Whether or not you passed sex ed in high school, it’s important to demystify the natural process your body undergoes each month. According to a recent study, nearly half (49%) of women in the U.S. admit to not understanding the significance of ovulation in regards to conception. What’s more is that 60% of the women said that they “don’t feel comfortable talking about fertility with anyone other than very close friends or family.” In an effort to nudge these statistics in the right direction, here’s a brief overview of what happens when you ovulate, how to keep track of it, and why it matters.
What Happens When You Ovulate?
In a nutshell, ovulation is the process by which a mature egg is released by the ovary. Ovulation serves as the centerpiece of the menstrual cycle and of the fertility process. Once ovulation occurs, the egg may be fertilized, which results in pregnancy.
Essentially, the reproductive cycle can be divided into two phases: the follicular stage and the luteal phase. The follicular stage begins on the first day of your period and starts with the pituitary gland secreting a follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This stimulates the egg cells in the ovaries to grow and the lining of the uterus to thicken to prepare for pregnancy.
The luteal phase kicks off with ovulation triggered by a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH). The hormone prompts the release of an egg into the fallopian tubes, which connect the ovaries and the uterus.
Tracking Your Cycle
To help determine when you’re ovulating, try using an ovulation calculator or app like Clue or Glow. These tools will give you a timeline for your cycle timeline and clue you into the physical responses associated with ovulation. While every woman is different, a typical menstrual cycle can last anywhere from 28 to 35 days, with ovulation typically occurring somewhere between days 11 to 21.
Since menstrual cycles often vary, it’s worth taking note of a few signs that tend to accompany ovulation.
One of the most notable physical factors accompanying ovulation is a change in vaginal secretions. These tend to become clear and viscous as ovulation approaches, which helps to facilitate the process of fertilization.
Another major indicator is basal body temperature. This is the body’s resting temperature and is best measured first thing in the morning at a consistent time before getting out of bed. Ovulation tends to be associated with a spike in temperature of about one degree Fahrenheit, though this can vary.
For a more exact prediction, use an ovulation predictor kit to measure LH levels. This can be an especially valuable tool if you’re trying to conceive.
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Knowing what happens when you ovulate—and how to properly track it—is an important thing to know about your body. To learn more about what happens throughout your cycle, try reading a book about fertility and reproductive health.
Now that you know why you should track your ovulation period, see the best period tracker apps.