Ovulation and fertility are inextricably linked. If you want to get pregnant quickly, you need to know when you’re fertile – trying to conceive when your body simply can’t get pregnant is frustrating and dispiriting. If you don’t understand the processes behind your fertility you might thing something is wrong, or for that matter you might not spot something being wrong when it is.
Today we’re taking a look at ovulation: what it is, what causes it, when it happens and what it means for your fertility.
Ovulation is the centre point of your menstrual cycle: the two weeks before it is spent preparing for this one big event, where an egg is released, and the remainder of your cycle either prepares your body to receive a fertilised egg or clears out the endometrial lining it grew for that purpose, ready to try again the following month (for many women, the menstrual cycle is roughly 28 days long).
Throughout the first weeks of the cycle, following your period, your body is in what’s known as the follicular phase. This is when your ovaries cultivate between 10 and 20 eggs in small sacs called follicles. This is driven by the luteinising hormone secreted by your pituitary gland, which stimulates the selection of immature eggs to be grown. Over the course of around two weeks, one egg predominates as larger and healthier and the others are reabsorbed by your body, painlessly.
A surge of this LH from your brain stimulates the ovaries to eject this mature egg, and it begins to travel down the fallopian tubes, toward the uterus. If it encounters sperm in the next 12-24 hours it could be fertilised and begin development into a foetus and then a baby.
Even if you’re carefully counting days from your period, you need to stay alert from the signs you’re ovulating. If you’re trying to get pregnant, identifying this key time allows you to maximise your chances at conception, especially if you’re dealing with a condition like PCOS that can limit your fertility.
Tracking your basal body temperature can be a good way to spot when you’re due to ovulate: tacked over time, it’ll show a small dip, just prior to ovulation and then a three day rise following it. It takes time, measuring your body temperature just after waking, over the course of many weeks to spot these patterns, but they’re the most reliable indicator you have of when the time is right to try and conceive.