Ovulation is when a mature egg is released from the ovary and is available to be fertilised. The egg lives in an ovarian follicle until it is released. At the moment of ovulation, the follicle bursts open and the egg is ejected into the abdominal cavity. The egg is then transported to the entrance of the Fallopian tube, where muscle contractions push the egg towards the uterus.
To get pregnant, the egg must meet sperm on its journey through the Fallopian tube for fertilisation to happen. That’s why it is crucial for all trying-to-conceive couples that they know when ovulation takes place. Pregnancy is technically only possible during the days surrounding ovulation. As ovulation is part of the menstrual cycle, we will begin by explaining how the menstrual cycle works.
Ovulation and menstrual cycle
After ovulation has occurred, the mature egg is transported to the uterus. This usually happens half way through the menstrual cycle. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long, running from the first day of your last period through to the first day of your next period. So if your average menstrual cycle is 28 days, you ovulate around day 14. This moment heralds the second phase of your menstrual cycle. During the first phase, the egg matures and the uterine lining thickens.
During the second phase, the uterine lining develops to the thickness required for the fertilised egg to implant.
When is the best time to get pregnant?
Any eggs that are released live no longer than 12 hours. Sperm cells can live inside the female body for three to five days. Therefore, the best time to conceive is during the three days leading up to and including ovulation. So if you have 28 days between periods, ovulation typically happens on day 14, and the most fertile days are between day 11 and 14. This means that if you have sex on these days and your egg meets a sperm cell, it may be fertilised and grow into a baby in the uterus. This can only happen if the fertilised egg implants properly.
Usually one egg is released each menstrual cycle and one egg ripens in one of two ovaries every month.
How to know when you are ovulating
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- Some women can feel ovulation symptoms when they occur. Some women feel ovulation as a stinging pain in the abdominal area which lasts for a few hours.
- Vaginal discharge often has a white or cloudy appearance. Once ovulation occurs, this mucus becomes thinner, clearer and more slippery.
- With an ovulation test, you can detect the presence of luteinising hormone (LH) in urine. LH increases dramatically two days before ovulation (around day 12/13) and stimulates ovulation, which is usually 10 to 12 hours after the surge begins. An ovulation test will tell you when your fertile window is open.
- Predict ovulation by charting your temperature. Another way to get in tune with your ovulation cycle is to chart your basal body temperature (BBT). When ovulation occurs, your body temperature increases slightly by about 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit or 0.3 degrees Celsius.
- If you have a regular cycle, you can also try calculating your ovulation date yourself.
Last updated on October 12, 2016.
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