A lot of women want to know what is ovulation and how it is linked to fertility and menstruation? To understand what is ovulation, it is imperative to explain that ovulation is an important, biological part of the menstrual cycle in females where a mature ovarian follicle releases an egg. In this process, the released egg travels down the fallopian tube where it may meet a sperm and gets fertilised.
What is Ovulation’s relation with hormones?
Ovulation process is controlled and run by a specific part of the brain which is called the hypothalamus. Hypothalamus gives signals which command the anterior lobe and pituitary gland to secrete a hormone called luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
The ovulation cycle mostly occurs between the 10th and the 19th day of the menstrual cycle of a female. This is the time when a woman is most fertile. It is important to know what is ovulation and how it is related to hormones for natural conception.
Ovulation & Fertility
Many people are doubtful about what is ovulation and what has got to do with fertility? A lot of people are not clear about what is ovulation and hence believe that a female can conceive on any day of a given month. There is another school of thought that believe in the opposite- that a female is most fertile on the exact same day of the ovulation. None of these clearly indicate what is ovulation and therefore both these theories are wrong. Every female has a ‘fertile-window’ of six days- five days prior to ovulation, through the day of ovulation. In these six days, the ideal time to conceive or the most fertile time is two or three days before the ovulation and the ovulation day. This clearly explains what is ovulation and how it is related to fertility.
Phases of Ovulation
Now that we have understood what is ovulation and how it is related to fertility, let us try to understand different phases of ovulation. This entire process can be divided into three phases. Understanding these phases will make us understand what is ovulation:
- Follicular phase or the Periovulatory phase – In this phase, a layer of cells around the ovum becomes more mucus-like. These cells expand, thereby thickening the uterus lining. Activated by the hypothalamus, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is released by the pituitary gland.
- Ovulation phase or the Ovulatory phase – To understand what is ovulation, it is important to understand what is ovulation phase. In this phase, enzymes are secreted and make a stigma (or hole) which is used by the ovum and its network of cells to mark an exit from the follicle and finally enter the fallopian tube. This is the known as the period of fertility. On an average, this period lasts from 24 to 48 hours. If the fertilized egg does not meet the sperm during these 24 hours, it dies its natural death.
- Luteal phase or Postovulatory phase – In this phase, though the egg is burst from the follicle, the ruptured follicle continues to stay on the surface of the ovary. In the next few weeks, the follicle changes into a structure, which is known as corpus luteum. This structure, corpus luteum, start releasing progesterone hormone, along with some amount of estrogen hormone. This union of the two hormones- progesterone and estrogen, helps in maintaining a thick lining of the uterus.
In this phase, a hormone known as the luteinizing hormone (LH) is secreted. If the egg gets fertilised by the sperm, it is implanted into the womb and makes the hormones which are vital in maintaining the corpus luteum. In the other case, where fertilisation does not take place, the unfertilized egg eventually stops processing hormones.
These three phases clearly explain what is ovulation and what happens in a female’s body during ovulation.
When does Ovulation happen?
One of the most misunderstood things about ovulation cycle is that many people think that if a woman is menstruating, she is ovulating. Since a lot of women do not know what is ovulation, they are confused between what is ovulation and what is menstruation. It is therefore, very important to know what is ovulation and what is menstruation. Once a person understands what is ovulation, he/she would know that if a woman is menstruating, she might not be ovulating.
To understand the difference between menstruation and ovulation, it is important to know what is ovulation and what is the difference between ovulatory cycle and menstrual cycle. Usually, a women’s menstrual cycle continues between 28 to 32 days. The beginning of each menstrual cycle is considered to the start of her menstrual period. Usually ovulation takes place between the 10th and 19th day of the menstrual cycle. It can also be calculated as 12 to 16 days prior to the next due period.
Signs and symptoms of Ovulation
We now know what is ovulation and difference between ovulation and menstruation. Let’s try to understand the signs of ovulation. Ovulation can be detected by many signs. But since these signs are not easily perceptible by people other than the female who is undergoing ovulation, human beings are said to be having concealed ovulation. Having said that, in some animal species there are some distinct signs signaling the period when the female is fertile or is ovulating. Many times, a woman does not understand what is ovulation, or that she is ovulating. So, she misses on the signs of ovulation. If a woman understands what is ovulation, she would be able to understand the signs of ovulation.
Below mentioned are some of the signs that make a woman understand what is ovulation and its signs:
- Changes in the cervix. During this period, the body realizes what is ovulation. Cervix becomes soft and open up.
- Change in the mucus produced by the cervix. As a woman reaches her ovulation time, her body starts understanding what is ovulation and starts producing more estrogen, which makes the cervical mucus clear and stretchy, like an egg white. It helps the sperm to swim and reach the egg that was released during ovulation.
- Change in the basal body temperature. Basal body temperature is the lowest body temperature observed during rest/sleep period. The body at this period gauges what is ovulation and increases body temperature by 0.4 to 1.0 degree. This is because of the progesterone hormone secreted when the egg is released. It is said that women are most fertile during those two-three days before the basal body temperature reaches its maximum.
- Mittelschmerz (pain related to ovulation)
- Increased sense of smell – For a lot of women, an increased sense of smell in the latter part of the menstruation cycle is a sign of ovulation. The woman’s body in this fertile phase understands what is ovulation and is attracted to the male pheromone androstenone.
- Sensing the exact moment of ovulation. Females who understand what is ovulation can sense the exact moment of ovulation.
- Little cramping or pain on either side of the pelvis – The pain experienced by a woman during ovulation can last between few minutes to few hours.
- Tenderness in the breast. This is because of the elevated hormone levels before and after ovulation.
- Abdominal bloating
- Light bleeding or spotting – Many women notice light bleeding or spotting during ovulation process. It is important for a woman to know what is ovulation and what is menstruation to figure out the difference between periods and light spotting.
A lot of women do not understand what is ovulation and its signs or symptoms. But that should not be a cause of worry. You need not lose sleep over the fact that you do not know what is ovulation or notice any ovulation signs.
What is Ovulation Disorder
It is important to know what is ovulation. It is also important to know what is ovulation disorder and how can it cause trouble, specially related to infertility. Though there are numerous reasons that affect a female’s infertility; inability to ovulate is one of these. So, what is ovulation disorder? Ovulation disorders include the following:
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) – A woman suffers many symptoms due to hormonal imbalances and changes. Such imbalances result in changes in ovulation, insulin resistance, abnormal hair growth and obesity. PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility in women.
- Hypothalamic Dysfunction – This condition is mostly seen in women who face irregular menstruation or amenorrhea, which means no menses.
- Premature Ovarian Insufficiency – This condition causes premature cessation of the production of eggs. This is caused by many factors, including, autoimmune diseases, environmental toxins and genetic abnormalities. Women who suffer from premature ovarian insufficiency are generally under the age of 40. They experience a slowdown on their estrogen hormone levels.
This gives us a clear answer of what is ovulation disorder.
What is Ovulation Induction?
Before knowing what is ovulation induction, it is important to learn that ovulation should be induced only with consultation with doctor. Ovulation can be induced with the use of medication/fertility drugs. These medications/fertility drugs can regulate, trigger or induce ovulation. It is important to have a consultation with doctor/gynaecologist if one notices any change in the ovulation pattern or suffer from ovulatory dysfunction.