All about ovulation

What is Ovulation?

Ovulation is the time in your cycle when one of your ovaries releases an egg. If it is met with sperm, it can result in fertilisation and pregnancy, but if it is not fertilised, it’s absorbed into your uterine lining. During your next period, the lining and the egg are shed from your body.

A few key things happen during ovulation:

Your uterus thickens – As you get closer to ovulation, your body releases more of the oestrogen hormone. This thickens your uterus to help prepare it for a fertilised egg.

Your LH levels surge – As your oestrogen levels increase, they trigger the increase of luteinising hormone (LH). LH triggers the release of an egg from your ovary around 24 to 36 hours after your initial surge.

You’re fertile for around 24 hours – Did you know that your egg can only be fertilised for around 24 hours after it’s released from your ovary? If it isn’t fertilised, it’s absorbed back into your uterine lining and is shed with your next period.

When Do I Ovulate?

Trying to get pregnant? It’s a lot easier when you know when you ovulate! Everyone’s ovulation cycles are different, but most people with a 28-day cycle tend to ovulate around day 14 (with the first day of your period as day 1). You’ll usually ovulate some time between the four days and after the middle of your cycle.

However, plenty of things can affect your cycle length, such as stress, medical conditions, PCOS, hypothyroidism, and some months you might ovulate a few days earlier or later.

How Long Do I Ovulate Each Cycle?

Ovulation refers to the point when your ovary releases an egg, which happens in an instant, but you are fertile for between 12 – 36 hours afterwards. If the egg isn’t fertilised in this window, it is absorbed into your uterine wall and shed around two weeks later when you menstruate.

However, even though you are technically only ovulating for a short time, conception can occur within a five or six day window. That’s because sperm can survive in your body for up to five days.

Therefore, if you have unprotected sex five days before ovulation, sperm may meet your egg in your fallopian tube, and you can still get pregnant. If your egg is fertilised, it will travel down the fallopian tube into your uterus and implant in the uterine wall between 6 – 10 days after conception.

What Are the Symptoms of Ovulation?

Many women don’t notice when they are about to ovulate, while others experience symptoms. One of the most common symptoms is a change in the texture of your vaginal discharge; it becomes thick, stretchy, and clear, which many women describe as ‘egg white texture.’

Some women feel cramps or discomfort in their abdomen or one ovary (known as mittelschmerz), tender breasts, a higher sex drive, or spotting.

There are a few different ways to track your ovulation:

Charting the length of your menstrual cycle – Many women ovulate around 10 to 16 days before they get their period. This method works best if you have regular cycles.

Cervical mucus – Your cervical mucus may become clear, slippery, and stretchy when you are about to ovulate.

Body temperature – When you are just about to ovulate, your temperature increases slightly. You can detect this with a vaginal or oral thermometer.

Ovulation Predictor Kits – OPKs measure the level of LH (luteinising hormone) and FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) in your urine.

Can I Only Get Pregnant While I’m Ovulating?

Even though you only ovulate for a short time each month (between 12 –36 hours), you have a longer ‘fertile window.’ That’s because sperm can live inside your body for up to five days. Therefore, if you have sex five days before your ovary releases an egg, the egg can meet with sperm in your fallopian tube. If fertilised, it will travel into your uterus and attempt to implant into your uterine lining.

How Can I Track My Ovulation?

Scans and blood tests are the most accurate ways to track your ovulation. However, it’s also possible to get accurate results with DIY ovulation tracking methods.

These include:

Charting your basal body temperature (BBT) – Use a basal thermometer to track your temperature each day. When it rises for three days in a row, you are likely ovulating.

Ovulation predictor kits (OPK) – You can buy OPKs at the chemist or online. They work by detecting the LH (luteinising hormone) in your urine. You can get simple urine strips, or a digital reader that analyses your urine.

Fertility monitors – You can buy electronic fertility monitors at the chemist or online. They work by either monitoring oestrogen and LH in your urine, or by monitoring your basal temperature with a wearable or insertable device.

How Much Sex Should I Have If I’m Trying to Get Pregnant?

You only need to have sex once during your fertile window to get pregnant. However, your chances increase if you have sex every day or two days during the four-day period before and after the midpoint of your cycle. The best time is during the two days before you ovulate and the actual day of ovulation.

As fun as sex can be, it can start to feel like a chore while you’re trying to conceive. Everything can start to feel decidedly clinical and unsexy! Rushing to bed when your ovulation tracker sounds the alarm can zap some of the excitement out of the act, and some men find that performing on command is a problem. Drugs like Cialis and Viagra can be a big help and take the pressure off both parties. Remember to keep things light-hearted, and don’t be afraid to experiment with new toys, techniques, and positions.

What Should I Do if I’m Not Ovulating?

If you’re using ovulation tracking tests or monitoring your temperature and you find that you’re not ovulating or ovulating on an irregular schedule, it’s time to speak to a medical professional. There are quite a few medical conditions that can affect ovulation, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, or amenorrhea.

Your doctor can begin investigations into your fertility and potentially prescribe medications to regulate your cycle and induce ovulation. These medications increase the levels of FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) and LH (Luteinising Hormone) in your pituitary gland, signalling your ovaries to produce follicles. Most women respond well to these treatments.

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