By Yolanda Smith, BPharm
Ovulation is the phase in the female menstrual cycle when an egg, also known as an ovule or oocyte, is released from the ovaries after the follicle ruptures and allows it to pass through.
It occurs as a result of hormonal changes in the body and represents the most fertile period. If a woman engages is sexual intercourse in the days just before or during ovulation, she will be more likely to conceive.
It can be useful for women to be able to recognize the signs of when they are ovulating, so that they can time engagement in sexual activities to meet her desired outcomes.
Female Menstrual Cycle
The beginning of the menstrual cycle is called to follicular stage. In this period, the follicles in the ovaries mature and prepare for ovulation. The egg becomes surrounded by a protective matrix of cells that are need for it to later become fertilized.
Ovulation usually occurs in the middle of the menstrual cycle, although the exact time for it to occur varies greatly from woman to woman. On average, it is 14.6 days after the first day of menstruation and the vast majority of women ovulate between 8 and 21 days after the first day of the cycle. This involves the rupture of the follicle allowing the egg to begin travelling down the fallopian tubes to the uterus.
The luteal phase follows ovulation, which is the period during which the egg may be fertilized by any sperm present. The lining of the uterus, the endometrium, also becomes thicker during this time in preparation for a fertilized egg. If conception does not occur, this lining is no longer needed and it is shed during the process known as menstruation, signaling the initiation of the follicular phase.
The hypothalamus in the brain is responsible for regulating the hormonal changes that precipitate the release of the egg to be fertilized. The anterior lobe of the pituitary gland secretes luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH).
Before ovulation occurs, FSH stimulates cumulus expansion, which is a series of transformations involving follicular waves. A hole known as a stigma then forms in the follicle and the egg will be released from the follicle through this, which is triggered by a spike in both FSH and LH.
The days surrounding ovulation are known to be the most fertile period when the woman is most likely to conceive. Although there is great variance between women, from day 10 to 18 in a standard 28-day cycle is approximately when the fertile period is considered to be.
Many women are able to feel when they are close to ovulation by monitoring bodily signs. This can help to determine when they are most fertile and likely to conceive.
The following are some of the signs that may help women to recognize when they are ovulating:
- Discharge Changes – the mucus produced in the cervix changes during ovulation, which may be evident in the vaginal discharge.
- Body Temperature – average body temperature drops slightly just before ovulation and then increases for the remaining of the luteal phase.
- Mittelschmerz – this refers to abdominal pain in the region of the ovaries at the time of ovulation.
- Senses – many women experienced a heightened sense of smell during ovulation and may be able to sense the precise moment of ovulation.
- Libido – it is common to have a higher sexual in the days prior to ovulation. These signs are very useful and are able to help some women recognize the precise moment in which they ovulate.
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2015