Ovulation: What You Need To Know

Ovulation: What You Need To Know

10 minute read

Ovulation is one of those things that everyone talks about, but doesn’t really know much about. Besides the fact that it is your most fertile time of the month, it’s also when you’re most likely to be really on your game. Your face is more symmetrical, you’re more social, you can even put together sentences a little better. Whether you’re trying to get pregnant or not using ovulation to empower you every month will set you up for success. 

Let’s start by what ovulation is. Ovulation is the process where a woman’s ovaries release an egg. After releasing the egg, it goes down into the fallopian tube, awaiting fertilization if a sperm cell gets into the fallopian tube. This lasts for a day, and it happens halfway into the woman’s menstrual cycle, at least two weeks before her next period. However, the ovulation cycle varies among different women, where it may even be varied for other months.

It’s important to keep track of your cycle so you know your most fertile days. Conception is likely to happen three days before and one day after ovulation. 

Ovulation and the menstrual cycle 

At birth, a female child already has 1-2 million oocytes (immature eggs) inside her ovaries; this is her lifetime’s production of eggs. At puberty, the remaining eggs are around 300,000, where 300-400 of these will ovulate during the woman’s reproductive lifetime. One significant sign that a woman is undergoing the ovulation process is when she has regular and reliable periods, typically every 24-32 days.

Every menstrual cycle is the body preparing for conception. The menstrual cycle is regulated by hormones that include estrogen and progesterone, luteinizing hormone (LH), and follicle-stimulating hormone. Hormones play a significant role in the various phases of a menstrual cycle, where they allow the egg (ovum) to mature and be released on time.

Upon attaining maturity, the egg leaves the ovary and heads to the fallopian tube, where it can be fertilized. According to the Mayo Clinic, sperm cells survive in the woman’s reproductive tract 3-5 days after intercourse. For conception to happen, the egg must be fertilized by a sperm cell 12-24 hours of ovulating. After fertilization, the egg travels to the womb or uterus, attaching to the uterus lining to develop into a fetus. When a woman is ovulating, her uterus walls thicken in preparation for a fertilized egg. If fertilization fails to occur, the uterine lining is shed two weeks later, leading to menstrual flow. WOAH. 

So basically what’s happening here?

  • Estrogen surges and LH arrives to get an egg to drop

  • The lining of the uterus gets thicker

  • Testosterone surges then quickly goes back down

What to eat when ovulating

Believe it or not your cycle makes you crave different types of food depending on where you’re at in your month. When you’re ovulating, you’re more than likely coming off a few really good weeks where you stayed on your diet or ate healthier because you naturally crave more greens, healthy fats, and lean meat. When you ovulate, however, your body temperature is going to be the highest it will be all month, therefore you’re going to want to eat lots of cold foods. Think cold sandwiches, salads, smoothies, and juices. More raw foods such as veggie plates and fruit will also be a good option. Eating lots of vegetables at this time helps flush out excess estrogen from your body. Colder temperature foods will help keep you cool during your hottest (no pun intended) time of the month. 

Best workouts on ovulation

Your testosterone is high and you will have energy, so it’s okay to go all out on your workouts. If you are an athlete whose lifestyle revolves around working out, you should not cease on your fertile days. If anything you should be competing at your highest level during ovulation. 

This is a great time for high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and bodyweight circuits. You may feel more adventurous and try a new group exercise class or bootcamp. You’ll thrive in social environments this week especially during workouts. 

What are the signs of ovulation?

Some women say that they feel cramp pains or a backache on one side of their body. If your periods are regular, you will ovulate around the same time every month – plus or minus one or two days. However, if you have been taking oral contraceptives but have stopped, it will take you a few months to establish an ovulation cycle again. You can determine your ovulating process on the appearance of cervical mucus, ovulation predictor kits (OPKs), or monitor your basal body temperature.

Increased Confidence

Nature prepares you for conception by increasing your desire for companionship. When ovulating, you have an increased sense of confidence and you will even look more attractive. Your bone structure on your face slightly shifts when you are ovulating making your face more symmetrical. You’ll look as good as you feel.

Vaginal Secretions

A few days before ovulation, a woman’s cervix produces mucus that is stretchy, slippery, clear, and thin; the cervix is the uterus’ lower part. A change in cervical mucus happens when a woman approaches ovulation with the ovaries preparing to release an egg. A day after ovulation, the cervical mucus undergoes further changes where it becomes cloudy and thicker.

Basal Body Temperature 

Basal body temperature is the temperature level when your body is at rest, and it slightly increases when a woman is ovulating. Some thermometers are specific to measuring basal body temperature; use one to take your body temperature every day before getting out of bed in the morning. Record the readings and establish an emerging pattern for 2-3 menstrual cycles. You will notice that particular day’s record increased body temperature. The 2-3 days preceding increased body temperature are your most fertile days; hence conception can occur.

Natural Cycles offers a really easy option for measuring your basal body temperature. 

Luteinizing Hormone (LH)

A woman’s luteinizing hormone levels increase 24-36 hours before they ovulate. When this hormone increases, it signals the ovary that it is time to release an egg. You can detect the increase in hormone levels through OPKs. The kit tests a urine sample a few days before you ovulate. The test shows positive results when luteinizing hormones are high.

Tender Breasts

Do you sometimes notice that your breasts are tender when you touch them? This is caused by the hormones that your body produces after ovulating. Tender breasts are one way of knowing that the process has already occurred. If you are on fertility drugs, breast tenderness could be a side effect of the drugs.

Ovulation Pain

This is a sharp pain that occurs in the lower abdomen. When you experience the problem in the middle of your cycle, you might be having ovulation pain. This pain occurs every month for most women just before a woman starts ovulating.

The pain is temporary at most times, but for some women, the problem is severe such that it hinders them from engaging in intercourse when they are most fertile. This intense pain is a probable symptom of pelvic adhesions or endometriosis; you should see your doctor for treatment.

Ovulation Pain, is it Normal?

Feeling pain when ovulating is common and it is manifested as a sharp twinge or a dull ache that lasts for a period not exceeding 24 hours. The pain is mild, and it is treatable with pain relievers; however, some women experience more intense pain that sometimes requires a visit to the physician. 

There is no clear explanation as to the cause of this pain. Some people believe that the egg enlarges before it is released, while others think that the pain is due to regular bleeding in the ovaries during ovulation. Severe pain or that which increases in severity to the point of interfering with the woman’s daily activities or that which does not respond to medication should be investigated. You should try and keep a menstrual cycle journal and note when the pain occurs; the information and diagnostic tests and an examination will help your doctor determine the cause of the severe pain. Visit your doctor if the pain lasts for more than one day or experience vomiting, fever, or pain when passing urine.

What are the Chances of Conception Each Month?

Chances of conception each month will depend on the woman’s age when they are trying to conceive. Naturally, the younger the woman, the higher their chances of conceiving every month they try. Despite this, a 25-year-old woman or younger has a 20-25% chance of getting pregnant with every cycle, and the chances drop from that point.

Ovulation Problems

Women have problems ovulating because of various reasons. Some of them have suffered a pelvic inflammatory disease that blocks their fallopian tubes, endometriosis, or had an ectopic pregnancy that resulted in surgery. Also, abnormal hormonal levels cause irregular ovulating or its absence altogether. For example, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a condition that causes abnormal levels of certain hormones that result in a woman not having her menstruation or has it irregularly. If you have thyroid problems, there is a lower chance of your ovaries releasing an egg.

Some underweight women with a BMI of less than 18.5 experience irregular periods; this is another reason you may not be ovulating. The same is also true for obese women; they will also experience irregular periods and ovulating unpredictably. Therefore, if you want to get pregnant, you need to maintain healthy body weight as it will increase your chances of conceiving.

Other factors that affect this process include excessive exercise and stress. Physical or emotional stress can delay or completely prevent it. High-intensity physical activity can also control it. Problems associated with ovulating are a probable cause for infertility that impacts 12% of women in the US 12-44 years.

How long does ovulation last

A woman’s ovaries release a mature egg between the seventh and twenty-first day of her cycle, depending on the cycle’s length; this is the ovulation phase.

Overview of the other phases:

Follicular Phase

This is a phase that starts on your period’s last day, where the main focus in the phase is the growth of follicles inside the ovaries. During the first stages of this phase, the uterus lining (endometrium) is thick with nutrients and fluids ready to feed an embryo. If fertilization does not occur, progesterone and estrogen levels reduce. Due to this, endometrium sheds its top layers leading to bleeding; it is during this stage that some women experience pain when ovulating.

The follicle starts to produce estrogen, which breaks down the other follicles. The high levels of estrogen also start to prepare the womb and enhance the LH surge. The follicular phase takes 13-14 days, but it shortens when you approach menopause.

Luteal Phase

This part of your cycle lasts for two weeks. The part of the cycle after ovulation is known as the luteal phase. During this phase, secretion of high levels of progesterone occurs where the hormone prepares the uterus for a possible pregnancy. If conception occurs, progesterone helps maintain the pregnancy during its first few months. A week after ovulation, progesterone levels will increase drastically, if you measure progesterone levels at this time, it will help in assessing your cycle.

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