The last few weeks have been horrifying for so many people with uteruses. The news of some states criminalizing abortion is so unthinkable it’s rendered many of us speechless. Canada isn’t innocent when it comes to abortion access either… but at least it’s legal.
In today’s period pride post, we explore what happens in our bodies during ovulation. Hint: this is a great time in the cycle to either try for or totally avoid pregnancy. We’ve added resources to the bottom of this article re: abortion access and how you can help.
Let’s dive in… Naturopathic Doctor Joanna Rosenfeld explains what’s happening in our bodies…
Ovulation occurs after estrogen levels peak, causing a surge of luteinizing hormone (LH), which allows for the egg to be released from the follicle. The egg then travels down the fallopian tube towards the uterus. A structure called the corpus luteum forms in the ovary where the egg just left, which secretes progesterone - the dominant hormone in the next phase of our cycle.
If there is sperm present, this is when fertilization might occur. The egg and sperm then travel down to the uterus and implant in the uterine wall.
If there is no fertilization, the egg travels to the uterus, and the corpus luteum stops secreting progesterone around 9 days post ovulation, causing hormone levels to decrease, and the uterine lining to shed = your period!
How to find out when you are ovulating:
1. Change in Cervical Mucus
The most common physical sign of pending ovulation is a change in cervical mucus. You might notice this after going to the bathroom, or you might see it in your underwear. Leading up to ovulation, the increase in estrogen makes cervical mucus clear, and stretchy - it is often compared to a raw egg white consistency. You may notice a small amount of spotting (dark brown or pinkish blood) mixed with your cervical mucus. After ovulation, when progesterone levels increase, cervical mucus becomes more sticky and often dries up.
2. Ovulation Predictor Kits
There are many commercially available ovulation predictor kits, which detect the LH surge in your urine, which occurs about 12-36 hours before ovulation. These tests can be useful, but many people have a very narrow LH surge, which is easily missed unless you are testing your urine twice a day. In certain conditions, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, LH levels are consistently elevated, so it might be hard to detect the surge.
3. Body Temperature
Another common method for detecting ovulation is by recording your body temperature every morning before getting out of bed. Before ovulation, your body temperature is about 0.3-1 degree cooler than after ovulation. After ovulation your body temperature will increase, and will stay elevated until your menstrual cycle. This is due to the increase in progesterone, which causes an increase in body temperature. In some women, there is a noticeable dip in temperature on the day of ovulation. If you want to get fancy with temp tracking, check out this app.
4. Blood Test
Testing your serum progesterone 1 week after you think you ovulated will confirm whether or not you did ovulate. In order for ovulation to occur, your progesterone level at this time in your cycle should be >3ng/mL, or 9.5nmol/L.
How you might feel:
Generally ovulation is a time when women feel their best. The peak in estrogen increases energy, libido and mood. The increase in estrogen and testosterone also stimulate the verbal and social centres of the brain, so you might feel like socializing more than usual! This study showed that women reported more positive feelings during ovulation than those who were on hormone contraceptives.
Some people might notice some localized pain with ovulation. Although uncomfortable, this type of pain is not generally concerning.
What if I’m not ovulating regularly?
Many factors can cause delayed ovulation, or missed ovulation (also known as anovulation). If this happens once in a while, it is not a big deal, but if it happens more often, you may want to talk to your Doctor or Naturopathic Doctor.
Common causes of an occasional missed or delayed ovulation include travel, stress, over-exercising or poor eating habits. Age can also be a factor in regular ovulation. Both young and older women are more likely to have a cycle that is anovulatory.
Certain supplements and medications can also impair or delay ovulation, most commonly melatonin and anti-inflammatory medications such as Advil.
The most common reason for anovulation is a condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). In this condition, women often don’t ovulate which results in very long, or absent, cycles. There are several different causes of PCOS, but the most common cause is linked to higher levels of insulin, which in turn signal the ovarian theca cells to secrete higher levels of testosterone, which then suppresses ovulation. Other common symptoms of PCOS might be weight gain, acne, hair loss, or excess hair growth on your face. If you suspect you might have PCOS, talk to your Doctor about getting tested.
This increase in energy can help fuel intense exercise, so it can be a time you might improve upon your personal bests if you have a competition coming up.
Pick up the phone and call an old friend, plan a night out, or go on a date. You’re at your best socially during this time, so take advantage! It can also be a good time to have that difficult conversation with your boss or partner since you are more likely to be empathetic during this time, which can ease difficult conversations. For those in study mode, your memory will be best at this time of the month.
Foods to Eat
Ovulation is considered the ‘summer’ of your menstrual cycle, so eating salads and in-season produce is a great idea. Ensure you are getting high amounts of fat, and lean protein, and avoiding sugar and simple carbohydrates which can interfere with ovulation.
Ovulation is usually the most social, energetic and sexiest time of the month- but this doesn’t mean you’ll always feel great- just that you’re more likely to feel good because of your hormones.
Dr. Joanna Rosenfeld works at Qi Integrative Health and is passionate about supporting Hormone Health.
Abortion Providers in BC:
Abortion Info Sheet Vancouver Coastal Health:
How you can support abortion rights:
Abortion laws around the world: