Every woman of child-bearing age undergoes a normal process called menstruation every month; this starts from the age of eleven to sixty years of age. The end of menstruation in a woman is known as menopause; during this period, a woman is unable to take in, this marks the end of a woman’s reproductive life.
Ovulation is the process that precedes menstruation, it also happens monthly; during ovulation, one of your ovaries which is matured releases eggs in preparation for conception and fertilization. Every lady is born with millions of immature eggs which are waiting to be released; every month, one matured egg is released from one ovary and the next month, the other ovary produces the matured egg.
When the egg is released, it goes down into one of your Fallopian tubes; the lining of your uterus becomes thick if the eggs are fertilized but if fertilization does not occur, it is shed out of your vagina during menstruation, this is what leads to menstruation.
The released egg can only survive for 12 to 24 hours and it flows out as menstruation if fertilization does not take place but if fertilization takes place, the egg travels down into the uterus and settles in the rich lining. Ovulation cycle is different from the menstrual cycle and the majority of women are most fertile during the first five days before ovulation and during ovulation or on the ovulation day itself.
The length of your menstrual cycle can change due to various factors like stress and nutrition but the ovulation cycle is usually constant and it occurs fourteen days to your next period. If you have been on birth control pills like hormonal contraceptives for a long time, it might take a while for you to get familiar with your period and ovulation cycle when you get off the pill.
If you want to conceive, make sure you have sex regularly from day eleven to the sixteenth day of your menstrual cycle; you start counting your menstrual cycle from the first day of your period to the next period.
It is difficult to know the exact day you will ovulate or when the egg will be released, this is why you need to engage in sexual intercourse between this time frame if you want to conceive and if you don’t want a baby, don’t have sex within this period; and besides sperm can stick inside a woman Fallopian tubes for up to seven days after sex.
Signs and Symptoms of Ovulation
Though ovulation is a silent occurrence and difficult to know the exact date, there are some signs experienced by most women when they are ovulating.
If you are familiar with your menstrual and ovulation cycles, you can tell by some changes in your body and other physical signs and feelings that tell you that you are ovulating or that your period is near. Some of the signs of ovulation are;
- Cramps, especially on one side of the body
- Mood swings
- Increased sense of smell; fertile females during their ovulation are more attracted to the pheromone androstenone of males.
- A heightened sense of vision and taste.
- Tenderness of the breast or breast soreness caused by an increased level of hormones. This can also lead to the sensitivity of the breasts and nipples and this happens before ovulation in some women and some women experience this after ovulation.
- Pains in the mid pelvic or lower abdominal pain; this usually occurs on one side of the body and not on both sides at a time.
- Some women experience a light vaginal bleeding. This is caused by the rupture of the follicle that covers and protects the matured egg, this leads to a light bleeding.
- Excessive vaginal discharge; this can be dark brown or red in color. The little quantity of blood released during ovulation turns brown when it stays for a long time and it is released via vaginal discharge. This brown or red discharge is known as light spotting.
- Abdominal bloating and discomfort
- Sometimes the pain is accompanied by nausea and vomiting, though it is usually mild and has a short duration.
- A change or changes in the cervix; most women experience a lot of changes in their cervix when they are ovulating. Your cervix can become more open, softer and higher.
- A mild and in some cases serious pains known as ovulation pain. If you don’t need painkillers when having ovulation pain, there is no need to worry about it but if the pain is severe and painkillers don’t help, you need to see a doctor as soon as possible.
- Increased sexual urge; many women experience an increase in sexual urge when ovulating, this is nature’s way of ensuring continuous reproduction and continued existence of humans.
Other ways to know you are ovulating is to make use of ovulation prediction kits, you can find them at any pharmacy or health stores and they are most times placed closed to pregnancy test strips on the shelf.
This kit can effectively predict when you are on ovulation. Another way to know if you are ovulating is to look at your vaginal discharge; there are changes in the mucus or discharge when you are ovulating.
When a woman is about to ovulate, her vaginal discharge becomes wetter and clearer instead of dry and thick. A basal body temperature check can also be used to predict ovulation. This is taken every morning at the same time before coming out of bed.
A temperature that is slightly high shows that you have ovulated between the last 12 to 24 hours. There is a connection between ovulation and temperature; a theory suggests that the corpus luteum releases the hormone progesterone after ovulation.
This released hormone act on the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that acts as the body’s thermostat. This increases the temperature of the body and this elevated temperature remains throughout pregnancy if you take in.
They are also free applications available online that you can download on your phones and they can help you track your ovulation day after imputing your period details.
Is it normal to have pains during ovulation?
It is very normal to have ovulation pain, most women experience it and it is medically known as “mittelschmerz. It occurs around the time that you are ovulating and it is characterized by a sharp pain or a dull ache around your abdomen and by the sides of your abdomen and this pain can last from minutes to hours.
The severity and intensity of the pain vary among women; it is mild in some and they can go without pain relieves, while some require pain relieves and those with severe or intense pain need medical attention.
There is no particular reason or cause for the pain but there are some theories that try to explain the cause and source of the pain. Some medical practitioners believe that the pain is caused by the enlargement or increment of the eggs before ovulation and others stipulate that it is caused by the bleeding that occurs inside the ovaries when a woman is ovulating.
You should seek medical intervention and help immediately if the pain is intense or it keeps increasing and makes you unable to carry on with your daily activities.
This needs to be investigated medically and to start immediate treatment in case a serious medical problem is diagnosed. Intense ovulation pain should not be ignored especially if it lasts for more than 24 hours and it comes along with a high temperature, vomiting, and pain when you are urinating.
Ovulation Problems and Disorders
One of the biggest causes of female infertility and reproductive problems is ovulation disorders and problems. A problem with ovulation can make it difficult for a woman to get pregnant. There are two main types of ovulation disorders and they are:
This is a term for irregular ovulation; women suffering from this condition usually experience infrequent ovulation which is mainly characterized by the release of eggs from the ovaries sporadically. Women with Oligoovulation find it difficult to know their fertility window or when they are ovulating.
This ovulation disorder is characterized by the complete absence of ovulation; it can occur in young ladies and this can be induced by psychological stress. Other factors that can cause these are a low body mass index (BMI), eating disorders such as anorexia, and hypothalamus problems. Some common causes of ovulation disorders that can lead to infertility are:
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
This condition is usually caused by a misbalance in the levels of hormones and this, in turn, affects ovulation. It is characterized by the presence of numerous cysts in the ovaries and it is mainly triggered by an excess amount of male hormones (androgens) in the body of a woman.
Women with diabetes and insulin resistance are more prone to PCOS than others; this condition is the most common reason why most women are infertile, PCOS is also associated with abnormal growth of hair on the face and body of a woman, weight gain, and chronic or persistent acne.
Tumors of the Ovaries
The presence of tumors in the ovaries and also in the pituitary gland can lead to ovulation problems and infertility.
Hyperthyroidism (abnormally high levels of thyroid hormones), or hypothyroidism (abnormally levels of low hormones) can affect fertility by causing irregular ovulation.
The pituitary gland under some health conditions and circumstances can increase the production of prolactin above the acceptable level. Prolactin is the hormone that stimulates the production of breast milk and an increased level of this hormone can lead to infertility by causing ovulation disorder.
An excess of this hormone in the body when a woman is not pregnant will reduce the levels of LH and FSH, this will lead to ovarian problems like irregular ovulation because these two hormones are responsible for the stimulation of ovulation.
This also reduces the levels of estrogen in the body, thereby reducing the ability of the woman to take in. Mediations can also cause this.
There are two hormones in the body which are responsible for stimulating ovulation every month; they are FSH and luteinizing hormone (LH), their production and activities are controlled by the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for controlling the pituitary gland.
A dysfunction in the functions and activities of the hypothalamus can affect the production and levels of these hormones in the body.
Other factors that can cause hormonal imbalance and affect ovulation are a recent weight gain or weight loss that is excessive, emotional stress, obesity and weight gain, physical stress, dehydration, and malnutrition. The most common or telltale sign of hypothalamic dysfunction is absent period or irregular period.
Luteal Phase Defect
In this condition, the lining of the uterus, normally known as the endometrium is not well developed; this can lead to ovulation problems and infertility.
The adrenal gland produces the hormone androgens; an increased level of this hormone in the body will lead to Oligoovulation or irregular ovulation. Elevated levels of androgens in the body also lead to increases levels of prolactin, and it also raises the risk of tumors of the ovaries, adrenal glands, and pituitary glands.
Primary Ovarian Insufficiency
This is also known as “Premature Ovarian Failure”; it is an autoimmune disease which is usually caused by autoimmune responses and premature release of eggs from the ovaries can also cause it. This can be induced by chemotherapy and genetics also plays a role in this condition.
When a lady has a premature ovarian failure, the ovaries can no longer produce eggs and it also leads to decreased production of the hormone estrogen; this leads to infertility and difficulty getting pregnant.
Other causes of ovarian problems are chronic stress, excessive physical exercise, malnutrition, eating disorders, chronic dehydration, genetics, some medical conditions, side effects of some medication drugs and treatments like chemotherapy and in some cases, a woman’s eggs will not fertilize for unexplained or unknown reasons.
The above mentioned are common problems of ovulation and their causes and we are fortunate because a lot of these problems can be prevented and treated and thereby, restore fertility.