What Is Ovulation?
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Ovulation is the time during a woman's menstrual cycle when one or more eggs are released from the ovaries into the fallopian tube. For most women, the menstrual cycle lasts approximately 28 to 30 days. Ovulation usually happens 10 to 16 days before the start of your next period. For those who do not have a regular cycle or those who have irregularities in their cycle from time to time, ovulation can occur a week earlier or later from one month to the next, it is possible to to track ovulation.
Why ovulation is important for pregnancy
Normally your cervix (the neck of your uterus) produces thick mucus that sperm cannot penetrate. Just before ovulation, oestrogen changes the mucus so that it becomes thin, clear and stretchy. This allows the sperm to swim through the cervix into the uterus and up to the fallopian tubes where fertilisation may take place.
The best or most fertile time of your cycle is the period of ovulation. To become pregnant naturally, one of your eggs has to meet your partner's sperm in the fallopian tube. Your egg survives no more than 24 hours after you have ovulated. However, sperm can survive for up to seven days and will happily live in your vagina, uterus or fallopian tubes for this length of time. This means that you don't have to time sex to the exact moment you ovulate in order for you to fall pregnant. You actually have a fertile window of about six days. This window includes the five days before and the day of ovulation itself. So, if you have sex during your fertile window, your freshly ovulated egg could meet live, healthy sperm and be fertilised.
The simplest way to work out your most fertile time is to make a note of the length of your menstrual cycle. (The length of your menstrual cycle is the number of days from the first day of menstruation to the day before the following menstrual period starts). Then count backwards 14 days from when your next period is supposed to start, and that is when you should be ovulating. For example, if you have a 'regular' 28-day menstrual cycle then your fertile window is likely to be around days 10 to 16.
You should also pay attention to your body and learn to spot the physical signs of ovulation.
Signs of ovulation
You may start to notice signs that you are fertile about five days before you ovulate. A reliable sign is an increase in vaginal discharge, which changes from white, creamy or non-existent to clear, stretchy and slippery when you ovulate.
Other physical or hormonal signs of ovulation may include the following:
- Mild abdominal pain.
- Feeling more emotional.
- Breast tenderness.
- Slightly increased body temperature.
- Increased sex drive.