What is Ovulation?



If a couple have been trying to conceive for sometime, but have been unsuccessful, the failure to get pregnant could be attributed to a number of different factors.   The first possibility could be that there is a lack of understanding of  how the female body and ovulation works. In order to make the most of your conception efforts, you will need to understand what ovulation is and why it is so important in your quest to get pregnant.

Ovulation Defined

Simply stated, ovulation is what happens when a single, mature egg is released from ovary in the woman. There are a multitude of ova that ovaries create during any single month. The largest of these is ejected out of ovary and sent down the fallopian tube. If your timing of intercourse is well planned, that mature egg will rendezvous with the sperm and fertilization may occur. In addition to the egg being released, the lining of the uterus thickens so that it can nurture the fertilized egg.

Timing is of utmost importance if you are having sex in order to get pregnant. Once ovulation has occurred and the egg has been released into the fallopian tube, the egg can only be fertilized within the next 12 to 24 hours. Once this time period has passed, the egg will start deteriorating and conception can not happen. If you have timed intercourse correctly and the egg is fertilized, it will travel to the uterus and implant in the uterine lining. If fertilization did not occur the egg will be flushed out of your system with your monthly menstrual cycle.

Sometimes anovulatory cycles can occur; these are cycles in which an egg is not released. A period will still happen, even if you do not ovulate.

 Important Facts About Ovulation:

  • Usually one egg is released at a time, but infrequently, more than one can be released which could result in fraternal twins.
  • The egg will live for between 12 hours and a whole day outside of the ovary
  • A woman’s cycle can be influenced by factors such as stress, not feeling well, travel, bad diet and a disruption of your normal schedule
  • If an egg does not become fertilized it will be absorbed into the uterine lining after it has disintegrated

Hormones and Ovulation

Estradiol and progesterone are two ovarian hormones that are produced during ovulation. These create conditions that are very conducive for fertilization.

The developing follicle, before ovulation, produces estradiol, which encourages the glands of the cervix to emit fertile mucus, which is crucial for the sperm to swim through the cervix and reach the ovum. Furthermore, estradiol promotes the growth of the endometrium lining in the uterus.

Once ovulation has taken place, progesterone and estradiol are then produced by the corpus luteum, which forms from the ruptured follicle. The progesterone instigates an abrupt change in the mucus, which happens right after ovulation and defines the Peak symptom. Progesterone also helps the estrogen-primed endometrium prepare for the implantation of the fertilized ovum. If there is no pregnancy, then the production of estradiol and progesterone will start to decrease roughly 7 days after ovulation. This is evident by the shedding of the endometrium as menstrual bleeding 11 to 16 days after ovulation.

Keeping Track of Ovulation

Your monthly cycle is measured from the first day of your menstrual period until the day before your next period begins. This cycle normally lasts between 28 and 32 days, but can be a lot longer or shorter. Ovulation normally occurs anywhere between day 11 and day 21. This is the most fertile period of your entire cycle and starts approximately 4 to 5 days before ovulation and stops approximately 24-48 hours afterward. This is because the egg can live for 24 to 48 hours after being released, whereas sperm can live for approximately 4 to 5 days in your body.

Normal, fertile couples have a 25 percent chance of getting pregnant each cycle. This relates to 75 to 85 percent of women who have unprotected sex getting pregnant within a one-year timeframe.  Conception and pregnancy can not happen unless you are ovulating. Ovulation can be difficult to track since it can occur at different times during your cycle and has been proven particularly sensitive to external factors like stress and diet.

With meticulous note taking, it is possible to track ovulation in order to get pregnant faster. If a couple has not been able to conceive after a significant period of time in conjunction with healthy eating, tracking ovulation, and regular sexual intercourse, they are usually advised to speak to a medical practitioner.


Last modified: May 10, 2014