Ovulation is a sign of the health of the female reproductive system: the egg’s regular monthly release signals hormonal optimal and balanced levels. Anovulation is on the opposite side of the spectrum, which refers to the absence of ovulation, not influenced by menstruation. Anovulation indicates some issue with the reproductive system.
For that reason, each woman must understand her cycle and ovulation as it can help track reproductive disorders. Before we dive into how to keep up with your menstrual cycle, let’s start with the basics.
What Is Ovulation?
Ovulation arises when an egg is released from your ovary. If the egg is fertilized by sperm, it’ll then move to the uterus, where it will implant itself to develop into a pregnancy. However, when that’s not the case, the egg disintegrates, and the uterine lining is shed, causing the period. Understanding this is important as it can help you achieve or prevent pregnancy.
Since ovulation is part of the menstrual cycle, to understand when it occurs, you’ll need to track your cycle:
- The menstrual cycle resets the day the menstrual flow starts. This is called the follicular phase, where the egg matures.
- From there, count 14 days. This is when ovulation usually occurs as the mature egg is released. The six days before and including ovulation constitute the “fertile window,” when sexual intercourse may lead to pregnancy. Sperm cells can endure for several days in the fallopian tubes after sex, so if the egg is released around that time, within 24 hours, it is apt for fecundation.
- Finally comes the luteal phase. If no fertilization occurs, bleeding will start around day 28, beginning the next cycle.
How Do I Know I Am Ovulating?
Ovulation, just like the menstrual flow, is followed by symptoms. Close to the ovulatory period, you’ll notice more vaginal discharge, with a stretchy and clear consistency, resembling raw egg whites. Additionally, you may experience light bleeding or spotting, breast tenderness, increased sexual drive, or ovary pain.
Following ovary pain, it’s essential to mention ovulation pain as well. It is pretty common to experience some pain or discomfort during ovulation, similar to a cramp, and you’ll feel it on the left or right side of the lower abdomen, depending on which ovary is releasing an egg that month.
However, if the pain is severe, talk with a doctor. They can help you reduce discomfort and test for any sign of an underlying condition such as endometriosis, scar tissue in the abdomen, or an STI.
Post ovulation, your discharge may decrease in volume and appear thicker or murkier. Yet, note that not everyone experiences these ovulation symptoms, so don’t rely on them to track your fertility.
How Can You Effectively Track Your Ovulation?
There are several ways to figure it out.
Menstrual cycle: as we’ve seen above, ovulation happens around day 14 of a 28-day menstrual cycle, counting from the first day of your period. However, regular cycles can range from 21 days to 35 days. So, to learn your cycle’s length, you’ll need to track it over a few months. Your ovulation should occur around the middle date of your cycle.
Body temperature: your temperature rises slightly for a few days after ovulation takes place. By taking your temperature every morning, you may detect the change.
Vaginal discharge: you’ll detect more vaginal discharge with an elastic and clear texture.
At-home trackers: over-the-counter (OTC) options are tools that can serve as an ovulation calculator. It includes ovulation predictor kits and fertility monitors.
Ideally, use several of these methods together to spot your ovulation accurately. To further confirm ovulation, track your progesterone – this hormone is produced after ovulation occurs and must stay elevated throughout the entire implantation window (days 7-10 after suspected ovulation) to allow for ovulation to be considered “healthy.” To measure your progesterone levels, you can utilize PdG tracking. This non-invasive ovulation confirmation uses urine testing, more reliable than a one-time blood test. You’ll want to see four positive test results during the testing window to confirm healthy ovulation.
While tracking your ovulation, you may notice that either you’re not ovulating regularly or not ovulating at all. If this happens, you’ll need to speak to your doctor. Irregularity in ovulation can be caused by stress or diet, changing the exact day of ovulation from month to month, or it can also be a sign of other medical conditions. For example, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or thyroid disorders may make ovulation irregular or stop altogether. In addition, these conditions will probably show themselves through other symptoms related to changes in hormone levels, such as increased growth of facial or body hair, acne, or infertility, in some cases.
Note that irregular ovulation differs from anovulation, which we’ve mentioned before in this article. A typical case of anovulation is marked by irregular periods, long cycles, or an absence of cycles entirely.
Studies show that 20% of anovulatory women are amenorrheic, lacking periods. Others have “regular” cycles with bleeds but still no ovulation. This indicates that apparently, regular cycles are no indication of good reproductive health. Moreover, it’s essential to highlight that anovulation can signal imbalances in estrogen and progesterone levels that could increase your risk of osteoporosis, early heart attack, and breast cancer.
How To Naturally Induce Ovulation?
If you’ve noticed ovulatory dysfunction, there are a few elements that may be responsible for it. Some factors contributing to ovulation dysfunction include low body weight, poor diets such as lack of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and fats, excessive exercise, excessive alcohol intake, stress, and hormonal imbalances.
So, here’s what you can do to help your body ovulate naturally:
- Increase your body weight in accordance with your BMI.
- Trade low carb for slow carb: add fruit, whole grains, and vegetables to your diet. Ingredients like sweet potato and peas contain sugars that release slowly into your bloodstream, and that can help you cope with stress.
- Add some good fat: include avocados, oily fish, nuts, seeds, and the occasional serving of red meat.
- Improve your sleep quality: adjust the temperature and light that comes into your room, have a regular bedtime and waking up schedule, and avoid caffeine and tobacco six hours before bed. In addition, limit digital screen exposure at least an hour before bed and include a routine of meditation and good reading before bed to relax your brain.
- Balance hormones naturally: some studies have suggested that eating certain types of seeds during certain phases of your cycle can promote hormonal balance, for example, foods high in lignans (such as flax seeds). Moreover, broccoli, spinach, beans, and pumpkin can help promote progesterone production.
If, upon adopting these changes, your cycles are still not functioning normally, consult a physician to determine the root cause of the problem. Contraceptives may help you regulate your cycle and reduce symptoms but not eliminate ovulation dysfunction.
What If You’re Trying To Conceive?
If you’re trying to get pregnant, you must understand your menstrual cycle and fertile window to increase your chances. Then, try to fit in sexual relationships within the fertile window, at least once. According to the National Institutes of Health, the best time to get pregnant is in the two days leading up to ovulation and the day of ovulation itself.
Consider making a preconception appointment with your doctor to get all of the questions about ovulation out of the way, as well as advice on how to increase your conception chances. In addition, your physician will be critical to pinpoint any conditions causing irregular ovulation or other unusual symptoms.
However, whether you’re trying to conceive or not, remember that your reproductive health is closely linked to your overall health. Thus, it’s worth it for you to pay close attention to any signs your body may be showing of dysfunctions and tend to them. So, start tracking your menstrual cycle today and seek a health professional’s counsel if you suspect you might be suffering from ovulation dysfunction.