What is Ovulation?
Ovulation is the release of a mature egg cell from the ovaries, marking the onset of the most fertile period in a woman’s cycle. The egg (also referred to as an oocyte or ovum) travels down the fallopian tube where it may be fertilized by a sperm. Identifying the most fertile period is important when planning conception.
Ovulation is controlled by two female hormones, known as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) which may be monitored in cases of infertility or difficulty in conceiving. A regular menstrual cycle lasts between 28 to 32 days although a cycle as short as 26 days or as long as 35 days is considered within the norm. Ovulation usually occurs approximately 14 to 16 days before the next period but this may vary depending on the length of the individual menstrual cycle. The most fertile period is considered to last approximately 3 to 4 days within the cycle starting a day or two before ovulation. If the egg cell is not fertilized within this time period, it is ‘discarded’.
Signs and Symptoms of Ovulation
- Vaginal discharge
- Breast tenderness
- Abdominal bloating, especially of the lower abdomen
- Mood changes, especially in cases of PMS (premenstrual syndrome)
- Slight discomfort noticed in the lower abdomen. In some women, there may be cramping or mild pain.
Women who are planning to conceive may consider testing for ovulation to verify when they are in the most fertile period. There are a number of ways to test for ovulation, some of which are not widely used.
- Basal body temperature (BBT) increases between 0.5 and 1 degree celsius during ovulation and with repeat testing on a daily basis, this slight increase may be isolated. This is not an accurate method for estimating ovulation and is not commonly used any longer.
- Urine tests to detect luteininzing hormone is another consideration. These home tests will detect the increase in luteininzing hormone up to 2 days prior to ovulation. A false positive test result may occur in women with certain hormone disorder that increases luteinizing hormone like
- A female hormone screen, sometimes referred to as a fertility screen, is a blood test to monitor individual hormone levels. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), progesterone and estrogen are monitored at a specific time in the menstrual cycle and this test should be conducted and evaluated by your gynecologist.
Ovulation Schedule & Calender
Calculating your date of ovulation can be useful for estimating the most fertile period in your cycle. In order to monitor your menstrual cycle, it is important to first establish the length of the cycle. Mark the first day of your period on a calendar for at least 6 months. The number of days from the first day of one period to the first day of the consecutive period is the length of your menstrual cycle. Ideally, the length of your cycle should be the same number of days every month. Ovulation usually occurs at day 14 in a menstrual cycle that is 28 days long. A cycle shorter than 22 days may be an indication of issues relating to ovulation and you should consult with your gynecologist.
It is not advisable to use your ovulation schedule for preventing pregnancy (billings method of contraception) since the human sperm may last within the uterus for more than 1 day. Suitable birth control options should be used for contraception. Refer to the article on No Period for causes of absent menses if a pregnancy test is negative.
Fertility & Due Date Calculator
Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on December 14, 2009