Ovulation occurs when a woman's ovaries release a mature egg into the fallopian tube. Hormonal changes signal that her body is now ready to become pregnant. Women who are ovulating may feel increased sexual desire or other symptoms of peak fertility.
What is Ovulation?
In essence, ovulation refers to the process a woman's body goes through each month when her ovaries release an egg in preparation for potential pregnancy. Ovulation occurs about halfway through the menstrual cycle, between 12 and 16 days before a woman's next period will begin. However, ovulation does occasionally happen without menstruation, and vice versa. Ovulation is very important for women who wish to become pregnant – and even if you don't, knowing your fertility can help you to avoid accidents as well!
A Closer Look
The first half of the ovulation cycle is called the follicular phase. It begins on the first day of the last menstrual period, and can last anywhere from 7 to 40 days. The second half of the cycle begins when an egg is released from the ovaries, and is called the luteal phase. During the luteal phase, your ovaries will secrete progesterone and other hormones in preparation for the egg to be implanted in the uterine lining. An egg only survives about 12-24 hours after release, and will disintegrate if it is not fertilized during this time.
How Can I Tell if I'm Ovulating?
When you are ovulating, your basal body temperature will rise. Your cervix will also change, and produce mucus which is thicker and more viscous in order to facilitate fertilization. Some women experience a slight twinge or pain in the ovaries as a follicle bursts and releases the egg; however, this does not always occur, and is not an indicator of fertility. Many women track their internal temperature via a thermometer.
Ovulation and Fertility
If you wish to become pregnant, you will be far more successful when tracking your ovulation cycle. A woman is most fertile right before or during the beginning of her luteal phase; in fact, this 24 hour time window is the only time during which she can become pregnant. However, in some cases semen can live within the womb for several days, so unprotected sexual intercourse which occurs in the few days before the luteal phase begins may also result in impregnation.
Tracking Your Ovulation Cycle
Women with maternity coverage health insurance may wish to speak to their doctors about the possibility of medical monitoring for ovulation; however, there are reliable home methods for monitoring your ovulatory cycle as well. The American Pregnancy Association offers an ovulation monitoring kit for purchase via their website. Many women also find it helpful to keep a “moon chart” which allows them to track the time between periods.
Although the terms and anatomy of ovulation may seem off-putting at first, this internal process is vitally important when it comes to fertility, especially for women who wish to become pregnant. Talk to your doctor about anything you have difficulty understanding, and remember that all of this technical medical knowledge is designed to help you give birth to a beautiful, healthy child!
Article on Ovulation
Ovulation is a process that begins even while menstruation is happening. Your body begins producing a hormone called follicle-stimulating hormone, which fosters development of an egg in your ovary. The egg matures within a small cavity in your ovary called a follicle. A few days later, your body produces a hormone called luteinizing hormone. It causes your follicle to swell and burst through the wall of your ovary, releasing the egg. This is called ovulation.
Important Things to Know About Ovulation:
- Although you have two ovaries, only one ovary will release an egg each cycle.
- The egg is only available for fertilization for about 12 to 24 hours after it has been released from the ovary.
- The day of ovulation may vary from woman to woman, or even cycle to cycle for the same person.
- Although menstruation and ovulation are related both may occur without the other happening.
- Ovulation may be altered because of stress, infection or illness.
- It is possible to experience some spotting during ovulation, but most people will not.
- Some women may feel when their ovulation is occurring because of a small pain near one of the ovaries.
- Ovulation is normally tracked from the first day of a menstrual period until the first day of the next period.
- Typical cycles run between 28 to 32 days however some women may have considerably shorter or longer cycles.
- Ovulation generally occurs between day 10 and 19 of a regular menstrual cycle.
Understanding ovulation is helpful because it is directly related to getting pregnant and preventing pregnancy. The process can be confusing and somewhat overwhelming when trying to understand, so it may be helpful to visit with your healthcare provider.