Ovulation is the release of a mature egg from its developing follicle in the outer layer of the ovary. This usually occurs approximately 14 days before the next menstrual period (the 14th day of a 28-day cycle).
Ovulation, the release of an egg from its follicle in one of a woman’s two ovaries, is one of the most important factors in conceiving a child. Once ovulated, the egg is picked up by one of the fallopian tubes and begins traveling toward the uterus. In order for traditional conception to occur, the man must ejaculate his semen, the fluid containing the sperm, into the woman’s vagina near the time of ovulation. The man’s sperm must be capable of swimming through the vagina and cervical mucus, up the cervical canal into the uterus, and up into the fallopian tube, where it must attach to and penetrate the egg in order to fertilize it. The fertilized egg remains in the fallopian tube for a few days and then continues traveling to the uterus and implants in the endometrium (lining of the uterus), where it grows and matures. If all goes well, a child is born approximately nine months later.
Ovulation is triggered by a surge of luteinizing hormone (LH) in the woman’s blood, and occurs approximately 36 hours after the start of this LH surge. If the egg is fertilized and implants in the endometrium, a pregnancy is established. If a pregnancy is not established, the endometrial lining that develops in preparation for pregnancy is shed as the menstrual flow.
Because a variety of problems can prevent or disrupt ovulation and result in infertity, often it is necessary to determine whether or not a woman is ovulating. There are several ways to detect ovulation, including urine test kits to measure LH levels, transvaginal ultrasound, endometrial biopsy, blood tests to measure hormone levels, and the basal body temperature (BBT) chart.
Although determining if and when ovulation is occurring might seem frustrating and time consuming, it is often an essential step toward achieving pregnancy. It is important that women work with their physicians to decide which method of ovulation detection is best for them. If these tests indicate that the woman is not ovulating, or that she has irregular cycles, treatments are available to correct the problem and increase the chances of a successful pregnancy.
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