What is Ovulation?
Ovulation - the most fertile time during your menstrual cycle - is the moment a mature egg is released from the follicle of an ovary. Once released, the egg has a life span of about 24 hours. Conception is most likely to take place at this time - so precise ovulation prediction is key. Below you will find an FAQ of Ovulation Basics. Also see Understanding your Menstrual Cycle.
Frequently Asked Questions about Ovulation
When does ovulation take place?
Typically, ovulation takes place about 14 days after the beginning of a woman's menstrual cycle. There are different ways to calculate ovulation - and these methods are listed below. You can also maintain an ovulation calendar and calculate the time of ovulation within your cycle by subtracting the length of your luteal phase from the length of your cycle (see next question).
What is the Luteal Phase?
The Luteal Phase is the time period beginning with the day after ovulation and running through the remainder of your menstrual cycle (ending the day before your next period). Typically, the duration of the luteal phase phase lasts between 10 and 16 days and is generally consistent from cycle to cycle, averaging for most women at about 14 days. In the Trying to Conceive (TTC) Community, the luteal phase is also referred to as "DPO" - or days past ovulation.
At the onset of the luteal phase, body temperature increases (Basal Body Temperature) in order to provide a fertile environment for the egg. You can determine the general period of ovulation by subtracting the length of your luteal phase from the total length of your typical menstrual cycle. If your menstrual cycle is 28 days long (average length) and your luteal phase last 14 days (average length), then ovulation should occur on the 14th day of your cycle (28-14=14). Of course, ovulation patterns may be irregular for some women - or they may be disrupted by ill health, poor diet, or stress - so ovulation calculation can be augmented by other predictive methods.
When are my fertile days? Which days are "peak fertility" days?
"Peak fertility" is considered to be the day before and the day of ovulation. As the egg survives about 24 hours, conception must take place within this narrow window of opportunity. Your fertile period, more generally, begins about 5 days preceding ovulation (due to the fact that sperm can survive in your body several days) and lasts until 2 days after ovulation. Therefore, your "fertile period" - the period of time that intercourse can lead to conception - is around 7 days in duration.
What actually causes ovulation? And what is an LH-Surge?
By definition, ovulation is the process of an ovary releasing an egg from the follicle - permitting the egg to float down the fallopian tubes. Directly prior to ovulation, a dramatic hormonal change takes place - the LH Surge. LH (or Luteinizing Hormone) is the hormone that actually facilitates ovulation: it causes the egg to separate from the ovarian surface. Ovulation predictor tests function by detecting this LH Surge, thus alerting the woman that ovulation is imminent.
Can I feel Ovulation? What is Mittelschmerz?
German for "middle-pain", Mittelschmerz is a pain on one side located in the lower abdominal area. Mittelschmerz may occur before, during, or after ovulation and the pain may last, on average, from just a short time (a few seconds) to as long as an hour or two.
What are the most common ways to predict ovulation?
Predicting ovulation is key to successful conception. The four most common methods, listed below, are BBT Charting, maintaining an ovulation calendar, ovulation testing, and cervical mucus analysis:
Basal Body Temperature: The BBT method requires you to monitor your temperature every morning. Thermal changes are due to the increase of progesterone in your system. At the onset of ovulation, your body temperature will rise between 0.4°F and 0.8°F. The purpose of the temperature increase is to create a warmer, more fertile environment for the fertilized egg. This temperature increase will last from ovulation until your next period.
The Cervical Mucus Method: By examining changes in your cervical mucus - as well as the increase and decrease of mucus present - you can predict your fertility patterns and the general onset of ovulation. During menstruation, the presence of cervical fluid will be decreased. Prior to ovulation, cervical mucus will increase and become clear and slippery - indicating fertility.
The Calendar Method: The calendar method allows you to chart your fertility and recognize general patterns in fertile and infertile phases. The calendar method involves keeping a written record and helps you predict ovulation by understanding the history of your menstrual cycles.
Ovulation Tests - or Ovulation Predictor Kits - allow you to predict, with great accuracy, your most fertile time of the month by detecting your LH Surge - the hormone that facilitates ovulation.
What about irregularities in my cycle?
Clearly, the dynamics of the menstrual cycle differ greatly between women. Length and regularity of the cycle may vary - between women or for an individual woman over time. However, if your menstrual cycle occurs more frequently than every 21 days - or if your cycle is longer than 35 days, your cycle can be considered a bit irregular. If your cycle consistently lasts more than 45 days, you may want to talk to your doctor. An irregular cycle or missed period is not necessarily a sign of a medical issue. The menstrual cycle can be influence or disrupted by diet, stress, increase in physical activity, or illness. However, prolonged irregularities can indicate irregular ovulation, or anovulation - not ovulating at all. In such cases, contact your doctor to discuss your symptoms. Many women use natural supplements like FertilAid to help normalize an irregular cycle.