signal ovulation is near. An ovulation prediction kit works like a pregnancy test, except it measures your levels of luteinizing hormone (LH), which indicate that you will be ovulating in the next 12-24 hours.
An increase in LH triggers the release of an egg. The test can tell you whether this rise has occurred.
6) Breastfeeding may or may not stop ovulation
For some women, breastfeeding can be a natural form of birth control. While breastfeeding, the body does not produce hormones necessary for ovulation or that helps eggs become mature and fertile.
However, frequent breastfeeding must be done for this hormone to be suppressed, and this option does not work for all women. Therefore, breastfeeding may not be a reliable method of contraception, a lot of women will attest to this from experience.
7) Tracking ovulation and trying to get pregnant
Eggs are viable for only 12-24 hours once they are released from the ovary. After fertilization, an egg can take up to 12 days after ovulation to become implanted in the uterus for a pregnancy to happen officially.
8) Note: contraceptive pills stop or prevent ovulation
Birth control pill, contain hormones – estrogen and progestin. These hormones prevent eggs from leaving the ovary. If eggs are not released, sperm then has nothing to fertilize.
Emergency contraceptive pills do not abort a pregnancy if conception has already taken place. They are also known as the “morning-after pills,” and can be taken right away or used up to five days after sex if you did not use birth control, or you were made to have sex against your will.
9) Around ovulation, you are most likely to be at your peak sex drive
Women are more apt to be interested in sex, or feel a need to be hugged, this is nature’s way of ensuring procreation. There is greater blood flow to the genitals, causing greater arousal during ovulation. Your thoughts may be more erotic, masturbation or self-pleasuring may be more frequent at this time, and if you have a tendency to flirt, it may be more pronounced now. This change doesn’t necessarily translate into a cheating heart please note, it takes more than this… Besides, most women probably notice nothing more than a “funny little feeling” of lust during their fertile days. Hormonal fluctuations surrounding ovulation do sometimes change women’s attitudes and behavior.
10) Symptoms and signs of ovulation include:
a) Ovulation Pain also is known as Mittelschmerz – a German word meaning mid (mittel) pain (schmerz). Ovulation pain is the most uncomfortable ovulation symptom for some women. For these women, ovulation causes a sudden, constant pain in their lower abdomen. It usually happens on the side of the ovary that is releasing the egg. It occurs when the ovarian follicle (the sac containing the egg) ruptures and the egg are released.
Painful ovulation may not be healthy. A mild sensation is normal, but the pain is not. It could be a sign you have ovarian cysts, adhesions from previous abdominal surgery, or other health issues. It should be investigated right away, especially if you’re trying to conceive, as pain can be a symptom of a medical problem that can result in infertility.
b) Changes to the cervix
During ovulation, the cervix becomes softened, higher, open and more lubricated with clear, slippery cervical secretions. A woman is not necessarily going to be aware of this change as it occurs except if she checks or charts her cycle.
c) Women become more sensitive to smell and tastes during ovulation. A lot of women know they are ovulating when they notice a heightened sense of smells, vision, and taste.
d) Breast tenderness and sensitivity
e) Water retention/bloating
f) Mid-cycle spotting is believed to be a result of the sudden drop of oestrogen before ovulation. Due to there being no progesterone right away, the lining can leak a small amount of blood until then.
It is worthy of note to bear in mind that women’s cycles vary drastically, and some of you may never experience some of the symptoms presented here. Also, these changes may not pertain to women on contraceptive pills as they do not ovulate.
11) Factors such as stress, extreme exercise, starvation can result in a delay in ovulation until as late as the third or fourth week. Food intolerance may be a factor in your menstrual irregularities – common culprits are wheat and dairy intolerance.
12) For natural contraception, you have to know the signs of ovulation, as well as abstain from intercourse before and after ovulation occurs to avoid getting pregnant. Unfortunately, ovulation is not entirely predictable; errors can happen when it comes to contraception.
If you are trying to get pregnant, being aware of your cycle and when you ovulate can help; there is no need to have lots of sex and time things to the very minute you ovulate. The timing and anxiety just make sex functional instead of enjoyable, which will quickly wear out its welcome. If you get to know when you usually ovulate, enjoy a passionate night with your partner and know that you are giving yourselves an excellent chance of pregnancy.
Note: not all women ovulate every month. If an ovary does not produce a mature follicle, ovulation does not occur. The absence of ovulation during a period is called an anovulatory menstrual cycle. The endometrium i.e. the lining of your uterus which builds up in preparation for pregnancy; develops as usual, but no egg is released.
I recommend this book for those wanting to know more about (or take control of) their fertility: Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler
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Wishing you good health and happiness,