Ovulation is a little bit like an opera singer waiting to make her grand entry — with the stage set, the arc lights dimmed and the accompanying artists feverishly heralding her arrival. When she does arrive, her performance is as swish as her entrance, and she’s gone before you know it, ready to embark on a month-long sabbatical to return with renewed vigour.
Unlike the grand pomp and circumstance of an opera, however, ovulation is a silent, elusive little phenomenon. Ovulation plays a critical role in conception, and knowing its timing can help you conceive faster and more easily. So, before further ado, let’s dive right into what the term actually entails.
As a woman, you harbour millions of eggs in your ovaries. These eggs are slowly matured and released, one at a time, every month. This process is known as ovulation, and if timed well with intercourse, can give rise to a pregnancy. For most women, ovulation happens monthly, or once every menstrual cycle.
The Key to Ovulation Prediction
Ovulation usually occurs two weeks before a woman’s expected period. So, let’s say you have an average menstrual cycle of 30 days, count back 14 days to your predicted ovulation date. Of course, this is a general rule of thumb and may not be applicable if your periods are sporadic. If you don’t already chart your cycle, it’s a good idea to do so for at least three months to gain an insight into your menstrual pattern. Women who have irregular periods may find it challenging pinpointing ovulation, especially those with diseases like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and premature ovarian failure.
Aside from pregnancy and menopause, factors like stress, medications, birth control pills, breastfeeding, antidepressants, underweight and overweight can also arrest ovulation. If you have periods less than 21 days or more than 35 days apart, it’s worth meeting a doctor to ensure your menstrual pattern isn’t a manifestation of an underlying health condition. If you do suffer from irregular periods, take heart in knowing that you could still conceive with the right timing, although ovulation prediction may be more difficult. In this guide, we give you ways to stay informed when ovulation is around the corner.
Knowing When You’re Most Fertile
First, let’s bust a popular myth: you can’t get pregnant at just anytime of the month. Timing intercourse to unite the egg and the sperm is critical. An egg survives for about 24 hours before disintegrating, whereas sperm live up to 5 days. This is why it is important to engage in intercourse in the five days — and in particular, the final two days — leading up to and including ovulation, to maximise your chances. This total five-day period is known as the fertile window. Having intercourse after your egg has disintegrated means you have to wait for the next month to try again, so it’s essential that you get your timing just right.
Signs of Ovulation
Some women with regular cycles can predict ovulation based on previous menstrual patterns. However, this can be a challenge for women with sporadic periods. If you fall in the latter category, you can resort to ovulation prediction kits and basal body temperature monitoring (both techniques are available online and in most pharmacies around India), to scientifically identify your ovulation interval. Your body also sends signals when it’s about to send an egg your way. Some of these are included below.
Egg White Vaginal Discharge
As ovulation approaches, you will find your vaginal discharge becoming more clear and stretchy, almost matching the consistency of an egg white. This is due to an increase in oestrogen and it is a surefire sign that ovulation is impending. To test for the consistency of your vaginal discharge, insert a clean finger into your vagina, draw out a tiny bit of mucus and stretch it between your thumb and index finger. If it feels slippery and stretchy, it’s likely you’re in your fertile window.
Heightened Sense of Smell
Some women may find their nose working overtime around ovulation. During this time, they may be acutely aware of certain scents cast by the male pheromone androsterone.
Breasts and nipples can be highly sensitive during ovulation, due to a surge in hormones.
Some women report ‘feeling’ ovulation in the form of muted pain on one side of the lower abdomen. This phenomenon is known as Mittelschmerz and can last up to a few hours. Nausea and tinted discharge are also signs of ovulation.
Brown or rust-coloured spotting is actually a common outcome of ovulation and signals the rupture of an oocyte from a follicle. This blood is darker than that of a menstrual flow, because it ages on its way down.
Changes in Sex Drive
An increased libido is nature’s way of alerting you to get busy. Of course, a heightened sex drive can also easily be caused by influences like alcohol, or quite simply, the environment around you.
You’ll find your cervix softer and more elevated during ovulation. However, this can be tricky to identify and is usually something you get better at with time. If you’re keen on learning about cervical changes, think about scheduling a consultation with your doctor.
The golden ticket to conception lies in catching your egg at the right time. With these tips, you can finally jump ahead and catch up with that ever-evasive ovulatory clock.