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Understanding Ovulation

Each baby girl is born with about a million eggs in her tiny ovaries — all the eggs she’ll ever have or need. By the time a girl reaches puberty, her egg supply dwindles to approximately 300,000. And, of course, that decreases with age until she reaches menopause, at around age 51. 

Once you hit puberty, your ovaries usually ripen and release just one egg per month. That means you have a maximum of about 300-400 chances of becoming pregnant in your lifetime, assuming that you have no fertility problems. Understanding your own ovulation cycle and identifying any possible ovulation disorders increases your chances of becoming pregnant. 

At OC Fertility, our fertility experts Dr. Sharon Moayeri and Dr. Nidhee Sachdev help you understand your ovulation, teach you how to time sexual intercourse to ovulation, and resolve any ovulation disorders. A woman’s cycle normally lasts about 28 days and goes through several phases, ending in either pregnancy or in menstruation. 

1. Follicular Phase

The follicular phase marks Day One of your cycle. Your pituitary gland produces and releases follicular stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). The FSH stimulates your ovaries to produce estrogen. The LH stimulates your ovaries to ripen about 15-20 eggs, each in their own case, called a follicle.

As estrogen rises, it shuts down FSH, so that only one egg continues to ripen. The other eggs die.

2. Ovulatory Phase

About two weeks after the start of the follicular phase, ovulation begins. The ripening egg produces estrogen that triggers a surge in LH. The LH surge causes the egg to break out of its follicle and start its journey into the fallopian tubes. 

Right before you ovulate, you may notice that your cervical mucus is thicker than normal. Your mucus thickens to make it easier for sperm to reach the ripened egg.

3. Luteal Phase

After the egg leaves the follicle and travels down the fallopian tubes toward your uterus, the discarded follicle becomes a new kind of structure called the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum then secretes the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Progesterone helps your uterus build a nice, thick nourishing lining for a potential baby. The luteal phase lasts about 6 days, which is when your egg can be fertilized and you can become pregnant. Find your most fertile days with this ovulation calculator

If your egg is fertilized by sperm when it’s in the fallopian tube, it travels down into the uterus and implants itself into the uterine lining. At this point, you’re pregnant.

If the egg doesn’t get fertilized, however, it passes through the uterus. Your uterus then sheds the nourishing lining it created, a process known as menstruation. Menstruation usually lasts from 4-7 days. Then the entire process repeats itself, starting with the follicular phase.

Hormones are in control

As you may have noticed, your hormones drive each of the phases of your ovulation and menstrual cycle. If your hormones are unbalanced, you may ovulate erratically or even not ovulate at all. 

If you’re having trouble getting pregnant, we test your blood to determine your hormone levels. If they’re unbalanced, we may recommend hormone therapy to increase your chances of conception.

If you’re not sure whether you’re ovulating or not, or if you’re having trouble getting pregnant, contact us today. Call our friendly staff at 949-706-2229 or book an appointment on our website.

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