What is ovulation?
A woman’s complete menstrual cycle is usually 24 to 37 days long, although some women may have somewhat shorter or longer cycles.
Ovulation is your fertile phase of each month. During this phase, your ovaries (a woman’s reproductive organs) release an egg (ovum). The likelihood of conceiving is at the maximum during this period. A woman’s ovary releases an egg (ovulate) only once during menses; therefore, if you are planning to get pregnant or want to avoid it, tracking your period (menses) and finding out when your ovaries are releasing eggs is very essential.
How long does ovulation last each month?
Ovulation takes place only once a month and the ovum stays alive for 12 to 24 hours.
Your ovaries release one mature egg any time from day 7 to 21 of your cycle depending on the length of your cycle. This is called the ovulation phase. The released egg is picked by the uterine tube (fallopian tube). If you have sex during this time, there is a higher chance that the egg may get fertilized by the sperm (semen) here and travel down to the womb and you may get pregnant. Hence, these are your best days to get pregnant.
Very rarely, a second egg may be released within 24 hours from when the first egg was released from the ovaries.
For some women, it is difficult to determine exactly when they will release eggs (ovulate) because of irregular periods or various other factors. Many factors such as hormonal problems may contribute to an inability to release the egg. If you are breastfeeding a baby, there are very few chances for you to get pregnant.
What are the natural signs and symptoms you observe during ovulation?
There are three main signs you may see during your ovulation/fertile period
- Cervical mucus: You may feel wet in this phase. A fluid of varied consistency comes out of the cervix. It becomes slippery and stretchy and has the consistency of a raw egg white. This is due to the changes in your hormones. This fluid allows the sperm (semen) to travel and live in the woman’s system for three to five days. The changes in the cervical mucus can be seen at the beginning and end of your fertile days.
- Basal body temperature: You may experience a slight increase in body temperature during your ovulation (fertile) days. The temperature readings can be used to determine the timing of egg release and your fertile days.
- Mittelschmerz: Some women may have cramps on the side from where the egg is released. Some may even have some spotting when they ovulate.
You can identify your early nonfertile, fertile and late fertile phase of your cycle by observing, recording and interpreting the aforementioned three signs. However, you should not use these signs to determine the exact day of release of an egg.
Women usually do not release an egg and are not able to conceive during the breastfeeding period (time) and after delivery if they do not have menses (most likely for six months). However, this may not be always true.
How can you track your ovulation?
Tracking and knowing when you are releasing eggs (the fertile window) will help you to know the best timing/days of the months to have sex with your partner and get pregnant. There are certain methods such as
- Ovulation calendar: Writing down when your period starts each month and how long it lasts may help you to determine your fertile days.
- Ovulation predictor kits: The World Health Organization recommends home-based ovulation predictor kits to increase your chances of getting pregnant. It is a urine test kit that checks your luteinizing hormone (LH).
- Devices and apps: There are popular devices and apps available to assist you to monitor your menses, predict the release of the egg, the best time to conceive and your next menses. However, this may be inaccurate because every woman has varied natural signs of the fertile period.
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