If there’s one thing you want to do for your health exactly 12 times in 2021, it’s ovulate.
Yes—we hear you—that’s kind of a weird way to think about it, but ovulation is not just important for fertility, it’s a big deal for your overall health and wellbeing and it could be the missing link in your quest for pain-free periods, relief from anxiety and more - as you’ll see below.
WHAt is ovulation and why is it so great?
We’re on a mission to ‘Make Ovulation Great Again’. So often overshadowed by its more dramatic friend, your period, ovulation is actually the main event of your menstrual cycle, the star that should be in the spotlight.
Ovulation is the release of an egg from its follicle, into the fallopian tube which generally takes place between days 13 - 21 of your cycle.
As Endocrinology professor Jerilynn Prior sums it up so nicely, ovulation is both an indicator and a creator of health.
Basically, if you’re ovulating regularly it’s a good sign that your body is nourished, healthy and for the most part, managing the stress in your life.
As we’re also about to dive into, ovulation plays a major role in helping us get through the second half of our cycle without too much drama.
Ovulation is how we make hormones
A key difference between men and women is how we make our sex hormones. While men make testosterone every day, women have surges of oestrogen and progesterone throughout their monthly cycle.
Oestrogen climbs to a juicy peak to build up to ovulation, and progesterone (the relaxing, feel-good hormone) surges after (and only if!) ovulation has occurred.
This well-rehearsed dance of hormones sometimes results in a baby, but most of the time it doesn’t. Regardless, it’s still an important process as these two hormones bring so many benefits to our health and are simply expected by the body to function as a healthy female body should.
Our monthly surge of oestrogen supports our mood, boosts our energy, increases libido and has benefits for insulin sensitivity, skin health, brain health and long term bone and cardiovascular health.
If we ovulate, the surge of progesterone balances the effects of oestrogen and works to support a potential pregnancy, increases metabolic rate, calms the mind and helps us sleep, reduces inflammation and lightens your next period.
When these two hormones ebb and flow in the right ratios at the right times, the result is regular, PMS-free periods (yay).
How can I tell if i'm ovulating
Having a regular cycle that’s between 21 and 35 days long, that doesn’t vary too much month to month, and doesn’t come with too much PMS is a good sign, but not a sure sign of ovulation and fertility.
A few other ways to tell if and when you are ovulating include:
Progesterone fires up our core body temp by about 0.3-0.6ºC. Recording your BBT (basal body temperature) first thing each morning is enough to detect this jump that confirms ovulation has occurred.
Ovulation Predictor Kits
Essentially strips that detect LH (luteinizing hormone) in your pee. A positive reading means you are likely to ovulate soon.
Ovulation can cause a slight cramping to one side of the lower abdomen (where your ovulating ovary is located) and/or spotting for some women. It also changes cervical fluid (making it clear and slippery) and boosts libido. These things can all indicate ovulation time.
The Eve Test can tell whether or not you have ovulated based on your progesterone levels mid-luteal phase.
A wee note on ovulation and fertility: after ovulation, the egg lives for just 24 hours in the fallopian tube, where it can be fertilised by one charming, lucky sperm (which FYI, can live for about 5 days in fertile fluid). If you want to get pregnant, this is the best time to get busy. If not, you want to be extra careful.
When we don’t ovulate, we also don’t make much progesterone and are more likely to experience signs of low progesterone or ‘oestrogen dominance’, such as:
- Heavy periods;
- Period cramps;
- Mood swings;
- Water retention;
- Tender breasts;
- Difficulty sleeping;
- Premenstrual headaches.
Anovulatory cycles happen for a variety of different reasons, such as stress, undereating, over-exercising, PCOS and hormonal birth control.
Some women have the odd anovulatory cycle here and there, and for others, this hormone imbalance becomes the norm. In either case, there are ways to nourish that wonderful body of yours and support your ovaries in releasing a mature egg each cycle.
A few general ways to support ovulation in the body include:
- Eat enough food. Including enough calories and enough carbohydrates for your body to know the world is a safe place (should you bring a baby into it). Don’t skimp on healthy fats or protein either, all are essential for happy hormones.
- Reduce your stress. Easier said than done, we know. Try cutting back on additional stressors such as over-exercising, caffeine and alcohol.
- Make sure you’ve got enough nutrients on board. Some nutrients that support the ovaries in doing their thing are B-vitamins (particularly B6), magnesium, iodine, selenium and vitamin-D.
- Lower inflammation in the body. Try reducing or eliminating sugar, gluten, alcohol and processed foods from your diet and eat more anti-inflammatory foods such as fatty fish, turmeric, leafy greens & olive oil.
- Eat to stabilise your blood sugars. Without stable blood sugars, we will never have balanced hormones. Our hormones love it when we eat healthy fats, proteins and low GI carbohydrates and when you don’t skip meals.
- Consider additional support. Maca, vitex, melatonin, seed cycling and even acupuncture can support healthy, ovulatory cycles provided you’re already covering the basics.
However, the best way to support ovulation in your unique body depends entirely on why you might not be ovulating in the first place.
The Eve Test COMPLETE™ can show you exactly what's going on with your hormones, and provide you with personalised recommendations tailored to these results.
remember: ovulation is a long game
Changes to your cycle and hormones don’t happen overnight, but with the right tweaks to your diet and lifestyle, they will happen.
It takes around 3 months for a follicle (tiny fluid-like sacks that carry your eggs) to develop for ovulation, meaning it can also take this long to start ovulating and seeing noticeable changes.
This can feel like forever, particularly if you are trying to fall pregnant. Throughout this time it’s important to have faith, patience and self-compassion. Good things take time.