Ovulation is the release of an egg from the ovary. A person can become pregnant in the days leading up to, and on the day of ovulation. If you’re trying to get pregnant, knowing your ovulation window is crucial, as this is your most fertile time.
The first step to discovering your most fertile time is understanding your cycle. Your hormones play an important role in the process. The menstrual cycle begins with a release of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), causing follicles to grow in the ovaries. An egg develops in the biggest follicle. This follicle begins to release estrogen as it grows. The release of estrogen causes the uterine lining to thicken, providing the best environment for a fertilized egg to implant and grow. The spike in estrogen then informs the brain to release luteinizing hormone (LH), which causes the egg to move from the ovary to the uterus. This process is called ovulation. A person can conceive during this time if an egg is released. All of these hormones come together each cycle to facilitate ovulation and best prepare the body for pregnancy. Your cycle provides a window into the behavior of these hormones, and how they are acting in your body.
Everyone’s cycle is unique. Some people have shorter cycles, which last around 21 days. These people will ovulate around day 7. Others have 27 or 28 day cycles, therefore ovulating around day 14. Some cycles are 33 days, meaning that they don’t ovulate until around day 19. Many people also have irregular cycles, meaning they ovulate at different times each month. The key to understanding when you ovulate, then, is getting to know your cycle as best as you can.
A surge in luteinizing hormone (LH) is the best way to know when you are about to ovulate. Ovulation is considered to occur 24-36 hours after the LH peak. The best way to know exactly when you ovulate is by using a reliable, quantitative ovulation test. When you can see your exact hormone levels, you can learn the nuances of your cycle and the details of your fertility profile.
Other signs that you are about to ovulate include egg-white-like cervical mucus, increased sex drive, higher basal body temperatures, breast tenderness, and lower abdomenal pain.
Things to keep in mind
While it’s important to have an idea of when you ovulate, pinpointing it exactly can be tricky. Many people may want to assume that their cycle is 28 days, and that they ovulate on day 14. While this is defined as “normal”, many people do not follow this pattern. Also, ovulation may not happen on the same day every month. During some cycles, ovulation may not occur. Ovulation can also be thrown off if you are sick, are extremely stressed, have a hormone imbalance, are taking certain medications, or are changing your normal routines.
How to confirm ovulation
While knowing when you ovulate is important, it is just as critical to know if you ovulate. For a multitude of reasons, LH may surge but no egg will be released. That’s why it’s important to also track a hormone called progesterone. This hormone peaks after you ovulate to help thicken the uterine lining and ensure the best environment for implantation. Progesterone is vital to track, because it will only surge if an egg was actually released. Tracking it is the only way to know if you actually ovulated that cycle. Learning about how these hormones are behaving in your body will provide you with the full picture of your fertile window.
The most important thing to remember is that everyone’s fertility journey looks different. This is because cycle lengths and ovulation patterns vary greatly from person to person. However, once you have an understanding of when, and if you’re ovulating, you’ll have the knowledge and the confidence to know what to do to reach your goals.
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