If you want to get pregnant, you need to educate yourself about how your body works, and one very important process to understand is your ovulation. Unfortunately, ovulation is often misunderstood, or is a complete mystery altogether.
Many women, myself included, don’t know much about the relationship between ovulation and their monthly cycle when they start trying to get pregnant. I’m embarrassed to say that when I started trying, the only thing I knew about my monthly cycle was how long it was. And even then I’d be surprised some months when my period came earlier or later than usual. I was 41 years old and completely out of touch with my body.
The one thing that you probably do know is that if you want to get pregnant, you have to ovulate. In fact, issues with ovulation are the number one cause of female infertility.
Whether you’re in treatment or trying to get knocked up the old-fashioned way, it’s not going to happen if you don’t ovulate, or if you don’t understand your own unique ovulation patterns.
So, it’s crucial to learn as much as you can about this. I’d even venture to say that ovulation is the most important thing every woman needs to understand about her body since it’s the determining factor in getting pregnant (or preventing pregnancy, if that’s your goal).
Once you start learning about your cycles, you can make sure timing sex for conception, if you’re trying naturally. If you’re in treatment, this information can help your doctor in determining your treatment protocol. You can also work with your doctor to address any potential issues with your cycles that you may discover as you start monitoring them.
So you can really be a full partner in your own fertility care, which is immensely powerful!
Here are some things that can help you understand ovulation:
A woman doesn’t necessarily ovulate at the same time every month.
The standard 28-day cycle is a myth. Just as each woman is a unique individual, so are her cycles. It’s possible for one woman to have a 25-day cycle, another a 34-day cycle, and yet another the “average” 28-day cycle – and all of these women may have perfectly normal cycles for them.
It’s also possible for cycles to vary within an individual woman. My cycles typically run about 26-27 days, but every once in while I’ll have a shorter or longer one. This is normal.
If you’re trying to conceive and are assuming that you ovulate on Day 14, you might be missing the mark, even if you have a 28-day cycle, and this could be why you’re not getting pregnant.
Ovulation isn’t “making” an egg, but releasing one.
The truth of the matter is, women are born with all of the eggs she’ll ever have in her lifetime. These eggs are stored in the ovaries. During a woman’s monthly cycle, a number of follicles, which contain the eggs, grow to maturity in the ovaries with one (sometimes more) becoming dominant and being released. This release is the process of ovulation.
Therefore, as a woman ages her egg supply decreases. The quality of the eggs also usually decreases, which is why older women are at an increased risk for miscarriage or having children with genetic diseases.
Have sex before ovulation.
If you’re trying to conceive naturally, this is absolutely essential. Women only get pregnant during their fertile window, which is just a short period of time each month.
Because the ovulated egg only lives for about 12-24 hours, it must be fertilized during this time. It makes sense for sperm to be already waiting and ready to fertilize the egg when it’s ovulated. Waiting to have sex until after ovulation is usually too late.
Since sperm can live for up to 5 days, the fertile window is defined as the 5 days preceding ovulation, the day of ovulation itself and the day after ovulation (depending on what time of day ovulation actually occurred). If you’re tracking your fertility signs, you’ll be able to identify this timeframe.
Health habits can affect ovulation.
Just because we’re born with all the eggs we’ll ever have doesn’t mean that we’re completely powerless. We might not be able to make more, but studies have shown that actions we take can help improve the quality of the eggs we have
You can actually start preparing for your future baby months before you actually conceive. It typically takes about 90 days for an egg to prepare for eventual ovulation. During this time they’re reaching maturation, and are susceptible to (healthy and unhealthy) external influences. Incorporating more healthy habits into your life will have a positive impact on your eggs.
This includes things like diet, exercise and sleep. Studies also suggest that some supplements may also help improve egg quality. It’s important to keep up with these positive efforts on a consistent basis to see significant improvements in egg quality. They’ll also help manage your hormone levels to ensure that your ovulation is smooth and regular.
Other factors in our lives can also affect ovulation.
As previously stated, ovulation can be a moving target from month to month. Ovulation is affected by the dance of hormones in our bodies, and our hormones can be affected by things like illness, stress, travel, or any other disruption to our normal routine.
It’s also possible for our bodies to prepare to ovulate and then it doesn’t happen. This actually happened to me during one of my fertility treatment cycles. Because I was tracking my cycles, I knew I didn’t ovulate, and wasn’t surprised when I got a negative pregnancy test. This softened the blow.
There’s so much more to know about this; I’ll keep exploring this topic in future posts.
Want to know more? Leave a question or comment below!
[originally appeared at B Fit, B Fertile on 1/18/17]