Ovulation is one of the most important phases of the menstrual cycle. Read this blog for additional information about what is ovulation and what happens to your body when you are ovulating.
What is ovulation?
Apart from menstruating, women’s menstrual cycle consists of three phases – follicular phase, ovulation and luteal phase. Ovulation is the release of a mature egg from one of the ovaries. After that, special structures of the fallopian tubes, called fimbriae, carry the egg from the ovary toward the uterus.
When does ovulation occur and how long does it last?
Ovulation usually occurs midway through your menstrual cycle. For instance, if your menstrual cycle lasts 28 days, your ovulation occurs around day 14. Most importantly, ovulation lasts for a short period of time – from 12 to 24 hours.
What happens to your ovaries during ovulation?
Every woman is born with all the egg cells they’re going to have during their lifetime. When a baby girl is born, she has approximately 2 million eggs. When she reaches puberty, the number of eggs is reduced to 500,000. Despite of that, only 300-400 of these eggs will mature over women’s life span.
The basic units of the female reproductive system are the ovarian follicles. They are located in in the ovarian cortex and undergo series of changes during their development. Every month, one of the follicles enlarges significantly. It is called a dominant follicle and is the one to release the mature egg during ovulation. Sperm cells meet the egg cell in the fallopian tube, where fertilization takes place. If the egg cell is fertilized, it migrates to the uterus where it attaches to the uterine wall. Otherwise, menstruation occurs.
Which hormones are involved in ovulation?
In order to know what happens with hormones during ovulation, we have to be aware of what happens with them prior this process. During follicle phase, our pituitary gland produces follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). FSH stimulates the growth of eggs in the ovaries. During the menstrual cycle, the follicles are in different stages of development. The dominant follicle starts producing estrogen. This leads to huge increase in the luteinizing hormone (LH), also produced by the pituitary gland. The LH surge causes ovulation. After ovulation, from the empty follicle left behind is formed corpus luteum or the yellow body. It produces progesterone that prepares the uterus for pregnancy. If fertilization hadn’t occurred, the estrogens and progesterone levels lower which leads to menstruation.
What happens to my body during ovulation?
- Changes in cervical mucus – due to high estrogen levels, cervical mucus increases in volume and becomes thicker, likened to egg whites. This helps the sperm cells to reach the egg.
- You are in a good mood – in contrast with your bad mood during period, you feel great, laugh more and feel full of energy when you ovulate.
- Your libido increases
- Breasts feel more sensitive
- Some spotting may also occur
- Abdominal pain – some women report abdominal pain similar to the one during menstruation. This is caused as a result of the egg being released.
- Cervix changes – during ovulation, the cervix rises up and becomes softer and moister. This also makes it easier for sperm cells to enter the uterus.
I am trying to get pregnant …
Women who plan on having a baby should monitor when their ovulation occurs since this is their most fertile period. Sperm cell live up to 5 days inside women’s body. That said, if you had sex on Monday, there are alive sperm cells in your body even on Thursday. On the other hand, the mature egg lives up to 24 hours. That’s why if you want to get pregnant, you should have sex just before ovulation. It is recommended that you have sex 3-4 times per week or every other day around the expected ovulation. In addition, sperm cells will have sufficient time to regenerate. Read our blog for additional information about pregnancy.
How can I tell that I am ovulating?
- Body temperature – there’s a small rise in body temperature (approximately 1 degree Celsius) during ovulation, which you might be able to detect with a thermometer. Check your body temperature every morning for a longer period so that you can tell the difference
- Urine test – ovulation tests work with first morning urine. They measure the high levels of LH in your urine.
- Saliva test – hormones alter the consistency of dried saliva during ovulation.
- Ovulation calendar – effective only when you have a regular period. To find out when you ovulate, substract 14 from the total number of days of your menstruation cycle. For example, if your cycle lasts 28 days, your ovulation occurs around the 14th (28-14=14).
- Ultrasound exam – most trustworthy method, but it is conducted by physicians.
What is an anovulatory cycle?
Anovulation is the lack of ovulation during the menstrual cycle. Normally, this happens once every 13 months. The reason usually is hormonal disorder.