What You Need to Know About Ovulation & Getting Pregnant

Did you know that menstrual cycles are different from woman to woman and can even be different month to month for the same woman? That is why is is helpful to keep track of personal cycles each month. You can use ovulation calculators like this one on webmd. There are many apps that you can download on your phone to keep track of your cycles month to month. Here is a list of the best apps from Cosmopolitan magazine. Most women have no idea when they ovulate so put some thought into an ovulation calculator and read on to learn more.

Women are typically born with between 1 and 2 million eggs in her ovaries (primary oocytes.) She will begin to lose these eggs early in life leaving her only 300,000 to 500,000 by the age of puberty.

As the eggs are formed, thin layers of cells (granulose cells) grow around them. The granulose cells and the oocyte are contained within a follicle. The follicle supports the egg it encloses for 50 years or more, providing it with nourishment but preventing it from maturing. The great majority of follicles and eggs never grow to maturity and ovulation. Follicles begin to develop, but if conditions for continued growth are not optimal, the eggs lose nourishment and die. The follicle cells then are absorbed back into the ovary (atresia.) Atresia continues throughout a woman’s life until all of the follicles are gone and she enters menopause.

During the hours leading up to ovulation when the mature egg is released from the dominant follicle, some important processes begin:

  • The production of the LH hormone (lutenizing hormone rises in the blood).

  • A few hours before ovulation, the primary oocyte undergoes a cell division process (meiosis) which results in an egg that contains 23 chromosomes

  • The follicle cells surrounding the oocyte secrete mucous, forming a circular barrier (the cumulus) around the oocyte. Beneath the cumulus is a glassy looking membrane the zona pellucida. Sperm must be able to go through the cumulus and the zona pellucida of the egg in order to fertilize it.

  • The egg is released and is picked up by the fimbriated ends of the fallopian tube.

  • Fertilization usually occurs in the fallopian tube 12-24 hours after ovulation. (credit)

Signs of Ovulation

  • Rise in basal body temperature, typically 1/2 to 1 degree, measured by a thermometer

  • Higher levels of luteinizing hormone (LH), measured on a home ovulation kit

  • Cervical mucus, or vaginal discharge, may appear clearer, thinner, and stretchy, like raw egg whites

  • Breast tenderness

  • Bloating

  • Light spotting

  • Slight pain or cramping in your side (credit)

Home Ovulation Kit

A woman is fertile — able to become pregnant — only during a certain part of her monthly cycle. The "fertile window" spans a 6-day period, the 5 days before ovulation and the day a woman ovulates, according to The American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Studies suggest that intercourse is most likely to result in a pregnancy when it occurs in the three days leading up to and including the day of ovulation.

Once you are charting your cycle you can use a a home ovulation test. If a woman is getting her period on a monthly basis, but not getting pregnant, it may be because she is not ovulating. An ovulation predictor kit can be helpful to see whether a woman is, in fact, ovulating. 

This kit, sold over-the-counter in drug stores, can test a woman's urine to detect if she is experiencing an increase in luteinizing hormone, which usually happens about 24 to 36 hours before ovulation occurs, according to the Mayo Clinic. 

A woman may want to begin using the kit about 10 days after the start of her last period.

The Fertile Window

We’re talking about the 'fertile window’ – the days in a woman’s menstrual cycle when pregnancy is possible. The ‘fertile window’ depends on the length of the menstrual cycle, which varies among women.

The ‘fertile window’ is the day an egg is released from the ovary (ovulation) and the five days beforehand. Having sex (intercourse) during this time gives you the best chance of getting pregnant. Pregnancy is technically only possible if you have sex during the five days before ovulation or on the day of ovulation. But the most fertile days are the three days leading up to and including ovulation. Having sex during this time gives you the best chance of getting pregnant. By 12-24 hours after ovulation, a woman is no longer able to get pregnant during that menstrual cycle because the egg is no longer in the fallopian tube. (credit)

Read more about ovulation here.

Michael Hickey