What you need to know about the big “O”: Ovulation

monthly periodHave you ever wondered how your cycle works? What’s going on in your body from one period to the next? Most of us may have learned a little bit about this in our junior high sex ed class but let’s review.

 

Mr. Monthly Visitor. Aunt Flo. Your period.

A typical menstrual cycle lasts from 21 to 35 days with the average being anywhere from 28 to 31 days. 1 The day your period starts is counted as Day 1; in a doctor’s office this day is also known as your LMP (last monthly period). Normal menstruation can last anywhere from one to eight days with an average of three to five days. 2 There are several factors that affect the length of a period – weight, activity level, and oral contraceptive use are some of the more common.

 

The big “O”: Ovulation

Ovulation is the release of the egg from the ovary. The day a woman ovulates can vary woman to woman and month to month – anywhere from 13 to 20 days after your LMP.1

A few lucky women know exactly when they ovulate by experiencing a feeling called “mittelschmerz”, a twinge, pinch, or cramp felt in the lower abdomen or back on the side that the ovary releasing the egg is on.4 Other signs and symptoms of ovulation may include headaches, stomach pains, or sluggishness; increased sexual feelings; mid-cycle spotting; bloating and/or water retention; increased energy; a greater sense of vision, smell, and taste; and breast sensitivity.4,6 One of the most easily noticed signs is increased cervical mucus discharge.

Ovulation is huge since it is the time that a woman can become pregnant. This is where it gets somewhat confusing. Most women are fertile (can become pregnant) only a few days in their cycle but there are other factors at play. The egg only lives about 24 hours (anywhere from 6 – 24 hours); but if two or more eggs are released, the chance of becoming pregnant with even just one baby is increased. Also, and perhaps the one we don’t usually think of, is that sperm can live up to 5 days (3 days in non-fertile quality cervical fluid, up to 5 days in fertile quality cervical fluid) inside a woman. So… all this to say that a couple’s combined fertile period is about a week.6

After ovulation, if fertilization/conception does not occur, your period will typically start within 14 – 16 days. Some women have PMS symptoms to give them a heads-up, others do not. If fertilization/conception does occur, the game changes; you may still experience signs and symptoms associated with ovulation and/or PMS, including mild cramping, bloating, spotting, breast tenderness, or others.

 

If you have any questions or think you might be pregnant, contact us at 815-408-0793 to schedule an appointment with the White Oak Women’s Center patient care team or request an appointment online.

References

  1. www.womenshealth.gov, accessed January 24, 2015
  2. www.pms.about.com, accessed January 24, 2015
  3. www.womenshealth.gov, accessed January 24, 2015
  4. “Our Bodies, Ourselves: The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective” Simon and Schuster New York October 2011
  5. “Our Bodies, Ourselves: The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective” Simon and Schuster New York October 2011
  6. Weschler, Toni “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” Harper Collins 2006
  7. Weschler, Toni “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” Harper Collins 2006

Can I find out the exact day I got pregnant?

When I Got PregnantCan I find out the exact day I got pregnant?

The short answer to the question, “Can I find out the exact day I got pregnant?” is, probably not. Determining the exact date of conception is difficult for several reasons.

First of all, you need to know that pregnancy occurs when an ovulated female egg and and male sperm meet and fertilization occurs. This usually takes place in a fallopian tube.

The time of ovulation, when an egg is released from the ovaries and into the fallopian tube, determines a woman’s fertility window and varies from woman to woman. Most women ovulate 14 days after the first day of their last menstrual cycle but some women release an egg anywhere from 11 to 21 days after the first day of their last period. An egg is viable, able to be fertilized, up to 24 hours after it has been released from the ovary.

Also, sperm can live in a woman’s body and fertilize an egg for up to seven days. This means there is a window of a week or so in which a woman can conceive after a sexual encounter.

Because the date of conception can be so hard to determine it has become standard practice to place a woman’s due date at 40 weeks after the first day of the woman’s last menstrual cycle. For women who don’t have regular periods, this can be a problem.

An ultrasound can more accurately determine the date of conception and the gestational age of the baby. In an ultrasound measurements are taken of the gestational sack and the crown to rump length of the fetus. These measurements are used to estimate the gestational age of the baby. The baby can begin to be measured between 5 and 6 weeks after the first day of a woman’s last period, but measurements are more accurate between 8 and 18 weeks after a woman’s last period.

Even with an ultrasound exam the exact date of conception can be hard to pin down because the baby might be unusually large or unusually small.

The only way a woman can be fairly certain of the exact day she became pregnant is if she only had one sexual encounter during her fertility window, anywhere from 11-21 days after the first day of her last period, and she knows the exact day that encounter took place.