Hertility’s Menstrual Cycle Basics: Ovulation Station
In the third blog of our Menstrual Cycle Basics series with Hertility, we meet the star of the show - ovulation! Let’s get you up to speed.
What is ovulation?
Ovulation is the process of a mature egg being released from the ovary and starting its journey down the Fallopian tubes (hoping to be fertilised by a sperm) en route to the womb. Let’s take a look at this process in more detail.
Remember our last article on the follicular phase where we said as the eggs grow they make oestrogen? Well, this high level of oestrogen triggers the brain to make large amounts of a hormone called luteinising hormone (LH). And a sudden surge in LH levels triggers ovulation.
When does ovulation happen?
Knowing when you’re ovulating is especially important if you’re trying to conceive so you can time when you have sex and therefore make sure sperm is around ready to fertilise the egg when it’s released from the ovary. Ovulation takes place around 28-36 hours after the LH surge and 10-12 hours after LH reaches its peak. But when is this exactly in your cycle?
Well, you might have heard that ovulation always happens on day 14. However, this is based on the assumption that all cycles are 28 days long, which is not always the case. In fact, ovulation usually happens roughly two weeks before your next period is due. So, if you have a 35-day cycle for example, instead of ovulating on day 14, it’s more likely to happen anytime from day 18 up to day 20.
How do you know if you’re ovulating?
We know this all seems like a lot of complicated calculations but is there a way to tell if you’re actually ovulating? Well, there are actually some telltale signs you can look out for. Bear in mind that not everyone will experience all of them, and for some, they might not be very obvious at all.
The first thing to keep an eye on are any changes in your cervical mucus. Around ovulation, you may notice the amount of discharge increases. It might look clear and transparent (think egg white consistency) and feel watery, slippery and stretchy. This happens because of the fluctuating hormone levels which make changes to the cervical mucus to help the sperm move up to the cervix easily.
The next thing you can do to try and spot ovulation is to measure your basal body temperature. This is because after ovulation, your body temperature can rise by up to a degree, due to a rise in progesterone. Some people track and chart their body temperature every morning before getting out of bed. However, it’s important to remember that body temperature can also be affected by many things, such as drinking alcohol, your sleep schedule or if you’re feeling unwell.
Next up is ovulation pain aka Mittelschmerz. You might be more familiar with menstrual cramps (or period pains) but some people also experience some pain around the time of ovulation. This doesn’t necessarily affect everyone or happen on every cycle but for that experience it usually reports a one-sided, lower abdominal pain. It shouldn’t be overly painful though so if it feels like more than mild discomfort, you should visit your GP.
Other signs of ovulation could include a little bit of spotting (light bleeding) around the time of ovulation, which is usually nothing to be worried about, but it is always good to bring it up with your doctor because bleeding between your periods can also be linked to infections and some cancers. Finally, you might feel more energised, socialise and notice an increase in sexual desire during ovulation so stay in tune with your body and how you’re feeling during this time as well! You can also use ovulation kits which can be bought at a pharmacy or online. They work by detecting the LH surge and will help tell you if ovulation has happened in that cycle.
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