Ovulation is one of the most important, yet most commonly misunderstood events in the menstrual cycle.
In 2014, Fertility and Sterility published a study where researchers surveyed 1,000 women to look at what they know about their own bodies and menstrual cycles, and the results were surprising! The researchers found that almost 40% of women surveyed didn’t understand the process of ovulation, the menstrual cycle, or the role that these processes play in their health and ability to conceive.
Understanding how our bodies work is important! Knowing how ovulation works can make it easier for you to get pregnant (or avoid pregnancy until you aren’t ready) and can even help you have more productive conversations with your doctor about your symptoms. Read on for the answers to some common questions about ovulation.
What is ovulation?
Ovulation is the release of a mature egg from the ovary. It occurs once each month, about halfway through the menstrual cycle from the time a woman gets her first period until she goes through menopause.
In fact, you are born with all of the eggs you’ll ever have already in your ovaries. Once you go through puberty, a group of eggs will be recruited each month. Usually, one (or two in the case of fraternal twins) will mature and the rest of that group of eggs will be reabsorbed into the body. The number of eggs will continue to decline until you reach menopause, when ovulation stops completely. There are quite a few symptoms when you reach menopause including headaches and hot flushes. This is because there are lots of changes happening to your body at this time. If you are being affected daily then you should go to a gynecology like Advanced Gynecology (http://www.gyngeorgia.com/) for help.
How does ovulation happen?
Your menstrual cycle lasts from the beginning of one period to the beginning of the next and lasts about 28 days on average, though anywhere from 23 to 35 days is considered to be normal.
At the beginning of a cycle, an egg starts to develop inside of a fluid filled sac called a follicle. As the follicle grows and the egg matures, your estrogen level increases and causes the lining of the uterus to thicken. This is known as the follicular phase of your menstrual cycle.
Once the egg is mature, another hormone (luteinizing hormone, or LH) surges, triggering ovulation, or the release of the egg from the ovarian follicle. The egg then travels down the fallopian tube towards the uterus, and if a sperm doesn’t fertilize the egg in the fallopian tube, then the egg degrades and is reabsorbed.
How long is an egg “good” for after ovulation?
An egg is usually viable, or “good” for around 12-24 hours after ovulation. After that, the egg is no longer able to be fertilized or able to lead to a pregnancy.
When is the best time to have sex to get pregnant?
The best time to have sex when trying to conceive is the two days before ovulation occurs. Sperm can survive in the body for up to 4 or 5 days, but the egg is only viable for about 24 hours. Having sex a few days early means that the sperm will already be in the body when the egg is released.
Can I get pregnant during my period?
Yes! If you have shorter cycles and have sex towards the end of your period, it is possible for sperm to survive inside your body until ovulation occurs. It is important to always use contraception if you aren’t ready for a pregnancy, no matter where you are in your cycle.
Am I ovulating if I get a regular period?
Usually, but not necessarily. It is possible to have irregular, light spotting or a regular, heavy period even if you are not ovulating. Many women are surprised to discover that they are not ovulating or that they have problems with their fertility, even though they have regular periods.
How do ovulation kits work?
Ovulation kits test for the surge in LH that occurs 24-36 hours before ovulation occurs. When you get a positive result on the test, it means that you are about to ovulate and you are in your most fertile time.
It is best to start testing a few days before you think you will ovulate. It’s also important to remember to test at the same time every day, although the actual time isn’t that important. You can figure that out by looking at how long your cycle is and subtracting 14 days. For example, if your cycle is 28 days long, you are probably ovulating around day 14, and you should begin testing a few days before that, around day 10.
It is important to check in with the doctor if you never get a positive result on your LH testing, or if you always get a positive result. Both situations can indicate that something is going on with your ovulation and fertility and need to be checked out.
What is ovulation pain?
Some women experience some discomfort towards the middle of their cycle. This is also known as mittelschmerz, which is German for “middle pain.” Some women don’t have any discomfort during their ovulation, but other women may notice twinging, a dull aching, or a sharp pain on one side. Ovulation can be very brief, or it can last up to a day. Other signs of ovulation can include:
- Increased vaginal discharge
If you have additional questions regarding your fertility or reproductive wellness, contact Aspire Fertility to learn more about the fertility treatments available at our Houston, Dallas, or Atlanta locations.