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GLOSSARY

Ovulation

Ovulation is the process by which a mature egg is released from the ovary. A person is most fertile in the days leading up to ovulation and has the best chances of achieving pregnancy. This period is also known as the “fertile window” or the “pregnancy window.”

Ovulation occurs about halfway through the menstrual cycle, typically on day 14 (but can change depending on the length of a person’s typical cycle). Ovulation is triggered by a rise in estrogen, which causes a rupture of the ovarian follicle and a release of the oocyte (egg). An egg can be fertilized between 12 to 24 hours after ovulation, and then travels to the uterus. If the egg is not fertilized, it disintegrates and passes out with the uterine lining.

Ovulation and female fertility

It is important for those who are trying to conceive to know their ovulation cycle, as it provides insight into when they are most fertile. Contrary to popular belief, the window of opportunity to get pregnant every month is rather small. The “fertile window” is defined as the day the egg is released and the five days beforehand.

While most sperm can live for up to five days in the female reproductive tract, eggs can only be fertilized 24 hours after they fall. Consequently, engaging in sexual intercourse just before ovulating greatly increases the odds of conception.

While ovulation periods vary from person to person, they tend to occur between days 13 to 15 of the menstrual cycle (with the first of the menstrual period as day 1). Keeping a calendar is recommended to track ovulation period. Urine hormone tests and basal body temperature can also be used to predict ovulation.

Symptoms of ovulation

Common symptoms of ovulation include both changes in vaginal secretion and changes in basal body temperature. Furthermore, ovulation may cause light bleeding or spotting, increased sex drive, and ovary pain on the side of the abdomen (also known as “mittelschmerz”). Ovulation tests are also available to identify a person’s peak fertility period.
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