Things to Know About Ovulation

What is Ovulation?

Ovulation is part of your menstrual cycle. It occurs when an egg is released from your ovary. When the egg is released, it may or may not be fertilized by the sperm. If fertilized, the egg can travel to the uterus and implant to develop into a pregnancy. If left unfertilized, the egg will break down and the uterine lining will be shed during your period.

Understanding how and when ovulation occurs can help you achieve or prevent pregnancy. It can also help you diagnose certain medical conditions.

When Does Ovulation Occur?

Ovulation usually happens around day 14 of a 28-day menstrual cycle. However, not everyone has a 28-day menstrual cycle, so the exact timing may vary.

In general, ovulation occurs four days before or four days after the midpoint of your menstrual cycle.

How Long Does Ovulation Take?

The ovulation process begins when your body releases follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), usually between days 6 and 14 of your menstrual cycle. This hormone helps the egg inside the ovary mature in preparation for its later release.

After the egg matures, your body releases a surge of luteinizing hormone (LH) that triggers the egg’s release. Ovulation takes 28 to 36 hours after the LH surge.

Are There Any Symptoms of Ovulation?

Impending ovulation can cause an increase in vaginal discharge. This discharge is usually clear and flexible – it may even resemble raw egg whites. After ovulation, your discharge may decrease in volume and appear thicker.

Ovulation can also cause:

  • light bleeding or spotting
  • breast tenderness
  • increased sex drive
  • ovarian pain, also called mittelschmerz, characterized by discomfort or pain on one side of the abdomen

Not everyone experiences symptoms during ovulation, so these symptoms are considered secondary to tracking your fertility.

At What Stage of the General Menstrual Cycle Ovulation Occurs?

Your menstrual cycle resets on the day your period starts. This is the beginning of the follicular phase, in which the egg matures and is then released on day 14 during ovulation.

After ovulation comes the luteal phase. If pregnancy occurs at this stage, the hormones will prevent the lining from shedding with the menstrual period. Otherwise, a cycle will start on the 28th day of the cycle, starting with the next cycle.

In short: Ovulation usually occurs in the middle of the menstrual cycle.

Can You Ovulate More Than One Cycle?

Yes. Some people may ovulate more than once in a cycle. A 2003 study suggested that some may have the potential to ovulate two or three times in a given menstrual cycle. Not only that, but in an interview with NewScientist, the lead researcher said that 10 percent of her study participants produced two eggs in a month.

Some people may release more than one egg during one ovulation naturally or as part of a reproductive aid. If both eggs are fertilized, this can result in having twin babies.

Can You Get Pregnant Only During Ovulation?

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No. Although the egg can only be fertilized within 12 to 24 hours after it is released, sperm can live in the reproductive system for up to 5 days in ideal conditions. Therefore, if you have sexual intercourse on the days leading up to or on the day of ovulation, you are more likely to get pregnant.

What Are “Fruitable Days”?

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These are the so-called “fertile days” before and including ovulation. This 6 days is the period during which sexual intercourse can lead to pregnancy.

Sperm can stay in the fallopian tubes for several days after intercourse, ready to fertilize the egg after it is finally released. Once the egg enters the fallopian tubes, it lives for about 24 hours before being fertilized, thus ending the fertile days.

Can You Track Ovulation?

While the most accurate ways to confirm ovulation are with an ultrasound or hormonal blood tests at the doctor’s office, there are many ways to monitor ovulation at home as well.

  • Basal body temperature (BBT) chart This includes measuring your temperature with a basal thermometer each morning during your cycle and recording its changes. Ovulation is confirmed after your temperature has been raised above your baseline for three days.
  • Ovulation prediction kits (OPK) These are usually available over-the-counter (OTC) at your pharmacy. They detect the presence of LH in your urine. Ovulation may occur within a few days after the result line is darker or thicker than the control.
  • Fertility monitors. These are also available OTC. Some products offer a more expensive option, around $100. They track two hormones – estrogen and LH – to define the six days of your fertile days.

Which Method Gives the Best Results?

It is difficult to say which method works better than the other.

Your BBT can be affected by a number of factors that affect your body temperature, such as illness or alcohol use. In one study, the chart only confirmed ovulation correctly in 17 of 77 cases. Keep in mind that in a “typical” year of use, between 12 and 24 out of 100 people can get pregnant even when using birth control methods like charting to prevent pregnancy.

Fertility monitors, on the other hand, have the potential to increase your chances of pregnancy with just one month of use. Still, these tools may not work well for everyone.

Talk to a doctor about your options if:

  • if you are approaching menopause
  • if you have just started menstrual periods
  • if you have recently changed hormonal contraceptive methods
  • if you have given birth recently

How Often Should You Have Sex If You Are Trying To Conceive?

You only need to have sex once in your fertile window to achieve pregnancy. Couples who are actively trying to conceive can increase their chances by having sex every day or several times a day during their fertile days.

The best time to get pregnant is the two days leading up to ovulation and the day of ovulation.

What Should You Do If You Want to Prevent Conceiving?

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If you want to prevent pregnancy, it is important to use contraceptives (birth control methods) during your fertile days. While methods such as condoms are better than no protection at all, you may be more peaceful when using a more effective method.

Your doctor or other healthcare provider can guide you through your options and help you find the best approach.

What Happens If The Egg Is Fertilized?

If the egg is fertilized, it begins the process of dividing into two cells, then four and so on, until it becomes a 100-cell blastocyst. The blastocyst must be successfully implanted in the uterus for pregnancy to occur.

Once added, the hormones estrogen and progesterone help thicken the uterine lining. These hormones also send signals to the brain not to shed the lining so that the embryo can continue developing into a fetus.

What Happens If the Egg Is Not Fertilized?

If the egg is not fertilized by the sperm in a given menstrual cycle, it will break down. Hormones indicate that the body is shedding the uterine lining during a menstrual period that lasts between two and seven days.

What If You Are Not Ovulating Regularly?

If you monitor ovulation from one month to the next, you may notice whether you are ovulating regularly or, in some cases, not ovulating. This is the sign to talk to a doctor.

While things like stress or diet can affect the exact day of ovulation from month to month, there are also medical conditions that can make ovulation irregular or stop altogether, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or amenorrhea.

These conditions can cause other symptoms related to hormonal imbalances, such as excess facial or body hair, acne, and even infertility.

Summary

If you want to become pregnant in the near future, you should consider making an appointment with a doctor or other healthcare provider. They can answer any questions you may have about ovulation and monitoring, as well as advise you on when you should have sex to increase your chances.

Your doctor may also look for conditions that may be causing irregular ovulation or other unusual symptoms.

Healthline, What Is Ovulation? 16 Things to Know About Your Menstrual Cycle, 2018

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