How can you tell if you are ovulating?
Ovulation is the release of a mature egg or ovum from the ovary. The ovaries are a pair of organs attached to the womb that create eggs or ova and secrete female sex hormones (estrogen and progesterone). The ovum is released from the ovary (generally one ovary releases the egg during a menstrual cycle) and it travels to the tube-like structures called the fallopian tubes. The ovum takes about five days to travel from the ovaries to the uterus through the fallopian tubes. This phase is associated with the increase of the hormone progesterone, which prepares the uterus for pregnancy. The ovum can get fertilized if sperm reaches it in the fallopian tube. In the absence of fertilization, the ovum is released out of the body during the menstrual period.
Ovulation generally occurs in the middle of the menstrual cycle. Thus, if you have a 28-day cycle, ovulation may occur on the 14th day, day one being the first day of the period. If you have the cycle shorter than 21 days, then ovulation may occur as early as the 7th day. Knowing the signs of ovulation can help you plan or prevent pregnancy. The period during the menstrual cycle when the possibility of pregnancy is high is called the fertile window. The sperm can survive in your reproductive tract for about five days. The egg or ovum can be fertilized within around 24 hours after being released from the ovary. Thus, your fertile window starts five days before ovulation occurs.
Some of the ways that tell you are ovulating are
- Basal body temperature (BBT): The basal body temperature is the body temperature when you are at rest. BBT is an easy and inexpensive but inaccurate method to know whether you are ovulating. Take your temperature at the same time every day before you leave the bed. Charting daily BBT will help you know if ovulation has occurred. Your body temperature dips a bit just before ovulation. Your temperature rises around 24 hours after the egg is released. This temperature stays up for several days. The average BBT before ovulation is between 97 and 97.5 degrees Fahrenheit. The BBT after ovulation increases to about 97.6 to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The minor temperature change can be accurately recorded with a digital or basal thermometer.
- Change in cervical mucus: Ovulation causes a change in the secretions produced by the glands of the cervix (the neck of the uterus). Just before ovulation, the secretions become thin, clear, and stretchy with a consistency like raw egg whites.
- Blood tests for hormone levels: Your doctor may suggest tests to measure the levels of certain hormones in the blood. The luteinizing hormone or LH levels in the blood may help predict ovulation. Since LH is released in pulses, multiple tests may be needed to predict or confirm ovulation. Other hormones whose levels change with ovulation are estrogen and progesterone.
- Urine test for luteinizing hormone (LH) levels: OTC kits are available to measure LH levels in the urine. You can easily perform the test at home. Ovulation generally occurs within 12 to 24 hours after LH is detected in urine. You can ask your doctor when to perform the test based on the length of your menstrual cycle.
- Transvaginal ultrasound: Ultrasonography done by passing a probe through the vagina (transvaginal ultrasound) may help predict ovulation by looking at the size and structure of the ovarian follicles (the sac-like structure containing the ovum).
- Other signs: Breast tenderness, bloating, increased sex drive and swollen vaginal lips (vulva) may indicate ovulation. These signs, however, are not specific to ovulation.
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