Ovulation is a key concept when talking about getting pregnant, fertility and the menstruation cycle.
‘What is ovulation?,’ you may ask. It is the process where the ovary releases a mature ovule (commonly called egg) that then starts a trip towards the Fallopian tubes and the uterus.
And why is it important when talking about getting pregnant? Well, the moment when ovulation takes place is the same one when the window of opportunity opens up for all those women who want to become a mum: if that egg is fertilised by a sperm, when the resulting embryo finally arrives to the uterus… It may stay there! An apparently simple mechanism that has amazing consequences: the creation of life!
The ovulation cycle
So, when does ovulation occur? As in anything related to the reproductive system, the first thing to keep in mind is that every woman is different, and even one same woman can see how her body’s “routines” change throughout her fertile life. However, there are some standards that can be considered, and that will usually work with women with a regular cycle.
A regular menstrual cycle typically lasts 28 days, although it can be regular being shorter or longer. Most women have a menstrual cycle of 27-32 days. To know how long your cycle is, you need to count from day one (first day of your period) to the last day before your next period.
Ovulation takes place around two weeks before your period starts. So, if you have a completely regular and average menstrual cycle of 28 days, you will be ovulating around day 14.
However, and regarding fertility, there are other things to consider. A mature egg, once it has left the ovary, only lives for 24 hours – so that is the only moment it can be fertilised! Sperm lives for a little longer, around 2-3 days, so your fertile window is only open for a little while. The fertile window is considered to be open for 6 days, the last of them being the day you ovulate. Your most fertile days are the day you ovulate and the 2 days before you do.
If your cycle doesn’t last 28 days, you can calculate your most fertile days by deducting from 12 to 16 days to the amount of days your menstrual cycle lasts.
The signs of ovulation
Besides counting days, you can also find out the moment it’s happening by learning to recognise the ovulation symptoms. Some of them are very similar to the ones many women feel while they are menstruating.
The most common ovulation symptoms include the following:
- Increase of the cervical mucus: You may notice a heavier discharge, jelly-like and similar to egg whites.
- Increase of the libido: If you feel kind of ‘playful’ towards the middle of your menstrual cycle, it may be ovulation’s fault!
- Abdominal pain: Many women feel ovulation pain, similar to the typical period cramps.
- Sore or extra sensitive breasts: Another of the ovulation symptoms shared with period week.
- Liquid retention: You could feel a little bloated during those days.
- Swollen vagina or vulva: It could also be more sensitive – which may prove convenient with the increase of the libido!
- Moodiness: Oh, the hormones! You could be feeling depressed or more emotional. There is one nice counterpart, though: some women feel suddenly energetic by the time they’re ovulating.
During ovulation, also the cervix suffers some non-permanent changes. During the time you’re ovulating, its position changes: it is higher, and is also softer and more open. Of course, you won’t be able to recognise this symptom – only your gynaecologist would!
Besides these ones, there are other less common signs of ovulation, such as:
- Spotting: Some light blood spotting it is not uncommon.
- Headache: It could be a result of the hormonal changes.
- Nausea: Also a consequence of the dance of the hormones!
How can I keep track of ovulation?
Counting the days of your menstrual cycle and keeping an eye on how your body is behaving so you can recognise the symptoms can be enough to keep track of ovulation. That, of course, if you’re one of the lucky ones who have a regular menstrual cycle. However, this may not be enough if you’re trying to get pregnant. If you need to know the exact day you’re ovulating to determine which is your fertility window, there are some tools that will be of help. You could do an ovulation test with an ovulation kit – similar to a pregnancy test, you will have to pee in a stick to see if you are ovulating. An ovulation kit is also able to predict ovulation 2-3 days before it happens, so you can plan ahead to give your little egg a lot of chances to be fertilised!
Another method, less exact than the ovulation kit, is measuring your basal body temperature with a special thermometer. You will know you are ovulating when you detect a higher temperature. To measure your basal temperature correctly, you need to do it every day before leaving your bed to face the day, and it is very useful to keep an ovulation chart, where you should mark the days and the temperature. With an ovulation calendar, you will be able to get a clear idea of how your cycles, and your body, work.
Finally, you can use CaptainMums’ Ovulation Calculator, a very simple tool, very effective for women with regular cycles. You just need to introduce the date of your last period and the number of days your period lasts, and the Ovulation Calculator will do the math for you!
Finding out when you're ovulating can be challenging sometimes though, like when a woman has irregular periods.
Other ovulation fun (and not so fun) facts
Here you have a list of facts that may interest you, especially if you are trying to get pregnant. First things first! Before you become a super mummy, you must become an expert in ovulation first, and pregnancy second!
- A woman’s fertile life starts with her first menstruation – typically, from ages 11 to 15 (although it can also happen before or after that). However, did you know that you are hosting millions of immature eggs from the moment you are born? That’s right! Ovulation happens when the ovary releases a mature egg, but those little guys were already there, waiting for their moment of glory!
- This may not come as a surprise, but ovulation, same as menstruation, can be affected by diseases or even stress – which is why obsessing about getting pregnant never makes it easier!
- Even if ovulation and your period usually come together (not at the same time, but when one comes so does the other) it is not always like this. Our reproductive system can fail sometimes even without there being a problem, so you could have your period without a previous ovulation or you could ovulate and then not have your period.
- Usually, the ovary releases only one egg! You can see how getting pregnant is not as easy as it may seem, then. However, if you have sex during your fertile window, there are 20% chances of succeeding in getting pregnant, that if there are no infertility problems in the couple. Around 85% of fertile couples manage to conceive within the first year they try.
Well, now you have all the tools you need to master ovulation. So, if you want to have a baby, your plan should be clear: find out when your fertility window will be open, and have plenty of sex during those days!