All About Ovulation
Ovulation is responsible for way more than simply causing your periods. It's a driving force behind your unique female hormonal balance. The delicate dance between the different hormones produced before, during, and after ovulation has far-reaching effects on your health and wellbeing.
It is a way bigger deal than you might have realized back in high school. You probably already know that once a month an egg is released in a process called ovulation. And you probably already know that that egg can either be fertilized, resulting in pregnancy, or it will be discharged from your body along during your monthly period.
It is the process of the body releasing an egg that could potentially be penetrated by sperm to create a pregnancy. Although we most commonly think of our cycles in relation to our monthly bleed, ovulation is really the central event and the peak of the cycle.
When menstrual bleeding stops, the body slowly begins to secrete higher and higher levels of the reproductive hormone estrogen. Eventually, this triggers a sharp rise in Luteinizing Hormone (LH) which in turn causes an egg to be released into the fallopian tubes.
This approximatly 24 hours, when an egg is released and can be fertilized by sperm, is known as the ovulatory stage of the menstrual cycle. It is the only time during the entire month the women is technically fertile and able to conceive.
If not fertilized during those 24 hours, the egg begins to disintegrate, and can no longer be penetrated by sperm to create a pregnancy. The egg sits in the uterus for about two more weeks before it is released during menstruation.
Sperm, on the other hand, has a relatively long lifespan compared to the 24 hours of the egg. Sperm will wait around inside your uterus for up to 5 days. If at any point during those 5 days it notices a viable egg descending, it will jump at the chance to ask your egg to dance. If the sperm and the egg get along, they fuse into one and presto, you have a positive pregnancy test.
The 24 hours around ovulation an egg is viable + 5 the days sperm can live is known as the fertile window. The fertile window is the only time during the entire month a woman can actually conceive. For the rest of the month, conception is biologically impossible.
This information is critical both for all forms of natural family planning, whether you want to prevent pregnancy or achieve a pregnancy. If you are trying to get pregnant, timing intercourse around ovulation will help you succeed much sooner. For many couples, including when the women have PCOS or the man has low sperm count, becoming pregnant can be near impossible without timing sex around the fertile window.
If you are trying to avoid pregnancy, you now understand that birth control is actually only necessary for about a week out of the month. So instead of taking The Pill or other hormonal birth control for your entire cycle, you now have options. You can choose to use a barrier contraceptive (condoms, diaphragms, cervical cap etc) for just one week out of the month. Or you can express intimacy in other ways during that week. The rest of the month you can have unprotected sex, without worrying about pregnancy!
While an in depth understanding of ovulation and sperm life span is enlightening, relying on an unequivocal knowledge of your fertile window to plan or prevent pregnancy is a huge responsibility. It takes hard work and dedication. But Fertility Awareness make the process 100 times more attainable. You can become an expert in your individual cycle and achieve your personal family planning goals with confidence and ease.