What is ovulation?
Generally, a woman ovulates once a month. During ovulation, the ovary releases an egg. A woman is the most fertile during the ovulation period.
For pregnancy to occur, there should be sperm in your fallopian tubes or uterus when you ovulate. Hence, to increase your chances of pregnancy, you must have sexual intercourse 3-5 days just before ovulation and on the day of ovulation. If the sperm fertilizes the egg, you will get pregnant. But, if that does not happen, you will get your period.
Thus, learning about ovulation is helpful for couples trying to conceive. At the same time, women also track ovulation when they want to avoid pregnancy.
When does ovulation happen?
A menstrual cycle can range from 21 days to 35 days. But, on average, the cycle length is 28 days long. The first day of your period is day 1. For those having a 28 days cycle, ovulation usually occurs on day 14. However, since the cycle length varies from person to person, even the ovulation day will change.
Women having a shorter cycle can expect ovulation closer to day 11, while those with a longer one may experience it closer to day 21. Therefore, ovulation can occur between days 8 and 21, depending on your cycle length.
How long does ovulation last?
Ovulation lasts for about 24 hours. If the egg does not fertilize within these 24 hours, it will die. Hence, it is crucial to know about your fertile window and have sex during that time to improve your chances of conceiving during ovulation.
Can you tell if you are ovulating?
Yes, just like you experience PMS symptoms when your period is approaching, there are ovulation symptoms too.
So, what are the signs of ovulation?
Although it may be hard to tell the exact day of ovulation, some signs indicate that ovulation is approaching or has just occurred. It can help you understand the days you should have sexual intercourse to increase your odds of getting pregnant.
1. Cervical mucus changes
Around ovulation, your cervix will produce more fluid than usual with a raw eggwhite-like consistency. As a result, your vagina will feel wetter and make sex more pleasurable. This cervical mucus helps sperm move up through the cervix into the reproductive system. During different stages of your menstrual cycle, the discharge will change from dry and sticky to creamy to watery to raw eggwhite-like. Once ovulation is over, it will become dry and sticky again. Once you understand your discharge, you can tell if you are ovulating. However, only this sign cannot confirm ovulation for sure.
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2. Position of the cervix shifts
The vagina ends at the cervix. Throughout your menstrual cycle, the position of the cervix changes. Before ovulation, the cervix is softer, slightly open, and higher, making it harder to reach. And during other stages of the cycle, it is lower, firmer to touch, and more closed. To check your cervix, you can insert a clean finger inside your vagina and try to reach an endpoint. The cervix feels like the tip of the nose. It is better to check it every day at the same time to track the changes in its position throughout the cycle. Over time, you will be able to identify your fertile window and time your sex accordingly to increase the chances of pregnancy.
3. Sexual desire increases
The desire to have sex is naturally more on the days approaching ovulation. The increased estrogen levels in the body at this time lead to a boost in libido. You also look and feel sexier, and your partner finds you more attractive. All of this is nature’s play to increase your sexual desire during your most fertile days so that you have sex and, as a result, get pregnant. However, anxiety, depression, and stress can affect your libido even during your fertile window.
4. Breasts may become tender
When you notice breast tenderness and pain, it can be a sign that suggests ovulation is over. As the body enters the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle after ovulation, the drop in estrogen and rise in progesterone levels cause breasts and nipples to become tender and sore.
5. Pain in the lower abdomen
Some women may notice mild to sharp one-sided pain in the lower abdomen upon ovulation. It is also known as middle pain, as it occurs in the middle of the menstrual cycle. However, if ovulation pain is severe and interrupting sex, it is advisable to see a doctor as it could suggest underlying causes such as endometriosis or pelvic adhesions.
6. Basal Body Temperature increases
The temperature when your body is at rest is called the basal body temperature. It is not noticeable, but there is a slight rise in this temperature upon ovulation. It remains elevated for three days or more. Tracking your basal body temperature can help you detect your fertile window. Ideally, two to three days before your temperature rises is the best time to have sex to increase your chances of pregnancy.
There are several ways to track your ovulation period.
- Record your menstrual cycle
- Notice any ovulation symptoms
- Track your basal body temperature
- Track your cervix position throughout the cycle
- Notice the changes in cervical mucus
There are also ovulation prediction kits, online ovulation calculators, and various period trackers that help predict ovulation. Over time, with practice, you will accurately be able to determine your fertile window. However, have patience as conception takes time. Even if you have a regular menstrual cycle, it does not guarantee a fast pregnancy. It takes a few months to years of regular unprotected sex to get pregnant.
Irregular or missed periods may indicate that you are not ovulating or ovulating irregularly. In cases of irregular ovulation, it is better to consult your doctor and understand how to conceive.