Unless you’ve been doing your research prior to trying for a baby, you might be a little confused about ovulation. After all, as teenagers we are generally only taught about the period part of our monthly cycle; when it is likely to happen, the bodily changes we might notice, how to handle it and what you need to be aware of in this new stage of life.
What they don't often cover in health class, however, is the ovulation part of the cycle. Every girl who experiences menstruation is also ovulating each month, but without the big red sign to tell you it's happening (otherwise known as blood), you may never even be aware of it.
What is ovulation?
Ovulation is part of your menstrual cycle and occurs when an egg is released from your ovary. It’s around the time of the month when a woman is most fertile, and therefore most likely to get pregnant. This isn’t always guaranteed, however, as it depends entirely on the fertilisation of the egg.
When does it happen?
Every woman’s body is different, and timing varies for everyone just as it does with monthly periods, but typically ovulation will occur around day 14 of a 28-day cycle. This means that as a rough rule, it’s probably happening either four days before or four days after the middle point in your cycle. While you may never have had a reason to think about this before, knowing more about ovulation and when it is happening in your body can help you either achieve or prevent pregnancy.
How do you know it's happening?
Many women don’t have a clue that they’re ovulating, which is why people who are trying to get pregnant often use ovulation sticks or strips (similar to pregnancy tests) to find out the best time to try.
The basal body temperature (BBT) experiences fluctuations
Cervical discharge appears clearer with a consistency similar to egg whites
Mild cramps or even slight pains occur in the lower abdomen
An increase in sex drive
Light spotting when it is not your period
Slight swelling of the vagina
The signs that you’re ovulating can vary so much from woman to woman, so it is often hard to pinpoint the exact time this takes place in your cycle, though not impossible.
What is happening to your body pre-ovulation?
If we count day 1 of the menstrual cycle as the day you first start to bleed, the average woman bleeds for three to five days - though remember everyone is different, so if you bleed for longer this doesn’t mean there is anything wrong. Continuing with this timescale, around day 7 of the cycle your hormones have begun to kick in, in order to prepare your ovaries to release an egg.
From around days 7 to 11, the lining of the uterus thickens in preparation for an egg to potentially latch on. It is during this time that you may notice an increase in discharge, and possibly a change in its consistency.
After roughly day 11 in the cycle, the luteinising hormone signals the egg to be released from the ovary and begin its descent into the fallopian tube, all the way to the uterus. For those trying to get pregnant, this is when things get interesting.
At around day 14, when the egg has been released, is the phase known as ovulation.
What is happening to your body post-ovulation?
The post-ovulation phase is also known as the luteal phase, and this is when the aforementioned subtle change in body temperature occurs. After ovulation, and if the egg has been fertilised by a sperm, then the egg implants in the uterus, and pregnancy begins.
If the egg is not fertilised then it will essentially “expire” in around 24 hours. When this happens, certain hormone levels will start to decrease, which means the lining of the uterus begins to break down and shed.
This is where the blood comes from when you have your period, and this brings you back to day 1 of the cycle.
Remember, just as periods are unpredictable from woman to woman, everyone is different when it comes to the timing and signs of ovulation. If you want to find out more about your own ovulation phase and menstrual cycle, it is a good idea to keep a cycle diary in order to plan ahead and monitor changes in your body and mood.
Keep the conversation going over on Instagram! @itsyoppie