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As a quick refresher for those who need it, ovulation is the process in which an egg is released from the ovary and travels into the fallopian tube to await sperm for potential fertilization (13,25). When ovulation occurs is different for every body, and can even be different from one cycle to the next. It’s also possible to not ovulate at all. Ovulation marks a pivotal hormonal shift within the cycle: it marks the change from the follicular phase (from the start of menstruation through ovulation, when estrogen is the dominant hormone) to the luteal phase (post-ovulation until you start bleeding again, when progesterone is the dominant hormone). While we are all very familiar with our periods, unless you are trying to conceive, we are often disconnected from ovulation. But turns out, ovulation, or lack thereof, can tell us so much about our health overall!
First off, how do I know if and when I’m ovulating?!
Great Q! While every body is different, you can look for the following body changes.
- A change in your cervical fluid consistency. Leading up to ovulation, cervical fluid tends to increase. While we often hear that stretchy, egg-white consistency fluid is your most fertile fluid, not everybody experiences this. So get to know your own fluid patterns! Post-ovulation, you may notice things are a little drier down there. (4,23,25) You may also notice that your cervix feels higher up in your body.
- A change in basal body temperature. Post-ovulation, body temperature tends to rise ever so slightly to support implantation in the uterus (a little warmer = a little cozier!)
- Pain or ache around your ovaries. Fun fact: Some people can actually feel their follicle rupture and egg release! This is known as “mittelschmerz” which is German for ‘middle pain’. (23,12)
- Spotting. Some people spot when the mature egg breaks through the follicle. Others may experience spotting due to a drop in estrogen (this is often accompanied by bloating). (22,23,25)
- Increase in sex drive. Whether you’re mentally into it or not, your body can have a mind of its own. It’s your little :hint hint: to carry on your species. (23)
- Uptick in energy. Estrogen tends to be at peak levels around the time you start ovulating and this could definitely make you feel more energized! (15)
Not everybody experiences all of those changes though, so knowing if and when you’re ovulating can be challenging. That’s where a tool like the Daysy Fertility Tracker can be a HUGE help. Using a special algorithm based on 5 million menstrual cycles and 30 years of research, as well your daily morning temperatures and the menstrual info you provide, Daysy uses an easy color system to tell you your most fertile times (around when you ovulate!). Red is for when you are fertile/possibly fertile, green for when you are not fertile, and a red flashing light is for your predicted day of ovulation. Using the DaysyView Companion app, you can track your ovulatory times over multiple cycles, learn your unique normal, and use that info to detect if something is off. Phew!
Our Hormones Do More Than Torture Us
While we often equate acne and bloating, mood swings and cramping with our cycle hormones, they actually do a heck of a lot for us!
Estrogen for one, promotes bone health, helps maintain body temperature and may delay memory loss (3,17). It also helps regulate the liver’s production of cholesterol, in turn decreasing the plaque buildup in the coronary arteries (3). Lastly, estrogen is also the hormone responsible for secondary sex characteristics, like pubic hair and armpit hair (3).
Progesterone promotes bone growth, protects the brain from damage and promotes its repair post-injury, and may even contribute to memory preservation as well as keeping anxiety levels lower– it has such an impact on the nervous system that it even earned the classification of “neurosteroid”(19). What’s more? Studies have also shown that those with heart disease have lower than normal levels of progesterone (17).
Testosterone is another important hormone involved in the menstrual cycle (yes, we all have testosterone!) that typically peaks around ovulation. Testosterone assists with the growth, maintenance, and repair of reproductive tissues (28), keeps bones healthy, promotes cognitive health, and maintains our sex drive (29).
So, even if your cycle isn’t important to you for reproductive reasons, now maybe you can see why ensuring your hormones are at healthy levels within your personal rhythm is so important!
What if I’m Not Ovulating?!
Okay so now that you like your hormones a little bit more, let us remember that ovulation signals that a shift in our hormones has occurred. It is a sign of a healthy cycle. So, if we are able to detect that we aren’t ovulating, it is a sign our hormones need our help. The Daysy Fertility Tracker can alert us to this as it is able to detect even the slightest shifts in temperature (we’re talking 2/10s of a degree!) that may indicate we have started our progesterone-dominant phase.
Think you’re not ovulating? The Daysy Team is there to help you understand your data. Here are some reasons an anovulatory cycle (one in which you don’t ovulate) may occur:
- Being over or underweight, or not getting enough of specific nutrients (4)
- Overly strenuous, intense exercise done often (4): Generally, exercise can be really awesome for your overall health. However, vigorous exercise done by someone who has low BMI has the potential to alter hormone production, and thereby ovulation. (5,21,24)
- Stress: You’ve likely heard of the fight or flight response. When you are under high levels of stress, your body will deprioritize reproductive hormones to support the need to fight or flight. (21)
- Hormonal birth control: Many forms of hormonal birth control, by design, stop ovulation altogether to prevent pregnancy. (2,14,26)
HEALTH CONDITIONS ASSOCIATED WITH ANOVULATORY CYCLES:
Having consistent irregular cycles may be your body’s way of telling you that something is up. Here are some conditions that can affect ovulation to help you start a convo with your care provider:
- Thyroid issue: In cases of an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) or an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism), imbalanced levels of thyroid hormone can interfere with ovulation (7,8). Daysy has helped many people detect thyroid issues!
- PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome): This is a hormonal syndrome that causes infrequent or longer periods and overproduction of androgens, like testosterone. The ovaries of someone experiencing this also can develop small follicles (fluid collections) and fail to release eggs, or ovulate, on a regular basis. (4,16)
- Hypothalamic Dysfunction: AKA Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, refers to the under production of pituitary hormones (Follicle Stimulating Hormones & Luteinizing Hormones) that stimulate egg production and maturity in the follicular phase. If these hormones are disrupted, it can lead to a halt in ovulation. This can be caused by undereating (30).
- Premature Ovarian Failure: Short answer, this is when the ovaries stop functioning normally before the age of 40. What this means is that your body isn’t producing normal amounts of estrogen to release eggs on a normal basis. This disorder can sometimes be confused for early menopause because of its shared symptoms (hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, trouble getting pregnant, irregular periods). Premature ovarian failure can be caused by an autoimmune response, toxins (possibly from chemotherapy) or a genetic disorder. (4,18)
- Too much prolactin: AKA Hyperprolactinemia. First things first, prolactin is best known as the hormone that allows mammals (yes, us) to produce milk. If too much prolactin is produced by the pituitary gland, it could reduce estrogen production and lead to infertility. (This is why when you are breast/chest feeding it is harder, though not impossible, to get pregnant). Non breast/chestfeeding causes tend to be a growth or tumor on the pituitary gland and certain medications used to treat many things (high blood pressure, depression, pain, certain birth control, etc). (4,6,20). This is also why it is hard (though not impossible) to get pregnant while breast/chestfeeding.
We don’t know about you, but we sure are ready to start tracking our ovulation! Head on over to Daysy so you can track more easily, and with more support.
Written by: Catherine Twomey
Medically reviewed by: Danielle LeBlanc, RN
All content found on this Website, including: text, images, audio, or other formats, was created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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