Understanding everything about ovulation
Ovulation is at the heart of the menstrual cycle. Unlike periods, it is the invisible part of the menstrual cycle and yet it is entirely organized around it. It is ovulation that the cycle prepares, the egg that the cycle expels, the egg that turns into an embryo in the event of fertilization. This is why it is essential to understand everything about your ovulation . In this article we see together what ovulation is, its three stages, the hormones involved in ovulation, the days and symptoms related to ovulation. Great discovery.
Quick reminder: what is ovulation?
Ovulation is the natural process by which a mature egg is released from one of the ovaries of a woman of childbearing age. It is the sine qua none condition for fertilization and pregnancy of natural origin.
Ovulation is a crucial stage in the female menstrual cycle and the reproductive process : in fact, it is around ovulation that the entire menstrual cycle is organized. The luteal phase corresponds to the phase during which the egg matures, while the ovulatory phase corresponds to the moment when the egg is released and travels through the fallopian tubes towards the uterus. The fertilization of the egg is at the origin of the pregnancy and the birth of a new little human being.
As we begin this article on ovulation, it seems important to us to make a disclaimer: ovulation is not always regular in all menstruating people. It can indeed be influenced by various factors, including stress, illness, hormonal fluctuations and other external factors. This is why tracking the menstrual cycle and signs of ovulation may be necessary for women who want to make sure everything is going well and conceive a child.
Ovulation happens in 3 stages
Ovulation is a process that happens in three distinct stages. The menstrual cycle revolves around the latter.
1. Follicular maturation
The first stage of ovulation in menstruating people corresponds to follicular maturation – this stage corresponds to the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. This is the time when eggs grow within the ovarian follicles. One of them is selected as the dominant ovarian follicle and continues to grow until it matures. This stage has a very variable duration: it can last between 7 and 20 days, depending on the total duration of the menstrual cycle.
For the menstruating person, the external symptoms of this stage of follicular maturation are generally a certain peace of mind brought by the gradual rise of sexual hormones (which we will review a little further down). This stage can also be accompanied by thick, sticky and dry white discharge.
2. The release of the oocyte
The second stage of ovulation corresponds to the release of the oocyte. Once it has matured, the egg is released by the ovarian follicle that saw it grow. This stage corresponds to the ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle and lasts approximately 1 day.
For the menstruating person, the external symptoms of the release of ovulation are of different natures. Some women report menstrual pain in the lower abdomen, which is quite mild and similar to a pinch. Others have chest pain, with breasts that seem to swell and hurt (in some cases, the pain may persist until their period). Others, finally, may observe translucent and liquid white discharge, like egg white – their objective is to promote the movement of sperm to the released egg.
3. The lifespan of the oocyte
The third and final stage of ovulation corresponds to the period during which the egg is alive and fertilizable. This lasts between 24 and 48 hours. After its release, the egg travels through the fallopian tubes towards the uterus. The latter are an environment conducive to fertilization.
For the menstruating person, there are no specific external symptoms linked to the movement of the egg in the fallopian tubes, except the white discharge which continues to be translucent and slippery to promote fertilization.
Two situations are then possible: either the egg is fertilized by a sperm and in this case it attaches to the walls of the uterus covered with endometrium to begin its partition, or the egg is not fertilized and the body gets rid of it at the same time as the endometrium (it's menstruation and a new cycle begins).
Hormones involved in ovulation
As with the menstrual cycle, it is the female sex hormones that orchestrate ovulation in people who menstruate. The sex hormones involved in ovulation are thus the same as the sex hormones involved in the menstrual cycle.
Luteinizing hormone (LH)
Luteinizing hormone (LH) is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland in the brain. It is responsible for triggering ovulation , the process where a mature egg is released from the ovary: the level of LH gradually increases in the body of women during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle and when it reaches its peak, it causes the ovulation.
This is why ovulation tests measure luteinizing hormone levels to monitor the ovulation process. In this sense, luteinizing hormone also has a medical role.
Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
Like LH, follicle-stimulating hormone (also called FSH) is produced by the pituitary gland, a gland in the brain. This hormone is involved in the development and maturation of ovarian follicles, which contain the eggs. During the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle, FSH stimulates the growth of ovarian follicles. It then helps select the dominant follicle that will reach full maturation and release an egg during ovulation. The other follicles regress.
Like LH, FSH also has a medical role. It is measured as part of tests to check the proper functioning of ovulation, particularly in the context of short menstrual cycles or long menstrual cycles.
Estrogens are a group of steroid hormones. They are produced primarily by the ovaries, although small amounts of estrogen are additionally secreted by the adrenal glands and fat cells. While they have many functions, as part of ovulation, they are responsible for the maturation of ovarian follicles and play a key role in the release of the mature egg . Like LH, they gradually increase in the body during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle to reach a peak at the time of ovulation.
What about progesterone?
Progesterone is a steroid hormone essential in the menstrual cycle and in preparing the uterus for possible pregnancy. However, it has no role in ovulation since it occurs after the latter: in fact, it is produced by the corpus luteum which appears in the ovarian follicle after release of the mature egg.
What is the ovulation period? When am I most fertile?
In most menstruating people, the time of ovulation corresponds to the ovulatory phase at the end of the luteal period . In a 28-day cycle, it occurs after 14 days but this duration varies extremely from one woman to another, or even from one cycle to another. Generally speaking, regardless of the length of your cycle, your ovulation period occurs 14 days before the first day of your period . You can use a period tracker app to get a clearer idea of your ovulation period.
The time when you are most fertile is also called the fertile window. If you're not looking to get pregnant, these are the most dangerous days of your cycle when it comes to fertility. To calculate this fertility window, we take into account the lifespan of sperm which exceeds 72 hours in the favorable environment of women's reproductive organs. We therefore estimate that the fertility window lasts 5 days : 3 days before ovulation then the two days of life of the egg.
How do I know if I'm ovulating, what are the signs?
As a menstruating person, it is interesting to know your ovulation period to better understand your body and the symptoms you experience and, why not, with a view to a baby plan. To observe it, there are some physical signs but you can also use different tools.
Observe the 4 signs that you are ovulating
The first way to know that you are ovulating is to observe four physical signs that can help you spot that you are ovulating.
- Basal temperature which varies: the body temperature of menstruating people changes throughout the menstrual cycle. Just before the ovulation period, the temperature drops and then rises above 37°C during the luteal phase. If you are particularly sensitive, you may feel this variation in body temperature or experience night sweats;
- Mild menstrual pain (pinching): some women report a slight pinch in the lower abdomen at the ovary, where the egg is released, at the time of ovulation;
- Chest pain (feeling of swelling): Menstruating people with tenderness in the chest area may feel pain around the time of ovulation. These can continue until the next menstruation is due, 14 days later;
- Translucent cervical mucus, similar to egg white: the white discharge changes texture and color when ovulation occurs. They become more viscous and translucent. Slippery, they promote the movement of sperm in the genitals.
4 Tools to Help You Know You're Ovulating
Each menstruating person experiences the above symptoms differently: don't feel guilty if you don't feel them! It's totally possible that you don't have any of these signs and that in no way means that you aren't listening to your body. If you have any doubts about whether you are ovulating, here are four distinct tools to help you spot your ovulation:
- Calculate your ovulation: the first tool to better understand your ovulation is to take the time to calculate your ovulation based on the length of your menstrual cycle. This is a first step that can help you better monitor your ovulation.
- Take your basal temperature: feeling variations in body temperature is not easy. 🌈 In our store you will find a basal thermometer to measure your temperature and track your basal temperature. It is recommended to take your temperature 5 times a week to have a good overview of your temperature variations. You will find everything you need to know about basal temperature in our dedicated article.
- Do an ovulation test: ovulation is generated by a surge of the hormone LH in the body. Monitoring variations in this hormone through an ovulation test is a good solution to knowing your ovulation day as part of a baby project. These tests detect the hormone LH in urine and are therefore used as a pregnancy test.
- Use a menstrual cycle tracking application: it's difficult to have a clear idea of the length of your cycle and the occurrence of ovulation, even if the latter is regular. Menstrual cycle tracking apps learn your cycle based on the information you give them monthly and tell you your most likely ovulation day based on the length of your cycle. Discover our comparative article of the different menstrual cycle tracking applications that exist. Please note: if your cycle is very irregular, it may be difficult to anticipate your ovulation using the applications and it will be more interesting to use the physical signs and tools mentioned above.
🌈 In our store, find all the products on our site to follow the cycles and support the symptoms of ovulation .
Factors that can influence ovulation
Like the menstrual cycle which is particularly sensitive to many factors, the smooth running of ovulation can be influenced by different factors (natural, illnesses and lifestyle).
The process of ovulation can naturally vary. This is due to genetics and therefore heredity, but also to the different periods of women's lives.
Heredity and genetics play a large part in the menstrual cycle and the regularity of ovulation. If the women in your family have irregular ovulation, it's possible that you do too. If you are comfortable with these questions in your family, you can talk to them about it. This will help you understand your body better.
Age plays a major role in the regularity of ovulation. Teenage girls who have just started their periods and women who are pre-menopausal may have irregular cycles and sometimes not ovulate at all.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Pregnancy is most often the cause of the cessation of the menstrual cycle and ovulation. The body focuses on the growth of the embryo and then the fetus. In very rare cases (denial of pregnancy), ovulation continues during pregnancy. Breastfeeding is a more particular moment: many women see their ovulation stop during ovulation (in particular due to the presence of high doses of the hormone prolactin which stimulates the mammary glands). However, some women can regain ovulation and menstruation even while breastfeeding.
In addition to heredity, lifestyle factors can influence ovulation. This is for example the case of stress, high-intensity sport, weight or even exposure to endocrine disruptors.
Physical or emotional stress can disrupt the normal functioning of the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, which regulates the production of hormones involved in ovulation. The result is an action on the hormones which are essential in the precise organization of ovulation. Bereavement, moving, break-up, new encounter: if your ovulation undergoes changes during these periods of life, it may be totally normal!
Weight and nutrition
Body weight plays an important role in regulating ovulation. Women with a very low or very high body mass index (BMI) may have irregular menstrual cycles or lack of ovulation. Anorexia, bulimia and obesity can all affect the regularity of ovulation in their own way. Along the same lines, an inadequate or unbalanced diet can influence ovulation. A deficiency of essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals can disrupt the menstrual cycle.
High intensity sport
Intense and excessive exercise can lead to hormonal disruptions, which can then disrupt ovulation. Professional athletes or women practicing intensive training can sometimes experience irregular cycles or even amenorrhea (absence of ovulation and periods).
Exposure to Endocrine Disruptors
Certain chemicals found in the environment, such as phthalates and bisphenols, can act as endocrine disruptors and affect the hormones responsible for ovulation. This is why it is recommended to limit as much as possible the compounds recognized as endocrine disruptors.
As we explained earlier in this article, ovulation is closely linked to female sex hormones. When these are disrupted (for different causes), ovulation can suffer.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder. It is quite common among menstruating people of childbearing age since 1 in 10 women suffer from it. However, its symptoms are quite different from one person to another.
It is characterized by the presence of multiple cysts in the ovaries and can have other consequences of hormonal imbalances leading to irregular ovulation , acne, increased hair growth (hirsutism) and hair loss.
Prolactin is a hormone whose main role is to stimulate the mammary glands in order to induce lactation and enable breastfeeding following pregnancy. It slows down the menstrual cycle so as to naturally prevent the very young mother from becoming pregnant again. However, produced in too large quantities by the body outside of breastfeeding, it can cause irregularity in ovulation .
The thyroid is a gland located in the neck that produces hormones essential for regulating metabolism, growth and development. It also affects sexual hormones capable of causing ovulation. Hyperthyroidism can therefore result in ovulation not occurring correctly, or not occurring at all (this is called anovulation).
Hormonal treatments, particularly contraceptive treatments, can have the effect of stopping ovulation. This is also how they fulfill their role as a contraceptive. Please note, taking different medications can be the source of irregular ovulation (particularly due to the action on hormones): do not hesitate to seek the advice of your referring healthcare professional if in doubt.
Other health issues
Apart from hormonal imbalances, other health issues can have an impact on the smooth progress of ovulation. If you have any doubts about your ovulation and your health, do not hesitate to consult a doctor and talk with him.
Endometriosis is a disease that affects 10% of women. It corresponds to a dysfunction of the endometrium (uterine mucosa): the latter does not develop only in the uterus, but colonizes the exterior of the uterus to agglomerate in the organs all around, generating adhesions and lesions. If the disease is still poorly understood, the hypothesis is that inflammation of the peritoneum, the tube and the endometrium disrupt the maturation of the egg, ovulation and fertilization of the egg .
Fibroids are benign tumors that occur on the uterus and female genitalia. Uterine fibroids are common (one in five women suffer from them) and can cause infertility by notably affecting ovulation (as well as egg fertilization and embryo implantation). Several symptoms can lead you to the trail of these fibroids (bleeding, pelvic pain, etc.) which are detectable through medical imaging. Surgery is required to remove them.
Primary ovarian failure (POI)
Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) is also known as “premature menopause” or “premature ovarian failure”. It is a medical condition in which a woman's ovaries stop functioning normally before the age of 40. Ovulation no longer works well and more widely, this leads to a decrease in the production of estrogen, hormones responsible for the menstrual cycle, fertility and the maintenance of bone health.
The importance of tracking your ovulation
Understanding and tracking your ovulation is particularly important to know your body better, track your ovulation symptoms and to get pregnant.
To know your body
The first reason to learn about your ovulation and track it is to better understand what is happening in your body. As people who menstruate, we cannot ignore our menstrual cycle and its consequences on our body, our hormones, our well-being. Understanding our cycle and our ovulation means knowing our body better and making it our own.
To be aware of your symptoms
The second reason is that ovulation is accompanied, like periods, by different symptoms such as stomach and chest pain, vaginal discharge and so on. Being aware of these symptoms means knowing your body, on the one hand, but it is also being able to spot abnormal situations or to play down variable symptoms. It is also, with a view to a future baby project, developing the ability to identify ovulation.
To get pregnant
The third and final reason to track your ovulation is to increase your chances of getting pregnant if that is the plan. The fertile window in menstruating people lasts 5 days, including 2 days following ovulation. Identifying your ovulation or being able to follow your ovulation using different tools allows you to put all the chances on your side in the context of a conception project.
🌈 On our site, we offer a range of products selected for fertility .
⚡ Note: tracking your ovulation is a method of contraception which can only be sufficient in itself by being extremely rigorous . We recommend that you combine this method with another, more precise method.
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