The ovulation cycle is part of a woman’s menstrual cycle and occurs monthly, usually between the 12th and 14th day following first day of menstruation in a 28-day cycle. Just as the length of the menstrual cycle varies between women, the time of ovulation during the cycle is different for each individual. For women who wish to become pregnant, tracking the ovulation cycle is important.
What Is Ovulation?
Ovulation is when one of a woman’s ovaries releases a mature egg that is ready for fertilization into the fallopian tubes to begin its journey to the uterus. Once the egg is released, it will begin to deteriorate within 12 to 24 hours, so the time period for fertilization is short.
If the egg is not fertilized, it will disintegrate and a woman’s body will begin preparing to shed the uterine lining, and menstruation will occur in about 14 days. If the egg is fertilized, it will implant in the lining of the uterus and begin to grow, forming the placenta and an embryo.
Best Time For Fertilization
Sperm that fertilize an egg are viable for about 24 to 48 hours following intercourse, so the best time to achieve fertilization of an ovum is in the two days before and on the day of ovulation. This is why it is important to track the ovulation cycle when trying to become pregnant.
There are methods available that help women track their cycle by watching for the signs of ovulation. For some women, the symptoms may be quite subtle, but for others the symptoms are fairly obvious and can be used to pinpoint the day of ovulation. For example, if the first day of your last period was August 1st, if your cycle length is 28 days, and your period lasts 6 days, you will likely be most fertile from August 12th through August 16th.
During ovulation, there is usually an increased amount of vaginal discharge that may be creamy white or clear as the production of cervical mucus increases. Some women experience mild cramps or abdominal discomfort for a day or two during ovulation.
Breast tenderness or sensitivity is another common symptom, and a few women notice their senses, such as taste and smell, are heightened during the ovulation cycle. The most reliable indicator of ovulation is a change in basal body temperature before and during ovulation.
Basal Body Temperature
Just before ovulation occurs, there is a small, but noticeable drop in basal body temperature. Immediately following the release of the ovum the temperature will have a sharp spike before returning to pre-ovulation levels.
Women can track the time they are most likely to become pregnant by taking their basal body temperature each day and recording it on an ovulation calendar. Women with regular menses will ovulate on the same day each month so they can pinpoint the best time to conceive.
The ovulation cycle and menses can be disrupted by certain medications, sleep deprivation, excessive physical activity, diet and stress. Women who are using an ovulation calendar and fail to conceive within three to four cycles should consult their physician to make sure there are no physical barriers to conception. Proper diet, exercise, rest and minimizing stress often help in regulating ovulation and achieving pregnancy.