How your ovulation cycle really works

How your ovulation cycle really works

We’re on top of our game with our families, friends and careers, but when it comes to our bodies, women are often in the dark. And nothing seems to bewilder us more than the ovulation process. What actually goes on down there?!

As a first step and if time is on your side, Genea fertility specialists often encourage women to consider ovulation tracking before jumping into fertility treatment.

“Tracking your cycle and timing intercourse just prior to ovulation is usually quite effective in achieving a pregnancy in the absence of infertility factors,” says Genea’s Dr Helen Peric.

To calculate your most fertile days and give yourself the best chance of conceiving naturally, it helps to understand the ovulation cycle.

With the help of Genea, we break it down for you here.

Phase 1: Follicular – maturing the egg

Ovarian follicles can be thought of as tiny little cases in your ovaries that hold your immature eggs. Many of the two million you’re born with are reabsorbed by the body during childhood, so by the time you reach puberty you’re left with around 400,000 to 500,000.

Hormones trigger follicles to grow during the follicular phase. In a natural cycle, normally only one dominant follicle goes on to mature fully and release an egg.

Phase 2: Ovulation – releasing the egg

Ovulation occurs when the dominant follicle ruptures to release an egg which is then collected by the fimbrial end of the fallopian tube and delivered into the tube.

Some women can tell they’re ovulating when they experience symptoms such as breast tenderness, heavier and more opaque vaginal discharge, and a feeling of tightness in the abdomen.

If you don’t notice any symptoms, don’t worry – you’re not alone.

“Some women keep temperature charts or apps to indicate when they have ovulated, others purchase ovulation kits and test their urine,” says Dr Peric.

Phase 3: Luteal – preparing for conception

The luteal phase lasts for a fairly consistent 14 days across the population.

During this time, the uterine lining (endometrium) develops to receive a fertilised egg. If conception doesn’t happen, the lining sheds and you experience a period.

“The conditions for a true period to occur (full bleed, not spotting) require a rise and fall in hormone levels

Take advantage of your fertile window

Timing is critical to conception.

“If you are trying to conceive in any given month, you should know that sperm are at their most viable in the female reproductive tract for around 72 hours,” says Peric.

“It is also worth noting that after ovulation an egg is receptive to sperm for a short period so it’s ideal for sperm to be there and waiting for the egg as soon as ovulation occurs.”

To increase your chances of falling pregnant, Genea fertility specialists generally recommend having regular sex just before and around the time of expected ovulation.

“Once you have determined when you are likely to ovulate next, aim to have sex regularly at least four days prior to ovulation, until two days post-ovulation as we don’t know exactly when ovulation is going to occur,” says Dr Peric.

Sex in the days prior to ovulation is ideal, so the sperm are “waiting for the egg”.

Calculate ovulation based on your cycle

The first day of full bleeding is Day 1 of your cycle.

“To calculate approximately when ovulation occurs, take the length of your cycle and subtract 14 days,” says Dr Peric.

This is because the luteal phase generally lasts for 14 days for all ovulating women.

“So if you have a 28-day cycle, you ovulate around Day 14 (28 minus 14). If you have a 35-day cycle, you ovulate around Day 21 (35 minus 14).”

Conserve your mental energy by using Genea’s free online ovulation calculator.

Ovulation issues are more common than you may think

We have simplified the ovulation cycle to make it easier to understand, but it’s actually very complex and even a slight change can prevent you from ovulating.

Approximately 25 percent of all women who are infertile experience problems related to ovulation. Fortunately, some of these problems can be treated quite easily with prescribed medication or lifestyle changes.

If you’re curious about your ovulation cycle and associated fertility, speak with a reputable Genea fertility advisor or take advantage of Genea’s Ovulation Tracking service – 3 cycles at no-out-of-pocket cost.


For more in this series see, What Australian Women know about FertilityExercise, Diet, and other Factors to Consider when it comes to FertilityWhat you should know about Egg Freezing; The key Stats to know about Fertility; The Real Cost of Low Cost IVF

Speak with a Genea’s Fertility Advisor on 1300 361 795 or book a Free Fertility Assessment.

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