What is ovulation and what you need to know about it


Ovulation is a key part of a woman’s monthly cycle. This is where an egg is released from the ovaries into the womb. It’s at this time that pregnancy can occur if sperm reaches the egg, causing fertilisation. If this doesn’t happen, the egg dissolves and the womb sheds its lining as menstrual blood during your period. 


Ovulation and family planning 

If you are trying to get pregnant, tracking your cycle to determine when you are ovulating is important when trying to conceive. The best time for fertilisation is a couple of days before, and during the 24 hour period when ovulation is taking place. Generally, you have a period of 7 days when you are fertile. Sperm can live inside your body for up to 7 days- so if you’ve had sex in the days leading up to ovulation then you have a chance of getting pregnant. 

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When does ovulation take place?

Ovulation happens around the middle of your cycle, which works as day 14 on average. Your cycle starts on the first day of your period, so you can expect to ovulate 7-10 days after your period ends. This isn’t an exact science however as the length of your cycle can vary from woman to woman- some are shorter and some are longer. Irregularities are also common for certain women too. 


How do I know when I’m ovulating? 

There are several ways to tell if you are ovulating: 

  • A change in vaginal discharge which tends to become sticker and white in colour
  • Heightened body temperature 
  • An increase in sex drive
  • Tender breasts 
  • Ovulation pain (which affects some women) 

Tracking your ovulation can take several months to get right. It involves taking and recording your temperature on a daily basis, tracking when your period starts and ends and keeping an eye on your vaginal discharge for signs of changes. 


What factors have an impact on ovulation? 

You may find that your cycle is irregular which means you might not be ovulating every month. Certain lifestyle factors can cause this which include stress, excessive exercise and dieting. This can also be a sign of an underlying condition such as polycystic ovary syndrome. Anorexia is an illness which can also cause your periods to stop. If you are concerned, then speak to a GP who can help to find the cause of any irregularities. 


Natural family planning

This is a method of contraception, also known as fertility awareness, where you prevent pregnancy by tracking your cycle and avoiding sex, or using a condom, during the time you are fertile. If you want to follow this, you will need to attend specialised classes at a family planning clinic. When this is followed correctly, it’s 99% effective at preventing pregnancy but it takes time to get right and involves a commitment. 


Period tracking apps

There are a number of smartphone apps available on the market which help to track your cycle. They provide an easy and accessible way to record your temperature each day, mark changes in your discharge and record the start and end date of your period each month. You can also use it to track symptoms such as cramps and PMS to help determine a pattern. 

If you are having problems with either your period or ovulation, then this is a helpful way of gathering information to provide to your GP at an appointment. You can also set reminders to notify you when you might be ovulating and also to alert you when your period is due- or if it’s late. 



Healthline> What is Ovulation?

NHS> How can I tell if I’m ovulating?

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