If you’ve been our constant reader, you must already know what the term “ovulation” implies. But if you don’t, we’ve got your back. Your menstrual cycle is part of your body’s way of preparing for a possible pregnancy each month. Understanding how the process works is important, since you can use this information to help to either get pregnant or avoid getting pregnant, to better manage any menstrual symptoms you are experiencing, and understand when there might be a problem. A menstruation cycle precisely has 4 phases: menstrual, follicular, ovulatory and luteal.
What is ovulation?
Ovulation is when a mature egg is released from either one of the ovaries. When the egg is released, it may or may not be fertilized by a sperm. If fertilized, it moves to the uterus and implants pregnancy, if not, it disintegrates and causes the shedding of the uterine lining (menstruation). It is a phase when a person is the most fertile.
When do you ovulate?
Many people mistakenly believe that ovulation always happens exactly 14 days after a person's last period. But the timing of ovulation varies for each menstruator and depends on the length of their menstrual cycle. If one typically has 28-day menstrual cycles, they usually ovulate between days 13 to 15; if their cycle ranges between 27 and 34 days, ovulation usually occurs between days 13 to 20.
Besides charting the timing on a calendar, a person may have other clues that they could be ovulating. Their body may have one of the following three signs:
1. Changes in vaginal secretions/discharges:
A few days before a person ovulates, their cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus, produces a type of mucus that is thin, clear, slippery and stretchy. This change in cervical mucus occurs when ovulation is approaching and their ovaries are getting ready to release an egg. The day after ovulation occurs, cervical mucus undergoes another change and it becomes thicker and cloudy.
2. Change in basal body temperature:
Keeping track of one's basal body temperature, which is taken in the morning before one gets out of bed, for two to three menstrual cycles may help predict when they’re fertile. Shortly after ovulating, many people show a slight increase (about 1 degree F) in early morning body temperature. A person is most fertile during the 2 to 3 days prior to the rise in temperature.
3. Rise in luteinizing hormones:
About 24 to 36 hours before a person ovulates, their levels of luteinizing hormone increase. A rise in luteinizing hormone is a signal for the ovary to release an egg. This hormone increase can be detected by using an ovulation predictor kit, which can test a sample of urine in the days leading up to ovulation. When a rise in luteinizing hormones is detected, the test will show a positive result.
Ovulation may also cause:
• light bleeding or spotting
• breast tenderness
• increased sexual drive
• ovary pain characterized by discomfort or pain on one side of the abdomen, also called mittelschmerz
Not everyone experiences symptoms with ovulation, so these signs are considered secondary in tracking your fertility.
While the most accurate ways to confirm ovulation is with an ultrasound in the doctor’s office, or with hormonal blood tests, there are many ways to track ovulation at home.
• Basal body temperature (BBT) charting. This involves taking your temperature with a basal thermometer each morning throughout your cycle to record its changes. Ovulation is confirmed after your temperature has stayed elevated from your baseline for three days.
• Ovulation predictor kits (OPK). These are generally available over-the-counter (OTC) at your corner drugstore. They detect the presence of LH (luteinizing hormone) in your urine. Ovulation may happen within the next couple of days after the result line is as dark as or darker than the control.
• Fertility monitors. These are also available OTC. They’re a more expensive option, with some products coming in at around 7500 rupees. They track two hormones — oestrogen and LH — to help identify the six days of your fertile window.
The 6 days leading up to and including ovulation make up what’s called the “fertile window.” This is when sexual intercourse may lead to pregnancy.
The sperm may wait around for several days in the fallopian tubes after sex, ready to fertilize the egg once it’s finally released. Once the egg is in the fallopian tubes, it lives for around 24 hours before it can no longer be fertilized, thus ending the fertile window. While the egg can only be fertilized in the 12 to 24 hours after it’s released, sperm can live in the reproductive tract under ideal conditions up to 5 days. So, if you have sex in the days leading up to ovulation or on the day of ovulation itself, you may become pregnant.
If you want to prevent pregnancy, it’s important to use contraceptives during your fertile window. Although barrier methods like condoms are better than no protection at all, you may have a greater peace of mind when using a more effective method.
Your doctor or other healthcare provider can walk you through your options and help you find the best approach.
Ovulation Symptoms (What to expect)
Written by: Devanshi Pandey
Designed by: Ananya Choudhury