When you start trying to get pregnant, you learn fairly quickly that ovulation is key to whether or not you can conceive that cycle. But ovulation can feel tricky, especially when you’re first learning about it.
What is ovulation actually? How does it work? What do I need to know about ovulation and conception? Is there just an ovulation test I can take?
We’re here for you! We’ve got all the info about ovulation, and we’ll bust a few myths about ovulation along the way.
What is Ovulation and How Does it Work?
Let’s work backwards by starting with what’s likely your goal: conception. In order to conceive, there must be an egg and a sperm. When these two meet and join, conception occurs! (Although you won’t know about it until a week or so later.)
It is key to understand when the body releases them, because only then can pregnancy occur. This event is called ovulation.
At the start of the cycle, as the body is menstruating, certain reproductive hormones (FSH or follicle stimulating hormone, specifically) will begin rising to signal to the ovaries that it’s time to prepare to release an egg. The ovary, which is connected to the uterus, will select several eggs to begin developing.
Each egg will produce a protective, supportive follicle around it, and these follicles produce the hormone, estrogen. When the follicles get large enough, there will be enough estrogen produced to signal the rise of the hormone LH (luteinizing hormone), which is what triggers the ovary to release (or ovulate) the most mature egg.
If there is sperm waiting when this egg is released, the egg could be fertilized and conception can happen!
Because ovulation is so critical to chances at pregnancy, there’s a lot of talk about it. Unfortunately, not everything you read on the internet is true. Luckily, you have us in your corner to clarify these common sayings about ovulation!
1. You Can't Get Pregnant During Your Period
MYTH! Although menstruation may not feel like your most fertile time, you may already be fertile! The time when ovulation occurs can change every cycle.
The process of preparing an egg for ovulation is complex, and it doesn’t simply happen on the 14th day of every cycle (surprise)! In fact, your ovaries could start recruiting eggs and preparing for ovulation as you’re in the middle, or finishing, your period.
2. You Can Only Ovulate Once a Month
TRUE! This complex process doesn’t allow for multiple ovulations in a cycle. We’ve already learned about the increase of estrogen that triggers the events around ovulation.
After ovulation, the major hormones switch over to one called progesterone. The cycle of estrogen to progesterone to period can only happen once in a cycle. Each cycle is the body’s attempt to conceive (whether that’s your goal or not), and ovulation only occurs once in that time. Thankfully, the next cycle begins immediately and another opportunity for conception comes along with it.
3. Spotting During Ovulation is Common
TRUE! It is common to experience some mild spotting during ovulation. It could occur right before or right after ovulation, as your body responds to the rapidly changing estrogen levels.
This bleeding is often called estrogen breakthrough or estrogen withdrawal bleeding. However, there are other causes for mid cycle spotting, and some of those make it less likely to conceive that cycle. The only way to identify if the cause is hormonal is to talk with your doctor.
4. Having Sex Every Day Increases Your Chance of Pregnancy
MYTH! You do not have to have sex every day in order to get pregnant. Remember, ovulation only happens once in a cycle and you can only get pregnant during that time. So intercourse specific to the time of ovulation is the only time that you can conceive a pregnancy.
Research shows that sex during this time is what increases your chance of pregnancy. Enjoy the process as much as you can, and try not to put too much pressure on yourself or your partner.
Tips for Tracking Ovulation to Optimize Your Chances of Getting Pregnant
Knowing when ovulation happens is key to optimizing your chances of getting pregnant. You can’t get pregnant on just any old day of the cycle; sex must occur around ovulation in order for the sperm to fertilize the egg. So let’s get you confident on knowing exactly when your body ovulates!
Remember when we talked about all the changing hormones around ovulation? Estrogen signals LH to rise, and LH switches the dominant hormone to progesterone. If you can identify these hormonal changes, then you’ll be able to know when you’re ovulating.
The body experiences physical changes to accompany these hormone shifts: a rise in temperature, the production of cervical mucus, and changes in your cervix are just a few examples. It is possible to track these changes in order to read your body’s signs of ovulation.
There are also at-home hormone tests that let you see your hormone shifts in real time. Proov’s Predict kit allows you to spot that LH surge from home; when you see it rise, you know ovulation is around the corner! Then confirm ovulation with our Confirm kit – the only FDA cleared PdG (progesterone marker) test that confirms successful ovulation during the implantation window.
With these tools, you’ll feel confident about identifying ovulation so that you can successfully get pregnant!