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Understanding Ovulation

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Whether you are trying to conceive or trying to avoid pregnancy, understanding ovulation can help you achieve your goals. Some women may ovulate regularly while others are more unpredictable. While most pharmacies offer over-the-counter ovulation tests, many times women can become familiar enough with their own bodies to recognize the signs of ovulation without them.

Early in the menstrual cycle, follicles within the ovaries begin to mature, and one will eventually produce an egg. The mature follicle will produce increasing amounts of estrogen, a hormone that increases the lining of your uterus. This helps to create a friendlier environment for fertilization, should it occur.

As your estrogen levels continue to rise, they trigger the increase of another hormone, called luteinizing hormone or LH. Within 24 to 36 hours of the LH surge, the ovarian follicle will release an egg. The egg will begin its journey through one of the fallopian tubes, and you will officially be ovulating.

Women generally ovulate about 14 days before the start of their period. This means that if your cycle is a 28-day cycle, you will most likely ovulate on day 14. If you have a 35-day cycle, you will most likely ovulate around day 21 of your cycle.

An egg can only be fertilized for 24 hours after ovulation, but sperm can live in a woman’s reproductive tract for as many as 5 days. Therefore, a couple trying to conceive can begin having sex 5 days before ovulation up to the day of and after ovulation. A couple trying to avoid pregnancy should abstain from sex that week or use a backup method of birth control.

Of course, because a woman’s cycle may not be regular or can vary from month to month, ovulation can be difficult to predict. For this reason, it can be very important to understand the signs and signals your body gives to let you know you may be ovulating soon. In order to detect these changes, you will need to become familiar with how your body feels and behaves at different times of the month. Keeping a chart and monitoring your feelings, emotions, and any physical changes you are experiencing can really help you in this area.

The earliest signs that a woman is about to ovulate or is actively ovulating is that her cervical fluid will change. There will be an increase in fluid, and it will generally have the consistency of egg whites. Along with this increase in fluid, the cervix will become high and soft.

Women can also track ovulation by studying their basal body temperature. Just before ovulation occurs, your temperature will decline. As soon as you ovulate, your temperature will rise sharply. The best way to monitor basal body temperature is to check your temperature at the same time every day with the same thermometer.

Other symptoms of ovulation can include spotting, one-sided cramping or mittelschmerz, sore or tender breasts, bloating, or a heightened sex drive around the time of ovulation.

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