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  • Shaken Baby Syndrome

    Tuesday, 21 July 2015 16:28
  • Amniotic fluid problems

    Thursday, 14 May 2015 12:54
  • Choosing a pre-school

    Friday, 10 April 2015 17:50
  • Newborn reflexes

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:49
  • Mastitis

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:41
  • Pelvic floor exercises

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:20
  • Colic

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:11
  • Antenatal Classes

    Monday, 03 June 2013 09:34
  • Strap-in-the-Future

    Thursday, 30 June 2011 13:52


The time of ovulation is one of the most important things a woman should understand about her own body, since it is the determining factor in getting pregnant or avoiding pregnancy. The process can initially be confusing and slightly overwhelming. A good place to start, is understanding what happens from the start of your menstrual period, up until the time of ovulation.

What happens from menstruation to ovulation?

When your menstrual cycle begins, estrogen levels are low. The part of your brain responsible for regulating hormone levels in your body, the hypothalamus, sends out a message to your pituitary gland, which in turn sends out FSH or follicle stimulating hormone. FSH triggers some of your follicles so that they develop into mature eggs. One of these will ripen or develop into the dominant follicle and the others will disintegrate. The follicles send out another hormone estrogen. High levels of estrogen, signal to the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, that there is a mature egg.

A luteinizing hormone (LH) is released, in what is known as an LH surge. This causes the egg to burst through the ovary wall, within 24-36 hours and begin its journey down the fallopian tube for fertilization. The follicle from which the egg was released is called the corpus luteum and it secretes the hormone progesterone, to thicken and prepare the uterine wall for implantation. This is known as the luteal phase of your cycle, whereby the corpus luteum produces progesterone for 12-16 days. If the egg becomes fertilized, the corpus luteum will continue to produce progesterone for a developing pregnancy, until the placenta takes over. Pregnancy symptoms may begin as early as a week after fertilization. If the egg is not fertilized, it will dissolve within 24 hours.

At this time, your hormone levels decrease and your uterine lining will shed approximately 12-16 days after ovulation. This is known as menstruation and brings us back to the first day of your cycle. And the whole process begins again.

A closer look at ovulation: What is ovulation?

Ovulation occurs when one or more eggs are released from your ovaries. Your ovaries do not necessarily take it in turns to release eggs. It happens quiet randomly.

Each month, approximately 15-20 eggs mature inside your ovaries, and the ripest egg is released and swept into your fallopian tubes. Your fallopian tubes connect your ovaries to your uterus.

How does ovulation affect when i get pregnant?

In order to fall pregnant, one of your eggs has to meet your partners sperm, in your fallopian tubes. Once an egg has been released during ovulation, it is unable to survive for more than 24 hours. Therefore, the meeting of the egg and sperm has to occur within this time.

In contrast, sperm can survive for 7 days and are happy to take up residence in your vagina, uterus or fallopian tubes for this length of time.

This means that you do not have to time intercourse to the exact moment you ovulate, in order to get pregnant. You actually have a fertile window of approximately 6 days. This window includes 5 days before and the day of ovulation itself. If you have intercourse at some time during this fertile period, it is likely that your freshly ovulated egg could meet live, healthy sperm and become fertilized.

Important facts to know about ovulation:

* An egg lives for approximately 12-24 hours after leaving the ovary.
* During ovulation, only one egg is usually released.
* Your ovulation cycle can be affected by several factors, such as stress, illness or disruptions to your routine.
* Some women experience light spotting during ovulation.
* Implantation of a fertilized egg, normally occurs between 6 to 12 days after ovulation.
* A woman can still ovulate, even in the absence of a menstrual period.
* Likewise, a menstrual period can occur, even if ovulation has not occurred.
* Some women experience a bit of pain or aching near their ovaries during ovulation. This is referred to as mittelschmerz, which means "middle pain" in German.
* If an egg is not fertilized, it disintegrates and is absorbed into the uterine lining. The shedding of the unfertilized egg and the uterine lining is the time of menstruation.

How can i tell when i am the most fertile?

Deciding to have a baby, is one of the biggest life decisions, you'll ever make and it is natural for you to want things to go as smoothly as possible. Understanding your ovulation cycle and working out when you are ovulating, using an ovulation calculator, is an important first step to conception.

1) Ovulation Calculator

The simplest way to work out your most fertile time is to use an ovulation calculator.
The average woman's menstrual cycle is 28 days but not all women are regular, and cycles may vary from 22 right up to 36 days. Your menstrual cycle starts from the first day of your period and continues up to the day before you start your next one.

How the ovulation calculator works:

Step 1:Your menstrual cycle

Make a note of the date when your next period starts. The following month, once again record the date of your period. Count the days in-between, to establish your cycle length. If you are irregular, you may need to do this for more than one month and take the average. Bear in mind, that coming off the pill will reveal your true menstrual cycle.

For example:
Period starts = 10th April
Next period starts = 8th May
Days in between (including 10th April but excluding 8th May) = 29 days.

Step 2: Fertile Dates

Based on the above calculation, use the chart below, to find the correct number in the menstrual cycle length column (29 days for the above example) and read across for your ovulation day and most fertile days.

                                                  Ovulation Table

Cycle length                         Ovulation                           Most fertile

22                                   Day 8                                  Days 7-9
23                                   Day 9                                  Days 8-10
24                                   Day 10                                Days 9-12
25                                   Day 11                                Days 10-12
26                                   Day 12                                Days 11-13
27                                   Day 13                                Days 12-14
28                                   Day 14                                Days 13-15
29                                   Day 15                                Days 14-16
30                                   Day 16                                Days 15-17
31                                   Day 17                                Days 16-18
32                                   Day 18                                Days 17-19
33                                   Day 19                                Days 18-20
34                                   Day 20                                Days 19-21
35                                   Day 21                                Days 20-22
36                                   Day 22                                Days 21-23

Step 3: Work out your ovulation and most fertile dates:

Based on the above example:

First day of your last period =  8th May
Cycle length =  29 days
Ovulation = 15 days later = 23rd May
Most fertile days = 14-16 days later = 22nd to the 24th May.

In general, once you know your ovulation day, you are most fertile the day before, during or after ovulation. However, as pointed out above, since sperm are able to survive for up to 7 days, in the right conditions, you could be fertile before and after these days.

NB: These dates and days are based on averages and therefore only act as a guideline. Days and dates may differ from one woman to another.

2) Ovulation Calendar

Ovulation calendar programs provide approximate dates for predicting ovulation, and can assist you in determining, when to begin ovulation testing (as outlined below). There are several free, easy to use, ovulation calendars online. To use the calendar, simply enter the following information:

Step 1: The first day of your last menstrual period:  (MM/DD/YY Format)

Step 2: The average length of your menstrual cycle:  22-45 days (Defaults to 28)

Step 3: The length of your Luteal Phase/ the period of time starting from the day after ovulation and running through the remainder of your menstrual cycle.If you are unsure of your Luteal Phase, leave this blank (the ovulation calendar will default to 14days): 9 to 16 days (Defaults to 14)

Step 4: Click on the calculate ovulation bar

An example of an ovulation calendar is provided below: (had problems attaching the calendar, see attachment in email)

3) Bodily signs of ovulation

Since working out your fertile window, based on your cycle dates alone, is an inexact science- look out for hormonal and physical changes occurring in your body that are indicative of fertility. These may include:

* Changes in cervical mucous- Another way to detect impending ovulation is to check your vaginal secretions or cervical mucous, at the opening of the vagina. Typically, vaginal secretions follow the same amount and pattern for most women:
- Menstruation is generally followed by a sticky or 'tacky' vaginal secretion.
- From just before ovulation occurs, until ovulation is over, cervical fluid will change to a wet, slippery substance that resembles 'raw egg whites'. Generally, your body produces the most of this type of vaginal secretion on the day of ovulation.
- The day after ovulation, your vaginal fluids tend to become thicker in consistency and less is secreted.
- Bear in mind, that vaginal secretions can be affected by several factors, such as vaginal infection or STD's, sexual excitement, the use of lubricants during intercourse, douching, breastfeeding, perimenopause, and surgery performed on the cervix.

* Rises in body temperature- Immediately following ovulation most women experience a slight but detectable rise in their normal body temperature (typically between 1/2 to 1 degree). Use a basal thermometer to track your basal body temperature (BBT), first thing in the morning, before you rise, on a daily basis. By tracking your results  on a  basal body temperature chart, it is possible to determine that ovulation has occurred. Remember that factors such as stress, restless sleep and exertion, can affect the readings.

* Higher levels of LH- Luteinizing hormone levels can be measured using a home, LH One-Step Ovulation Test Strip. Luteinizing hormone is always present in human urine but increases dramatically just before a woman's most fertile days of the month. This LH surge, triggers ovulation and an egg is released from a woman's ovary. If you would like to increase your chances of getting pregnant, it is important to detect ovulation in advance by testing for the LH surge, because the egg is most likely to be fertilized 6-12 hours after ovulation. You may want to repeat this test on a 12 hourly basis, in order to 'catch' your surge and have intercourse within the 6-12 hour time frame.

* Breast tenderness - Some women experience breast tenderness just before and after ovulation. However, this is by no means an accurate indication of ovulation. Breast tenderness is also common before menstruation and may also be a side effect of fertility drugs.

* Abdominal cramping or twinges

* Slight spotting- This light spotting, is known as ovulation spotting and is a great sign of fertility. Ovulation spotting generally occurs right before or during ovulation. It may appear as light bleeding, or brownish, pinkish spotting. There are several thoughts on why it occurs; one belief is that the egg ruptures through the follicle during ovulation and that a little bleeding may occur. Another explanation is that a woman experiences hormonal changes during ovulation, such as an increase in estrogen levels and luteinizing hormone, which may produce mid-cycle spotting. If you notice ovulation spotting, this is a good time to start having intercourse. Normally ovulation spotting lasts for 1-2 days and most women start ovulating shortly thereafter. Continue to have intercourse for several days after ovulation spotting to be sure that ovulation has occurred.

* Changes in position and firmness of the cervix- Just as your cervical mucous changes as ovulation approaches, so does the position of your cervix. When you are most fertile, your cervix is higher, softer and more open. (ask your doctor how to detect cervical changes)

* Increased sexual desire- Research has shown that women often experience an increase in sexual desire when they are most fertile. This occurs a few days before ovulation and is the right time to have sex, if you want to get pregnant.

Fertility facts:

* A woman in her 20's has twice as much chance of getting pregnant than a woman in her 30's.
* 1 in 7 couples do not successfully fall pregnant within the first year of trying. More than half of these couples will conceive naturally within the next year, without requiring any treatment.
* The quality and quantity of a woman's eggs does decrease with increasing age.
* Every baby girl is born with all her eggs intact in her ovaries. This amounts to about  300 000-400 000 eggs. From puberty onwards an egg will be released each month.

Besides getting to know your menstrual cycle, the time of the month when you are ovulating and the changes that occur in your body during ovulation, there are other important factors that need to be taken into account when trying to conceive. A preconceptual health visit, accompanied by a physical examination and the exploration of any potential issues that may impede conception, is essential. It is important to eat healthily, take vitamin-mineral supplements particularly formulated for pregnancy, and to avoid bad habits such as drinking and smoking, that may affect your fertility. Bear in mind, that your chances of conception are higher, if you have intercourse multiple times, during your most fertile period. Your man's fertility counts in this regard too. One of the most important things to remember when trying to conceive is- relax. It takes a normal, healthy 25 year old woman, approximately 6 months to conceive, and longer if you are older. Don't feel disconcerted if the miracle doesn't happen right away- just keep having fun trying, and give yourselves at least 1 year, before consulting a fertility expert. If you are over the age of 35, you may want to give yourselves 6 months, before consulting a doctor.