Ovulation 101: What You Need To Know
Ovulation. It’s the center of your menstrual cycle, but most women don’t actually know when it happens. In fact, one study found that fewer than 15% of women can accurately pinpoint fertile days and ovulation.
Because ovulation plays such a huge roll in your reproductive health, we’re taking you back to the basics. Here’s what you need to know:
So what really goes on during ovulation?
This is the big event of your cycle. Your period may be more visible, but ovulation is when it all goes down. Every phase of the menstrual cycle is either preparing for the release of your egg (ovulation) or preparing for pregnancy if the egg becomes fertilized.
At the beginning of your menstrual cycle, your uterus sheds its old lining to prepare for the next egg. As your cycle goes on and your period ends, estrogen levels increase and protective fluid sacs called follicles in your ovaries begin developing.
One or two follicles survive and become dominant while the others die. Around the midpoint of your cycle, a hormone called the luteinizing hormone surges and the mature follicle releases an egg. That release is ovulation.
Once that happens, the egg lives for around 24 hours. If you had unprotected sex in the last 5 days or in the 24 hours immediately following ovulation, there is a good chance you could get pregnant. If not, the egg will die and your body will shed the lining to get ready for the next opportunity.
Where do the eggs come from?
You were born with all the eggs you will have. As you get older, that number gradually decreases. At birth, you probably had somewhere around a million. By the time you hit puberty, that number is closer to 300,000 to 500,000. That may sound like a huge decrease, but during your lifetime, you will only ovulate 300 to 400 of those eggs.
What is the luteal phase?
The time between ovulation and when your next period starts is called the luteal phase. Typically, most women ovulate about 12-14 days before their next cycle, but it’s not unusual for it to occur 11-16 days before your period begins. If the luteal phase is shorter than 11 days it may not be sufficient to support a pregnancy. Some women may not ovulate every single menstrual cycle while others ovulate every time and others rarely.
Ovulation & fertility
There are a number of symptoms you may experience around ovulation. Things to watch for include a change in cervical mucus, breast tenderness, a twinge or slight cramping in your ovaries, and increased sex drive. If you have extreme pain during ovulation, this is something you may want to talk to your doctor about. Many Dot users have found that tracking their symptoms around ovulation is helpful both so they know what to expect each cycle and have that information available to share with their doctor if needed.
Cycle Technologies’ Director of Health Education Ann Mullen recently talked to Elite Daily in more detail on what to look for around ovulation and how to manage your symptoms.
So when am I fertile then?
Like we said above, the unfertilized egg only lives for about 24 hours. But because sperm live much longer you have a fertile window of six days - five days before you ovulate to one day after you ovulate.
If you’re planning for pregnancy, this is your time to shine. If you’re in prevention mode, just be sure to use protection during this time.
Ready to predict when you ovulate?
Dot can help you do that! The Dot fertility tracker app tracks your cycles and identifies when you are statistically most likely to ovulate. We also give you pregnancy risk by day so you know the days you are most likely to get pregnant. Because knowledge is power.
Download Dot today!
Downs KA, Gibson M (1983). "Basal body temperature graph and the luteal phase defect". Fertil Steril. 40 (4): 466–8. PMID 6617904. "Female Reproductive System." Cleveland Clinic(blog). Accessed March 25, 2018. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9118-female-reproductive-system .
Gurevich, Rachel. "6 Things You May Not Know (But Should!) About Ovulation." Very Well Family(blog), September 24, 2016. Accessed March 29, 2018. https://www.verywellfamily.com/things-you-may-not-know-but-should-about-ovulation-1960238 .
Many Women Don't Know When They're Fertile." Live Science(blog), September 4, 2012. Accessed March 25, 2018. https://www.livescience.com/22903-women-fertile.html .
Showell, Brooke. "Ovulation Symptoms: 7 Signs Of Ovulation." The Bump(blog). Accessed March 25, 2018. https://www.thebump.com/a/ovulation-symptoms-signs-of-ovulation .
Wilcox, Allen J., Clarice R. Weinberg, and Donna D. Baird. "Timing of Sexual Intercourse in Relation to Ovulation — Effects on the Probability of Conception, Survival of the Pregnancy, and Sex of the Baby." New England Journal of Medicine(blog). Accessed March 25, 2018. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejm199512073332301 .
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