As women, we ovulate. It is part of our normal cycle and exclusive to women. But, it’s a process that, until recently, we knew very little about.
Before we discovered the presence of eggs, which was not long ago, doctors of old believed in parthenogeneisis, the process where live springs into being without sexual contact. Or at least, they believed that women had the ability to take the sperm of men and turn it into a new child.
Now, we understand it takes two, and our process as women is to produce the largest cell on earth, the egg. This is a process called ovulation.
What is Ovulation?
In simple terms, the ovary spits out a mature egg.
This happens during the mid-point of a cycle. In this article , we give a good description of the whole process of a menstrual cycle. Please read this to understand where ovulation takes place.
Ovulation is controlled by the hypothalamus in the brain. It secretes luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) to encourage ovulation. The hypothalamus is also responsible for thyroid stimulating hormone (controls thyroid production), serotonin (responsible for happiness), oxytocin (for bonding), and several others. If one of these hormones is off, there is a good chance the others are as well.
When Does Ovulation Start? When Do You Ovulate?
The whole process of ovulation started as soon as the ovaries began to develop. This occurred when we women were still in our mother’s womb. Women are born with million of eggs, only those eggs are very immature.
There is a myth that a child may become pregnant because these immature eggs exist. Only fully mature eggs that are released during normal ovulation, during a normal menstrual cycle may become fertilized. Immature eggs cannot be fertilized.
When a girl flowers into a woman, the estrogen-progesterone cycle begins to mature the eggs. Some mature faster than other. Generally, the first few cycles a woman experiences contain immature eggs, although some women could have fully developed, mature eggs right from the first cycle.
One egg generally is matured fully at a time. Somewhere between days 13 and 16, the amount of estrogen in your body begins to increase dramatically, which causes the production of another hormone, luteinizing hormone. This luteinizing hormone triggers the ovaries to release a fully matured egg. The ovulation day release happens about 24 to 36 hours after luteinizing hormone is detected in the blood.
How to Know When You’re Ovulating
There are many ways to tell if you are ovulating. Technology has given us a huge hand at that. For most women, we can just tell. There are subtle body signs that only occur once per month. We’ll go into these signs below.
How Long Do Women Ovulate
Each ovulation only occurs once per month, for most women. The process of ovulation can be considered the whole menstrual cycle, or just the time of release. Generally, ovulation is only a one-day event.
Women will ovulate over most of their lives. Typical age of menses is anywhere from 11 to 16 years of age. Typical menopause age is between 50 and 60. Of course, the healthier you eat, the older you will be when menses starts. This is because the body is able to mature before ovulation.
There is a crisis in Westernized societies. Girls are going into menses before the age of 10, with reports of as young as 6. Typically, the girls are in families with diets high in sugars, processed foods, and medications. The body ages faster and menses starts early. Some scientists believe this is because of the artificial hormones found in low-quality foods and the presence of artificial food flavors and colors.
You are only fertile after ovulation for about 24 hours. In some women, this can be as long as 48 to 56 hours when they are at the peak of health. After this time, the egg ‘dies’, or becomes too difficult for the sperm to penetrate.
So, yes, ovulation and fertility go hand in hand. If you want to know when your peak fertile times are, then you need to know when you are ovulating.
Can you ovulate early? Early is relative. It would depend greatly on your particular cycle and health. If your normal cycle is only 21 day, then you will ovulate earlier than what we describe here. Illness, injury, and life stress can cause early or delayed ovulation. Enough stress can cause menstruation without ovulation. But, rarely will you have ovulation without menstruation. The presence of the unfertilized egg in the uterus triggers the endometriosis to slough off.
What are the Signs of Ovulation?
There are many signs of ovulation, although most of them are quite subtle. Up until about 100 years ago, women were in tune with their bodies and could tell you within a few hours when they would be most fertile. They knew when their period was coming on and when it would stop.
Today, most women are conditioned to ignore the signs and our periods are a surprise. The good news is that if we start paying attention again, we can tell when we ovulate and when many other natural processes are happening in our bodies.
Many women would wonder why we want to track our ovulations. Most of these women won’t bother to read this. You know your reasons. For some women, they want to know when they will be most fertile, in order to conceive. Even perfectly fertile women still only have a 25% chance of getting pregnant. You can read more about why in this article which details the process of conception and just how much of a miracle any of us are actually here.
Other women track their ovulations for the opposite reasons. They don’t want to get pregnant. Since being fertile is such a narrow window, they are able to avoid sexual activity in the few days that fertility could happen. This is a popular method of birth control among the very religious, who shun other forms of birth control.
A few women will track ovulation because of other side effects. Some women experience painful and distracting ovulations and menstruations. By knowing when ovulation is happening, they are able to make plans and avoid social situations during times that their bodies are not the most cooperative.
Body temperature is a good indication of when ovulation is occurring. The change in hormones and the actual release of the egg causes the body temperature to increase 0.4 to 1.0o F (0.1 to 0.3o C) above normal body temperature. This isn’t much unless you know what your normal body temperature is supposed to be.
Once you are able to track your body temperature, you will be able to know when you are most fertile. Paying attention to your daily body temperature will allow you to plan and prepare.
On a side note, a rise in body temperature can occur due to exercise, illness, and ambient temperature. If you take your temperature daily, make sure it is at the same time of day and you track your exertions and outside temperature.
This one is a little cloudy. Yes, ovulation can cause back pain, but your back is not the actual part of you in pain. The ovaries and reproductive organs are in pain, but the body doesn’t have the ability to detect pain in that area. So, the pain manifests in the back, in the closest muscles to the ovaries.
For some women, their muscles cramp during ovulation throughout the whole body. In others, the eruption of the egg from the follicle is registered as pain.
We recommend you pay attention to any pain signals. One of the signs of PCOS and other ovary problems is a pain in the back. If you are having back pain, we recommend you visit your doctor to discover the cause and seek solutions.
The cervix produces a thick mucus designed to help sperm reach the unfertilized egg. The mucus helps to nourish and guide the sperm where they need to go. It’s actually quite normal to see this mucus being discharged during ovulation and a few days after.
The mucus is thickest and whitest at ovulation and thinnest, clearest, and driest at menstruation. Checking the mucus every day, in the same way, can help determine when you are ovulating.
While not common, spotting can occur during ovulation and is considered normal. It should be checked out, just in case.
Red blood during ovulation occurs because the changes in hormones can cause a weakening of the tissues in the uterus. Some of the endometrium could rupture, causing a small amount of blood to be expelled. Usually, this is less than a normal period, resulting in just a few drops of blood.
Brown blood occurs when some of the blood from the previous period remained in the uterus. It’s brown due to lack of oxygen and dead blood cells. Again, this is usually only a few drops. It is quite common for the blood to have mixed with other natural fluids of the cervix and vagina, only being expelled at this later time as this system flushes fluids naturally.
Yes, bloating is very common during ovulation. The changes in hormones cause fluid to be retained. It’s quite normal and natural. It’s a survival mechanism that helps women achieve fertilization in times when resources are scarce.
You can avoid most of the bloating issues by drinking plenty of water and avoiding foods that cause bloating, like wheat and processed foods.
The changes in hormones can cause headaches in some people during ovulation. In addition, the changes in body temperature and retained fluid can cause headaches.
You will help your body avoid these problems with a healthier diet and plenty of water. Many times, the headaches happen with a combination of dehydration, hormone changes, and stress. By increasing water intake, you can decrease your headaches.
All hormone changes can cause constipation. The hormone changes during ovulation causing constipation are quite common. If you are susceptible to these, then there are few steps to take to avoid the problem.
Again, drink plenty of water. The bowels will move smoother and easier if you are well hydrated and your intestine does not have to fight hard stool. A healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and their natural fibers, also helps your digestive system move smooth and regular.
Also, a healthier diet avoids constipating factors, like artificial flavors, colors, chemicals, and other unnatural additives. Avoiding these unnatural additives also increases the likelihood you can achieve pregnancy.
The breasts are especially sensitive to changes in hormones. Some women can even sense the changes of sleep hormones to awake hormones in their breasts.
Ovulation and breast pain often occur together. The changes in hormones cause the breasts to swell slightly. It is a natural occurrence that is designed to help females attract males. Bigger breasts are seen as a good sign of fertility.
All hormones affect emotions and mood. The hormonal changes during ovulation create wild emotions because this is the biggest hormonal shift a woman will experience during the month.
Many women experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS), a combination of food cravings, irritation, and restlessness. The emotional shift during ovulation is actually worse. However, since most women do not track their fertile times, they are unable to recognize this shift being due to ovulation. They attribute it to just a bad day.
The same advice can help reduce the impact of ovulation causing wild emotions and mood swings. Avoid processed foods, seek out fruits and vegetables, and drink plenty of water.
Just like the mood swings, your stomach is affected by ovulation. The hormonal shift of ovulation can cause the stomach to feel nauseous. Your digestive system is very susceptible to hormonal shifts, often shutting down and stopping during times of high stress.
The best way to avoid nausea is to take care of your body the rest of the month. A good diet will help reduce the impact of the hormone changes.
If you do experience nausea, you can help yourself. Reduce the amount of food you take in. This helps your digestive system reset without having to deal with foods.
Ovulation Myth: Women Ovulate at the Full Moon
In older times, a woman’s menstrual cycle was called moon time or the more derogatory moon madness. The term lunacy is directly derived from the emotional shifts a woman experiences with her menstrual cycle.
Most women ovulate and menstruate during the same time of the lunar month. They do not all ovulate at the full moon or the new moon. Ovulation can occur at any time of the lunar month.
What is true, is that hospitals and police see an increase in odd, disturbing, and criminal behavior during the full moon from both men and women equally.
Ovulation Tests: the Good & the Bad
Most online calculators base their answers on the dates of your last period and menstrual cycle. More serious calculators will want to know when your period started and stopped, plus this information for your previous 2 menstrual cycles.
They base their estimates for fertile times on a 28-day cycle. This is normal for most women and can give you the best estimate of your fertile day.
Some of the drawbacks of this method are that not everyone fits into the 28-day cycle and most women are not that detailed in tracking their cycles. They also give you a time range of several days you are most likely to be fertile without giving you an accurate time at all.
Illness, injury, and stress can change your numbers for a month even if you are normally a 28-day cycle. Being stressed a single day can be enough to throw off your calculations.
So, while the calculator is a good tool to give an estimated time, it’s not going to be precise enough to help you accurately define your fertile period.
If you want to find your ovulation date, calculate 14 days from the start of your previous period. That is the accepted time for normal ovulation.
BBT Charting – Basal Body Temperature Charting
Your body temperature will fluctuate at your time of ovulation. If you track your body’s temperature over the course of the month, you will see a spike in temperature at ovulation time. Often, you will find very accurate and narrow temperature range ovulation thermometers used for this. The usual fever thermometers are not accurate enough to detect this narrow change.
Normally, this method needs several months of tracking in order to produce a repeatable pattern you can recognize as your body spiking in temperature. This is because the body changes temperature within a few degrees often and in response to many different stimuli.
The simple act of fighting off a bacteria or virus could be enough to mimic the rise in ovulation temperature. It is estimated the body fights off as many as 1,000 of these bacteria and viruses per day as we are exposed to them.
Nearly every single one is destroyed by the immune system immediately, but a few require the fever mechanism to kick in. The body could raise its temperature slightly or several degrees. Most of the time, we never notice this rise in temperature. We just may feel warm and a little sluggish, not sick.
The weather outside could cause a rise in body temperature. Being under too many blankets at night could cause a spike. Spicy foods and hot drinks could change your internal body temperature.
As we chart our body temperatures we can start to recognize when our body is having a true ovulation spike or just a random fluctuation.
Of course, if you want to track ovulation accurately, you need an ovulation or fertility test kit.
Ovulation Test Kits
These ovulation kits * work by detecting the levels of luteinizing hormone. When the levels spike, there is an approximate 36-hour window where fertility is most likely to be. Many of the tests have various levels of acceptance, where the ‘band’ of positive results will become darker as the levels of luteinizing hormone increases. Usually, when the band is the darkest, maximum fertility follows in the next few hours.
One of the drawbacks of these kits is they only have enough test strips for 7 days. If you do not reach peak fertility during the 7-day test, you may need another test kit to continue. It is best with the test kits to plan your cycle and fertility days with an ovulation calendar, then use the test kits to confirm your calculations.
Of course, false positive and negative results do happen. When a negative occurs, it could be you just didn’t produce enough of the hormone at that time to trigger the reading. You could have done something to invalidate the test. False negatives do happen, but they are rarer than false positives. Since the luteinizing hormone is required for egg release, a lack of presence is nearly a guarantee of fertility.
Expired ovulation test kits could give a false reading either positive or negative, usually negative. We don’t recommend using expire test kits because they are unreliable.
False positives are much more common. Most of the time, what is called a false positive is actually a true positive, just all of the factors did not align for you to become pregnant. It could be the sperm did not even reach the egg, the fertilized egg did not implant (occurs nearly 25% of the time), or the fertilized egg triggered the endometrium to slough off, or start your period (which happens another 25% of the time).
Sometimes, you may get a false positive just because the levels of hormones in your body have spiked for an unknown reason. If the egg is not ready, it will not be released even if the luteinizing hormone is in your blood.
How Accurate are Ovulation Kits
Most test kits are about 99% accurate at detecting the presence of the luteinizing hormone. But, unless you use the kits often, you won’t be able to tell what your normal level looks like or what a spike looks like.
The kits also do not confirm or deny ovulation. Nor do they confirm or deny fertilization of the egg. There are many reasons to not become pregnant and the least likely culprit is the ovulation test kit.
Ovulation Myth: You Can Ovulate After Conception
In normal pregnancies, the implantation of a fertilized egg sets off a series of hormonal changes that prevents the luteinizing hormone from being produced. Without this hormone, eggs stop maturing and are not released.
There are exceptions. Some women still experience menstrual cycles for months after becoming pregnant. While very rare in humans, you can ovulate after you conceive.
This is rare. And usually the second conception occurs within 3-4 weeks of the first one.
Complications of Ovulation
There are complications to ovulation. Fortunately, they happen rarely. Often, there is no reason for these issues. It is part of your normal. But, sometimes they are signs of a bigger problem. Most of these are associated with 2 diseases: PCOS and cancer. If you experience any of these, you should visit your doctor to rule them out.
There are times in a woman’s life where ovulation can hurt. It’s not the actual ovary that hurts, but the surrounding tissues. The hormonal changes can cause cramping, irritation, and generalized pain.
But not every pain is a sign of disease. The sudden spike in luteinizing hormone can cause localized irritation and a drop in natural pain fighting hormones. The actual release of the egg by the follicle can be perceived as pain (but it actually isn’t pain because there is no pain sensing nerves there).
One other big issue for pain during ovulation is gas. The intestine is very close. When the ovaries get ready to release an egg, the area swells. This can put pressure on the digestive system, causing gas to back up and cause pain.
Odd Colored Vaginal Discharge
A thick white mucus is normal during ovulation. Any other color is not considered normal. Yellow and green mucus is a sign of bacterial infection. Shiny mucus can be a sign of viral mucus. Yeasty infections can be yellow or white, but smell strongly of bread.
A home remedy for mild infections of the vagina is a diluted solution of apple cider vinegar and water. This helps reduce the pH of the vagina and helps restore balance. Avoid douches and creams that are fragrant or that have carbonates.
While a bit of spotting is normal for some women, active bleeding is not. This can be a sign of endometriosis or PCOS. Anything more than a few spots of blood is a sign something is abnormal and should be checked out.
There are many causes of bleeding during ovulation, with the most common one being a bit of blood from the follicle that released the egg. Other causes can be a reaction to the egg in the fallopian tubes or early release of the endometrium.
Early Ovulation & Late Ovulation
In an ideal world, we would ovulate every 28 days. In the real world, it can vary greatly.
Early ovulation and late ovulation are normal and expected in every woman. Stress, illness, and even the weather can cause a delay in ovulation. Heavy exercise is well known for delaying ovulation. The body waits for the best time to release the egg in order to have the best chances to achieve fertilization.
Delays and early arrivals of a few days are normal. Even skipping a whole cycle is normal during times of high stress. Athletes can experience delayed ovulation for months to years because of the high stresses on their bodies.
You should be checked out if you skip more than one ovulation cycle and you are not under high stress. Unusual ovulation times are also a sign of PCOS and other ovulation problems.
What Happens when You’re Not Ovulating
Ovulatory disorders fall into two basic groups: anovulation, no ovulation at all, and oligo-ovulation, where ovulation occurs infrequently or irregularly.
One of the most common causes of ovulation disorders is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). It is a disorder where cysts grow on the ovaries, causing hormone problems and ovulation problems.
Ovarian cancer is another problem, although much rarer than PCOS.
Athletes also experience ovulation issues. The high amounts of exercise and stresses the body endures causes the hormones to shift. The luteinizing hormone is often suppressed, leading anovulation and a lack of menstruation.
Of course, lifestyle stress, illness, injury, and a poor diet can all cause ovulation problems. If you experience issues with menstruation, talk to a doctor to find out what the problems are. Most of the time, the issue can be cleared with lifestyle changes or simple medications *. A few of the problems are more severe and it is best to know.
How to Increase Ovulation Naturally
There are hundreds of supplements * on the market that claim to increase ovulation and fertility. Most have ingredients that are known to increase fertility, but most of the supplements are not effective. We don’t recommend unknown and untested supplements prior to pregnancy.
One of the best ways to induce ovulation is to eat a healthy diet. When the body is properly nourished, it is able to function normally. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and avoid processed foods. Drink lots of water and avoid coffee, sodas, and alcohol.
We don’t know of any truly tested ways to increase ovulation eggs numbers. The body is preset with how many eggs it will mature at any one time. This is why twins and triples seem to run in families, they are genetically disposed to maturing more than one egg at a time.
How to Delay Ovulation Naturally
Other than placing yourself in dire stress or creating injury, lots of exercises are one of the best ways to lengthen the time between ovulation cycles.
There are several herbs that are known to delay menstruation, but they must be used with a clinical herbalist to avoid severe issues. Several of the herbs are known to cause heart issues as well, so we do not recommend seeking an herbal remedy on your own.
Lemons and lemon juice are a myth that is circulated around. There is no link to delayed ovulation or menstruation when eating lemons or drinking lemon juice.
The only reliable way to delay menstruation is medications. Certain progesterone creams * can cause the body to think it is earlier in the cycle than it truly is, but these creams will not delay menstruation indefinitely. Also, using these creams could cause longer term hormonal problems.
How to Stop Ovulation Naturally
As with delays, there is no natural way to stop ovulation. In fact, the only 100% true way to eliminate ovulation is to remove the ovaries.
Birth control pills and supplements still have a small failure rate, even when taken correctly. They have a much higher rate of failure when taken as most women do, mostly right with a few pills missed here or there.
Certain teas and herbs will encourage menstruation, but will not delay or stop ovulation. One of the most popular herbs, Queen Anne’s Lace, produces seeds that will encourage menstruation, but will not stop ovulation.
We hope this primer helps you understand an important but hidden part of all women’s anatomies.
Ovulation is a natural process that normally runs without many changes in the body or your lifestyle. In women who experience more, it should be checked out to rule out bigger problems.
Pay attention to your own body and you’ll discover a wide range of signals to let you know what is going on inside. Combined with a healthy diet and exercise, you’ll be fit and healthy with superb control over your own body.
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