Today, we welcome a guest blogger to share with us some important information about ovulation and why it’s important. Today’s blogger is Phil Druce, the Founder of Ovulation Calculator, a site which provides tools and education to help couples conceive naturally.
The body is an amazing thing. Just take a moment to think about all the life-crucial things your body does without your input. Take breathing, for example. You do not have to think about breathing, but in doing so, your body inhales crucial oxygen into your lungs and distributes it throughout your body. Amazing. And if you are in awe of that, you will really be floored by what a woman’s body can do. From ovulation to conception and childbirth, your body is a miracle-making machine. To begin to understand, let us take a deeper look at ovulation.
Once per cycle, a woman’s body will release a mature egg in a process called ovulation. The purpose, to be fertilized by sperm. This will happen whether or not you want to conceive, so it is important to know when you are ovulating. Ovulation occurs about 12 to 14 days before your next menstrual period, so you can expect it to happen somewhere around the middle of your cycle. This will depend on the length of your cycle, but we will get to that later.
Symptoms of Ovulation
If you have no idea when you ovulate, do not worry. You are in good company. Most women do not know when they ovulate unless they are actively tracking their cycles. About 20 percent of women report cramping during ovulation, so in theory, they may know when ovulation is happening. There are other symptoms, including nausea, bloating, breast tenderness and more, but the majority of women who are trying to conceive track ovulation by charting basal body temperature, cervical mucus or tracking cervical changes.
Phases of Your Cycle
Your cycle begins with your menstrual period, and this is the start of the follicular phase. During the follicular phase, your body is preparing to release a mature egg. The name follicular comes from the follicle that houses the egg that is released. The follicular phase length can vary from cycle to cycle, even for the same women. The next phase is called ovulation, when an egg is released from a follicle. The follicle ruptures causing the egg to be pushed out of the ovary. After ovulation the menstrual cycle transitions to the luteal phase, this final phase lasts about 14 days, on average.
During the start of the luteal phase your basal body temperature (BBT) should rise slightly. This is one way to know if you ovulated. Your BBT should then remain elevated through the rest of the luteal phase, which is until your next menstrual period begins.
Hormones and Ovulation
Ovulation actually begins in the brain. The hypothalamus, a part of your brain, produces something called gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH). GnRH triggers your pituitary gland (also in the brain) to release follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). FSH and LH act on follicles in the ovaries to initiate and control growth. Each follicle contains an egg. After ovulation, the empty follicle, called the corpus luteum, releases progesterone that helps build the lining of the uterus in preparation for pregnancy.
The Role of the Menstrual Period
If the egg is fertilized by sperm, it makes its way to the uterus and implants into the plush lining of the uterus for nourishment and protection.
If the egg is not fertilized within 12-24 hours, it will degenerate and disintegrate. Without implantation the uterus lining will eventually break up. This is what you know as your menstrual period, and it marks the beginning of a new cycle.
What to do When You are Ovulating
If you are trying to conceive, try to have sex in the few days before ovulation. Sperm can live up to five days and your egg can live for up to one day, which gives you a maximum fertile window of 6 days.