Couples who have sex at the right time increase their chances of achieving conception by 25%, according to a study. So when is the right time to have sex to achieve a pregnancy? Every woman’s monthly cycle has a fertile period associated with a high chance of conception. The fertile period is the interval before and after the ovulation day.
To determine the fertile period, you’ll need to figure out when you ovulate. Ovulation typically occurs during the middle of a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle, but the timing may differ for each woman.
Your ability to identify precisely when you are ovulating is critical to help you conceive without delays.
In this article, you will learn more about ovulation, the specific signs to look out for, and how to track it.
What is Ovulation?
Ovulation is the process that leads to the release of a matured egg by the ovaries during a female's monthly cycle. The released egg moves to the fallopian tube, where fertilization with the sperm occurs. The egg can stay alive for 12 hours, and if fertilization does not happen, the body sheds the unfertilized egg and the uterine wall.
Hormones in the body regulate the ovulation process and are responsible for the periodicity and pattern.
The Process of Ovulation
Hormones from the hypothalamus/pituitary gland in the brain control the ovulation process.
The hypothalamus and pituitary gland secrete specific regulatory hormones.
The regulatory reproductive hormones from the hypothalamus are called gonadotropin-releasing hormones, while those from the pituitary gland are the follicle-stimulating hormone(FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).
The gonadotropin-releasing hormone stimulates the release of gonadotropins—follicle-stimulating hormone(FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) from the pituitary gland.
These gonadotropins activate the ovaries at various phases of the menstrual cycle. During the follicular phase of menstruation, the pituitary gland secretes the follicle-stimulating hormone, which aids the maturation of the eggs in the ovaries. Then, estrogen production slowly increases as the eggs inside the ovarian follicles grow. Also, the cells in the ovarian follicle produce a small number of androgens—hormones responsible for male sexual characteristics.
At full maturation, the pituitary gland also secretes luteinizing hormone, which surges and stimulates the dominant ovarian follicle to release the egg. After that, the ruptured follicular cells commence the production of progesterone.
The increasing amount of estrogen and progesterone in the blood inhibits the gonadotropin-releasing hormone from the hypothalamus and stops the pituitary gland from secreting both FSH and LH. These hormonal changes occur during the ovulation process in females.
How to Know If I'm Ovulating?
During each monthly menstrual cycle, most women experience signs in their bodies that indicate ovulation.
Common ovulation signs include:
- Fluctuations in basal body temperature: It may be high at the mid-cycle in some females.
- Changes in cervical mucus: Transforms from a watery to a thick mucus secretion.
- Varying intensity of lower abdominal pain
- Breast tenderness
- Mood swings and irritability
The manifestation of these symptoms differs for each female and depends on hormonal changes.
If you are unsure of these ovulation signs, consult your doctor to examine you. Changes in the cervical consistency, the cervical canal opening, and vagina fluids are other indicators of ovulation.
How to Track Your Ovulation
If you are trying to conceive, tracking your ovulation helps you to identify when you are ovulating so you can have sex with your partner to fall pregnant. You can conduct most ovulation tracking methods at home, but a few require in-person clinic visitation.
Home-based Ovulation Tracking Methods
Manual method: You can use online ovulation calculators and calendars to calculate and track the possible period for ovulation. With 95% accuracy, we can predict when a woman ovulated in a previous cycle. For instance, if Day 1 occurred on July 1st and the next menses began on July 28th, then the woman has a 27-day cycle (27-14=13), and she likely ovulated on day 13.
Errors in calculation can affect the accuracy of this method, but It is helpful to establish a pattern of ovulation to predict the best times to have intercourse. A regular cycle, defined as menses occurring every 25-35 days, is the best indicator of ovulation.
- Progesterone Blood tests: Your doctor will order blood tests that measure your blood level of progesterone. Your doctor may repeat the blood test multiple times to track the values or order it once if the blood level of progesterone is significantly high.
- Follicle Monitoring Using Trans-vagina scan: It involves conducting serial ultrasound scans to monitor and measure the size of the dominant ovarian follicle. The disappearance or sudden shrinkage in the dominant follicle size typically indicates ovulation. This method is an accurate way to confirm ovulation.
- Salivary Fern Test: The microscopic analysis of a female's saliva can determine those that are ovulating. Hormonal changes during ovulation are observable in the saliva as a characteristic pattern when viewed under the microscope.
You can choose a specific method to track your ovulation and determine your fertile period, which is the most suitable time for conception.
Other ovulation tracking methods include:
- Ovulation predictor kits: These kits contain urine test strips that measure the level of hormones (luteinizing hormone (LH)) that trigger ovulation. Use the test kits several times before ovulation to track the LH level. When the LH level rises the most, it typically indicates ovulation. The drawback of these kits is varying accuracy in the ones available, so they may not be reliable.
- Basal temperature thermometer: It is a special thermometer that measures and tracks your basal body temperature. This method may be inaccurate because medical conditions such as infections that raise the body temperature may affect the values.
- Smartphone and technology devices: Technology devices such as wearables and mobile phone apps have features that can track your ovulation and identify the possible period.
Please note: Our physicians at Dominion Fertility don't recommend these other ovulation tracking methods because there is a lack of accuracy.
What Does Ovulation Mean for Fertility?
For fertilization to occur, the sperm has to meet and fertilize an egg in the fallopian tube. Therefore, if there is no ovulation, conception will not be possible without help.
Timing sexual intercourse, which occurs during ovulation, increases the odds of conceiving because the sperm can fertilize the egg upon its release during ovulation.
Couples that have sex outside the fertile period may experience delays or difficulties achieving conception.
When to See a Fertility Specialist
Those who do not notice any signs of ovulation are likely, not ovulating. Doctors refer to the inability to ovulate as 'anovulation.' Generally, genetic and acquired medical disorders that cause dysfunction in the brain, ovaries, and hormonal system can lead to anovulation.
The following are common causes of anovulation:
- brain disorders that affect the hypothalamus and pituitary glands
- chronic medical illnesses such as liver and kidney diseases
- hormonal conditions that affect the thyroid and adrenal glands
- polycystic ovarian syndrome
- chronic malnutrition
- genetic disorders that cause ovarian failure or dysfunction
Women with any of these conditions or those unable to conceive after one year of unprotected sexual intercourse with a partner will benefit from consulting a fertility specialist.
Your fertility doctor will conduct a holistic clinical evaluation to identify the cause of anovulation and counsel you on the most appropriate therapeutic intervention.
Also, anyone with irregular menstrual cycles may not ovulate predictably, so it is advisable for them to consult a fertility doctor.
Do You Need Clinical Screening for Ovulation?
Ovulation plays a crucial role in conception, and couples trying to conceive will benefit from having sexual intercourse during ovulation. Ovulation presents signs such as changes in basal temperature, cervical mucus, lower abdominal pain, and mood swings.
Individuals manifest these ovulation signs differently, and hormonal fluctuations can also influence these symptoms.
It might be a good idea to use a method for tracking ovulation, such as urinary test kits, technological devices, and ovulation calculators or calendars; however, these methods vary in accuracy and may not work for everyone. Those with an irregular menstrual cycle or medical conditions such as chronic liver disease, etc., may experience ovulation challenges.
If you suspect you have challenges with your ovulation or want to confirm you are ovulating, consult a fertility specialist for expert evaluation and advice.
At Dominion Fertility, we have a team of industry-leading fertility experts that can assess and provide personalized care that suits your unique needs.
Contact us today for more information and how we can help you with your ovulation or fertility concerns.