Did You Know?
The time of ovulation is one of the most important things a woman should understand about her body, since it is the determining factor in getting pregnant and preventing pregnancy. When your menstrual cycle begins, your estrogen levels are low. Your hypothalamus (which is in charge of maintaining your hormone levels) sends out a message to your pituitary gland which then sends out the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This FSH triggers a few of your follicles to develop into mature eggs. One of these will develop into the dominant follicle, which will release a mature egg and the others will disintegrate. As the follicles mature they send out another hormone, estrogen. The high levels of estrogen will tell the hypothalamus and pituitary gland that there is a mature egg.
A luteinizing hormone (LH) is then released, referred to as your LH surge. The LH surge causes the egg to burst through the ovary wall within 24-36 hours and begin its journey down the fallopian tube for fertilization; this is known as ovulation.
Your ovulation date and your time of peak fertility can be detected by charting your fertility signs. This is because our bodies produce signals that can alert us that ovulation is approaching and tell us when ovulation has passed. Fertility signs that indicate that estrogen levels are high and ovulation is approaching (and fertility is high) include observing increasingly stretchy and “egg white” cervical fluid and observing a high, soft and open cervix. Commercial devices such as ovulation prediction kits (OPKs) and fertility monitors can also tell us that ovulation is approaching by measuring the presence of estrogen or luteinizing hormone (LH) in urine. Charting your basal body temperature (BBT) allows you to pinpoint the day of ovulation and tells you when ovulation has passed because progesterone raises the basal body temperature after ovulation. Some additional facts about ovulation:
• An egg lives 12-24 hours after leaving the ovary
• Normally only one egg is released each time of ovulation
• Ovulation can be affected by stress, illness or disruption of normal routines
• Some women may experience some light blood spotting during ovulation
• Implantation of a fertilized egg normally takes place 6-12 days after ovulation
• Each woman is born with millions of immature eggs that are awaiting ovulation to begin
• A menstrual period can occur even if ovulation has not occurred
• Ovulation can occur even if a menstrual period has not occurred
• Some women can feel a bit of pain or aching near the ovaries during ovulation called mittelschmerz, which means "middle pain" in German
• If an egg is not fertilized, it disintegrates and is absorbed into the uterine lining
The follicle from which the egg was released is called the corpus luteum, and it will release progesterone that helps thicken and prepare the uterine lining for implantation. The corpus luteum will produce progesterone for about 12-16 days (the luteal phase of your cycle.) If an egg is fertilized, the corpus luteum will continue to produce progesterone for a developing pregnancy until the placenta takes over. At this time your hormone levels will decrease and your uterine lining will begin to shed about 12-16 days from ovulation. This is menstruation (menstrual period) and brings us back to day 1 of your cycle. The journey then begins all over again.
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