Healthy ovulation – the vital first step to pregnancy

ovulationAll about Ovulation

A woman is born with all the eggs she will require throughout her menstrual life, and it is vital that your eggs are healthy and that ovulation is regular for a healthy and stress free pregnancy to follow. If ovulation is irregular, then your menstrual cycle will be irregular making it more difficult to conceive. So step one is to ascertain when you are ovulating and to optimise a regular cycle where possible. In this blog you will learn more about how to accurately pin point when it is that you actually ovulate.

What is Ovulation?
Ovulation is the release of a mature egg (ovum) from the ovary. Every month, several ovarian follicles begin to mature and develop under the influence of your hormones. Usually only one dominant follicle develops fully and the rest recede back into the ovary. The growing follicle on the ovary secretes increasing amounts of the hormone oestrogen. Following peak oestrogen production, there is a surge of luteinizing hormone (LH). The LH surge triggers the release of the mature egg from its follicle and into the fallopian tube. This is ovulation and the egg is now ready to be fertilized by sperm for pregnancy.

After Ovulation
Once you have ovulated, the egg is picked up by one of the fallopian tubes and begins to travel down the fallopian tube. This is where fertilization by sperm takes place. The follicle that released the egg becomes known as the corpus luteum after ovulation and begins to secrete the hormone progesterone which is the dominant hormone for the second half of your menstrual cycle.

Now here is the important part- the lifespan of the egg after ovulation is just 12-24 hours, maybe even less. Fertilization must take place within this time frame or the egg degrades and breaks down. Luckily sperm can live within the uterus for between 3-5 days, so intercourse should be attempted in the 5 days before you ovulate, and the day of ovulation for the highest conception chances. These are known as your fertile days. You can see with such a small window for falling pregnant each month, it is important that you know your body and when you ovulate to ensure an easier conception.

When should you ovulate?

A typical textbook menstrual cycle is 28 days long. The first day of your period is classified as day 1, and you count forward from here. Most women are told that they ovulate on day 14 of their menstrual cycle, but it is believed that ovulation can be anywhere between day 9 to day 16 if you have a regular menstrual cycle. Some women have longer or shorter than 28 day cycles which means their ovulation day will vary. Some women have irregular cycles that are different in length each month, meaning that the day of their cycle that they ovulate will also change each month. This is why it is important to look for signs of when you ovulate and understand your body changes. However your period will almost always come 14 days after you ovulate, so this can help you to work out when your ovulation time is.

How to tell when you ovulate

Observing your cervical fluid or mucous changes is the most useful method for determining when you are getting close to your ovulation time, and therefore when the right time to fall pregnant is. If you are observant of your cervical mucous secretions then you will get a great insight into when your ovulation time is. Our body is very smart and will naturally secrete more mucous before and at ovulation time to ensure sperm can swim up to the egg. As sperm will live within the uterus for 3-5 days, they need fluid to live in and keep them healthy.

So here is what to look for:

  • During your menstrual cycle, there will be little or no cervical mucous
  • After your period finishes, you will note very little mucous, or small amounts of flaky mucous for a few days
  • As you approach your fertile time, your cervical mucous secretions will increase. You should notice it is sticky in nature and this means that sperm may now be able to survive
  • Around 4 days before ovulation, the water content of your cervical mucous increases. You will note even more mucous with a watery and slippery consistency. You should notice a slightly ‘wetter’ feeling down there.
  • In the 1-2 days before your egg is released, it should resemble the texture and look of a raw egg white- slippery enough for sperm to live and swim their way up to your egg. The egg white mucous should be obvious on toilet paper and sometimes in your underwear. This is your most fertile time of the month and indicates that you will ovulate over the next 1-2 days.
  • After ovulation, your mucous will revert back to a thicker and gluggier texture and whiter in colour. This means ovulation is over and done with for the month. This is considered to be ‘infertile mucous’ as it is hard for sperm to swim through such thick fluid.

For most women it will take a few cycles to get the hang of detecting ovulation and getting your timing right. Not noticing any mucous changes throughout your menstrual cycle? Firstly, for those of you on the pill you will notice limited mucous as one of the ways that the pill works as a contraceptive is to create a more hostile mucous that sperm cannot swim through. For those of you not on the pill and not noticing obvious mucous changes, this may be a sign that you are not ovulating or have low oestrogen levels.