What Is Ovulation?
It is a fact that the reproductive system of females is a complex one, involving the two ovaries and the uterus which is the core of all reproductive activities. For reproduction to happen it is important that the system follows regular monthly routine of the ovulation cycle.
A female’s ovary contains millions of follicles that mature one after another into eggs throughout the life of that person. Every month, some of these follicles are triggered by a follicle stimulating hormone and one egg, the dominant one, matures, which means that it becomes ready for fertilization.
As it matures, the tubes that connect the ovaries and the uterus, called Fallopian tubes, transport this mature egg to the headquarters, the uterus. The uterus, by then, would have geared up to receive the egg by thickening the lining of the uterus with a wall of blood, aided by the hormone progesterone. This is to keep the egg healthy as long as it is in the uterus. The egg remains alive for up to 24 hours after leaving its place of birth, the ovary. In most cases, only one egg is released during each cycle.
Also See: Causes of Breast Pain Before Periods
If the act of conception happens during the time the egg is in the uterus, the egg gets fertilized and the process of pregnancy begins. However, if conception does not happen during the 24 hours the egg is in the uterus, then the egg dies a natural death and it crumbles into tiny pieces and is absorbed into the uterine wall. This uterine wall is then shed along with the disintegrated egg and that process is known as menstruation.
In most cases, the monthly cycle of a woman is calculated from the first day of her menstrual period up until the day of next period and it is usually a gap of anywhere between 28 to 32 days. However, this gap may vary greatly from individual to individual. Now when does ovulation happen? Well, it happens almost midway between two menstrual cycles, if the cycles are regular and have the usual 28-32 days gap. This ovulation time is also called the fertile time as chances of conception are very high during this phase. The 12th to the 16th day in between cycles would be when ovulation mostly happens.
However, there are many factors that affect the menstrual cycle of a woman. Many women complain of irregular menstrual cycles and blame it on their lifestyles. Nevertheless, it must be noted that what is affected by the lifestyle, stress, sickness, change in eating habits and any deviation from normal routine, is not the menstrual cycle but the ovulation. The day of ovulation could vary and this causes the menstrual cycle to vary greatly too.
It is important that a woman understands her body and her cycles, if she wants to conceive, since ovulation is the key to unlock the door to pregnancy and motherhood. Any irregularities can be treated with the help of medical science early on and thus prepare the way for a healthy reproductive system.
Signs and Symptoms of Ovulation
Ovulation is the process when an egg is released into the Fallopian tube by the follicle. The egg released is mature and ready for fertilization. If the egg is not fertilized, it disintegrates and results in the beginning of menses. This process is a regular one. It repeats it self usually on the fourteenth day of the cycle.
- Ovulation symptoms are accompanied by many conditions such as changes in the basal body temperature. During ovulation, the basal body temperature is increased. Basal body thermometer should be used to check the body’s temperature just after getting up in the morning.
- Just after ovulation, there is an increase of 0.2 degree centigrade in the body basal temperature. The days of the ovulation will ultimately consequent in a slight change and increase in temperature but in the progressive days, the temperature will continue to rise. The temperatures on the days after ovulation remain this high till menses. After that the temperature drops quite sharply and a new cycle begins.
- Ovulation symptoms are also identified by the release of the cervical mucous. The cervical mucous undergoes a number of changes during the menstrual cycle. The cervical mucous main purpose is to serve as the sustainability ground for the sperm. It is also the mode of transport of the sperm. Thus at the time of ovulation, there will be an increase in the quantity and texture of mucous released.
- The mucous should become more elastic, slippery and clear. Prior to ovulation, the cervical fluid will increase greatly. This cervical mucous will be semi transparent and slippery it will have the same constitution as that of a raw egg white. Ovulation takes place about this time. Generally as the ovulation stage draws near the color of the cervical mucous changes from white yellow to cloudy.
- The size and shape of the cervix also undergoes change with respect to ovulation. During the first half of the cycle, the cervix will be firm and dry to touch. It would be low and easy to reach. During this time, the entrance of the cervix will feel like it’s all closed up. Before ovulation though the texture of the cervix changes, it becomes soft and moist.
- The entrance of the cervix will feel open. When ovulation will be at its peak, it is then that the cervix will reach to its maximum position and it would be very hard to reach with your fingers.
- One of the most common ovulation symptoms is the lower abdomen pain. About every one of five women feel this pain. This pain is caused due to ovulation. Its intensity varies from being extremely mild to sharp pangs of pain. This pain has no definite time span. It can last for just a second and go on for a few hours. The location of this pain is the right side of the lower abdomen.
- Some other less common symptoms of ovulation include breasts going tender during ovulation. Increased libido size is also one of the uncommon ovulation symptoms amongst women.
Understanding Ovulation Cycles / Period
The ovulation cycle refers to the menstrual cycle. It symbolizes the fertility of a woman. This cycle starts at the beginning of the teenage years mostly. The ovulation cycle is under the control of the endocrine system. It is necessary for reproductions. It is counted from the first day of menstrual bleeding and is divided into three stages.
- The first stage of ovulation cycle is the follicular phase. It is also known as the proliferative phase since the uterus proliferates due to the release of estrogen. In the follicular phase the body secretes estrogen. Estrogen thickens the wall of the uterus.
- The hormone follicle stimulating hormone is secreted during the first few days of the cycle, this hormone stimulates the ovarian follicles. These follicles are present in females since birth. During the years before the menses, these follicles are in a fierce competition with each other for complete domination.
- Due to the effect of certain hormones only one of the ovarian follicles will be allowed to dominate and grow to maturity. This follicle is known as the graffian or tertiary follicle. This follicle forms the ovum.
- As the follicle grows, they secrete increased amount of estrogen. The estrogen initiates the formation of the layer called endometrium in the uterus. This hormone also stimulates the production of the cervical mucous in the cervix.
- The second stage of the ovulation cycle is the ovulation phase. During this phase, the hormone LH is released around the twelfth day and it keeps on increasing in the system for the next forty eight hours. This hormone takes the egg to maturity. It also causes the weakening of the follicle walls in the ovary.
- This results in the egg being released by the matured follicle. The egg is then known as the secondary oocyte. The secondary oocyte matures into an ootid and then matures into an ovum. The mature ovum nears a diameter of 0.2mm. The ovary that the ovum ends up in is purely by chance, there is no fix co ordinate system navigating the ovum into the ovaries.
- Sometimes two ovums are released and thus both ovaries are then filled by an ovum. If in that case both ovaries are matured the result would be fraternal twins. Once the egg leaves the ovary it is taken by fimbria (present at the end of Fallopian tube) into the Fallopian tube. If the egg is not fertilized in a day the egg will disintegrate and dissolve into the Fallopian tube.
- The third phase is the Luteal phase. It is also known as the secretory phase. In this phase a major role is played by the corpus luteum. This is a solid body formed by the Fallopian tube when an egg is released from it. This body continues to grow after the egg is ejected. It is this body that forms progesterone.
- Progesterone prepares the uterus for an implantation of a zygote. It also causes the woman’s body temperature to rise. After ovulation, the FSH and LH cause the remaining Fallopian tube to disintegrate and become a part of the corpus luteum. With increased progesterone level there is increased estrogen level too.
- The hormones produced by corpus luteum block the production of FSH and LH. These hormones are needed by the corpus luteum to maintain itself. Once the progesterone level falls, the corpus luteum breaks down and menstruation is triggered.
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