Ovulation is the phase of the menstrual cycle when the egg (ovum) gets been released from the ovary. For approximately 36 hours, the woman is at her most fertile as the chance is high that her egg can be fertilised by a sperm cell.
For an aspiring mother it is easy to get obsessed with the exact timing. Predicting this event allows for better and more effective sexual intercourse timing in order to achieve a pregnancy.
Ovulation, however, is a complex process influenced by hormones and glands. There are also many myths associated with ovulation that can add to the confusion.
Ovulation occurs only in one ovary
If a woman has two functioning ovaries, an ovum will be randomly released from either ovary. Both ovaries will produce 15-20 ovarian follicles that undergo several maturation stages to eventually become an ovum, or egg.
The dominant follicle (the healthiest) will inhibit the development of other follicles is released as an egg during ovulation. This may occur in either the left or right ovary.
The ovum is transported into the fallopian tube through a series of muscular contractions initiated by the fimbriae. If the fallopian tube is flexible and long, it’s possible to capture the ovum that has been released from the opposite ovary.
Studies have shown that some women with a single functioning fallopian tube and a single active ovary on the opposite side have been able to conceive1.
Ovulation may not occur during menstruation
A women with a regular menstrual cycle will ovulate each month. The only exception is when women don’t menstruate, or if their cycle is highly irregular. Determining exactly when ovulation occurs can be difficult.
There is a general assumption during each cycle that 14 days separate ovulation and the commencement of the following period. However, there can be deviations. Research has shown that some women can have a 1-4 day variation between cycles2.
Monitoring and charting Basal Body Temperature (BBT) is a technique that women can use to more accurately determine when they are ovulating. When BBT is elevated, it is a strong indication that ovulation is occurring. Changes in cervical mucus also correspond with ovulation. Most fertility specialists will recommend that women trying to fall pregnant increase sexual activity a couple of days prior to, during, and following the predicted period of ovulation to increase the chances of conception.
A complimentary technique, which may be used to pinpoint time of ovulation even more more exactly is to use an ovulation monitor. This is a device, which detects the surge in Luteinizing Hormone (LH) that triggers ovulation.
Ovulation is accompanied by pain or cramps
Pain or cramps during ovulation may or may not occur. Every woman is different. Some women may also experience mood swings, bloating, headaches or other physical changes that indication ovulation. These reactions are responses to changes in oestrogen levels. However, not all women will have the same combination of symptoms. There are many other factors that can influence discomfort during menstruation, such as weight, alcohol consumption, and smoking3.
Increased sex drive is indicative of ovulation
Some women report an increase in sexual desire around the time of ovulation, but this doesn’t apply to all women. Mammalian animal studies have identified fluctuations in libido closely associated with ovulation. However, human patterns of libido are more variable. Some studies have found a link between increased female sexual desire around ovulation4, while other research concludes that this is not a uniform female response5.
Perimenopausal women can’t fall pregnant
Prior to women entering menopause the body goes through a phase known as perimenopause. This transition occurs several years before menopause. It’s the time when oestrogen production declines and continues to fall until the ovaries cease releasing ovum. Once eggs are no longer released, menstruation stops and menopause starts. Perimenopause can last for up to ten years, although the average duration is four years6.
There is a misconception that during perimenopause women cannot fall pregnant and have healthy children. There is a clear decline in fertility and more risks associated with pregnancy once a woman is over the age of 407. However, some women can still naturally conceive and give birth to a healthy baby. Modern fertility treatments are helping more and more older women have children, despite the onset of perimenopause.
- Nilsson, L. (1990). A child is born. New York, Delacorte Press, Bantam Books.” ↩
- “Hilgers, T. et.al. (1978). Natural family planning I. The peak symptom and estimated time of ovulation. Obstetrics & Gynecology, Volume 52, Issue 5.” ↩
- “Sioban, D. (1996). A longitudinal study of risk factors for the occurrence, duration and severity of menstrual cramps in a cohort of college women. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology. Volume 103, Issue 11, (pp. 1134-1142).” ↩
- “Wilcox, A. et.al. (2004). On the frequency of intercourse around ovulation: evidence for biological influences. Human Reproduction. Volume 19, Issue 7, (pp.1539-43).” ↩
- “Regan, P. (1996). Rhythms of desire: The association between menstrual cycle phases and female sexual desire. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality. Volume 5, Issue 3, (pp. 145-56).” ↩
- “Toner, J. And Food, J. (1993). Fertility after the age of 40. Obstetrics and Gynaecology Clinics of North America. Volume 20, Issue 2, (pp. 261-72).” ↩
- “Li, S. et.al. (1996). Perimenopause: the transition into menopause. Health Care for Women International. Volume 17, Issue 4.” ↩