It is estimated that around 12% of females have fertility problems, and one common reason is an issue regarding ovulation. Ovulation typically occurs during the middle of a woman’s menstrual cycle and involves the release of an egg or in some cases eggs from the ovaries. It generally lasts for around one day, and it is leading up to this time when the female is most fertile. She is most likely to become pregnant if she has sexual intercourse in the two days before ovulation or on the actual day.
For couples who are struggling to conceive, First Fertility recommends that they keep a record of ovulation. It is something that will help the doctors to suggest the most appropriate course of treatment.
Monthly Menstrual Cycle
When a female is born, she will have between one and two million immature eggs in her ovaries which will reduce to around 300,000 by the time she reaches puberty. During her fertile life, approximately 300 to 400 will be released. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular periods take place every 24 to 32 days.
The period or menstrual cycle is when the female’s body prepares itself for the possibility of becoming pregnant. The cycle is controlled by hormones including estrogen, progesterone and follicle-stimulating hormone, and it is these hormones that control the maturing and release of the egg. For pregnancy to occur, the male’s sperm should fertilise the egg within 24 hours of ovulation. Sperm can survive in the female body for up to day five days.
Menstruating and Ovulating
One of the most common misunderstandings about ovulation is that when a female is menstruating, she is ovulating. It is not the case, and for many women, the ovulatory cycle is as a result of their bodies making estrogen and can lead to a heavy bleed. During ovulation, more progesterone is produced, which leads to controlled rather than heavy bleeding.
Understanding the Timings
It s vital to understand that every woman’s body is different and ovulation will depend upon their personal menstrual cycle. A common misconception is that ovulation always takes place 14 days after a period. While this is accurate for women who have a regular 28-day cycle, for those that have 27-34 day cycles, ovulation can take place between days 13 and 20. Of course, this highlights the importance of recording cycles, especially for couples that are having fertility issues.
Signs of Ovulation
Knowing exactly when you are ovulating can be hard to establish, although there are three signs which are more apparent and can give a clearer indication. These are:
1. Vaginal Secretion
As the female approaches ovulation, the cervix will produce a thin, clear and slippery mucus which suggests that the body is preparing to release an egg. After ovulation has occurred, the mucus becomes thicker and develops a more cloudy appearance.
2. Body Temperature
The female’s body temperature will rise marginally after ovulation, so it is recommended that couples record her basal body temperature for three or four menstrual cycles. It will give a more accurate indication when she is most fertile, and intercourse should take place two or three days before this usual increase in basal body temperature. The temperature should be taken first thing in the morning, before getting out of bed.
3. Increased Luteinising Hormone
Perhaps the most complex but equally most accurate way of predicting ovulation is a rise in the luteinising hormone which occurs 24-36 before the egg is released. The change can be identified by using an ovulation predictor kit, which tests a sample of urine. Any rise in the hormone will yield a positive result.
Understand the Fertility Window
It is vital to understand that a woman can only become pregnant during certain periods of the menstrual cycle. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine states that the female has a “fertile window” which last for five days prior to ovulation and the day of ovulation. The highest likelihood of pregnancy is if sexual intercourse takes places during the three days leading up to ovulation.
Even when a woman has a regular monthly period, it doesn’t necessarily mean that she is ovulating. Modern home ovulation detection kits are a useful tool in determining if there is a problem with ovulation. They are an inexpensive piece of equipment that can be purchased in many leading pharmacies. The March of Dimes recommends starting to use the kit ten days after the last period.
If the test proves negative for two consecutive months, it is recommended that the female consults with a medical professional. It is stressed, however, that this is not necessarily the sign of a long-term problem and could be attributed to external, temporary environment factors.
Common Causes of Ovulation Problems
Problems with ovulation are relatively common and can be the result of several different factors. One common problem is because of the fallopian tubes becoming blocked due to health issues such as pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis or because of previous surgery.
Irregular hormone levels can also cause problems with ovulation. Usually, this is down to the sex hormones, but problems with the thyroid gland can also increase the chances of egg release being disrupted. Being over or underweight can also influence the ovulation cycle with women at either end of the spectrum more likely to have irregular periods. Maintaining a healthy weight is recommended for all women, especially those experiencing fertility problems. Ovulation can also be affected by excessive stress or over-exercising, which can send the body into a “fight or flight” state.
Are you Experiencing Fertility Problems?
If you and your partner are experiencing fertility problems, it is always advisable to seek the advice of a medical practitioner. Couples that have failed to conceive, despite having regular sexual intercourse for twelve months may have a problem which could be attributed to ovulation or other underlying factors. Here at First Fertility, we have a range of treatments available for couples experiencing problems conceiving. Please contact us for more details.