Here we go! This has been promised to you – an Ovulation Tutorial! There are so many variations to what a 'normal' cycle should look like, but for the purpose of clarity – I'm going to talk about how it should look in theory. We can discuss variations down the track.
Here's something I don't want you to do. Get all hoity toity on me, and start to obsess about ovulation. It isn't useful – it adds stress to the already stressful fertility game, and keeps your mind constantly thinking about it. But, it can be useful as a diagnostic tool, to see how things are going hormonally, and for you to have some peace of mind that you are indeed ovulating. So, let's hop to it.
This is how a typical month should look. I want to explain the chart below thoroughly, so I'm going to break it down to simple town. Remember, this is all a 'rough' guide time wise. All women will vary – and that is perfectly normal.
Ok so it is fairly standard that the period will last anywhere from 2-7 days. In the clinic, I like to see a period be no longer than 5 days and we implement measures to ensure this is achieved. It is important that blood loss isn't too significant. It should be no more than 6 tablespoons – not that I want you to measure! But it's a great guide (however, it's difficult to tell with the standard of sanitary products now days).
If you experience a 1 day bleed that is quite dry and dark without proper flow, there is a chance you aren't ovulating, and it's a good idea to speak to a natural fertility specialist.
Now, from this point on is where the fun starts. To put this into practice, you will need to learn to feel what your body is telling you. As grey as it sounds, you can actually 'feel' ovulation via your cervical mucus. You know when you get your period? It feels a certain way 'down there,' (think about it – it feels wet and warm around the opening of the vagina). Ovulation is mostly the same, although it feels wet and cold. It's not necessarily about what you can physically see in terms of cervical mucus, it is more about what you can feel.
Typically one should have several 'dry' days before they start to notice a small amount of mucus (days 6 – 9), followed by the feeling of moistness (days 10 – 12). This can last for several days until you begin to feel signs of optimal fertility – clear and stretchy cervical mucus – remember it feels wet and cold. Cervical mucus is essential for contraception. It is the sperm's mode of transport up to the eagerly waiting egg. The cervix secretes this vital fertile mucus. When the semen is ejaculated into the vagina, the sperm will make it's way up to the cervical crypts (where the mucus is secreted from) where it stays for a bit, and takes a little rest to be fed and rejuvenated (I find it hilarious that it is already hungry!), before it continues on up to meet the egg. If you take a look at fertile cervical mucus under a microscope, it has many little channels – unlike infertile mucus with is a 'criss cross' pattern which makes it impossible for the sperm to swim through.
Fertile Mucus can last for several days. Ovulation isn't the day you see the most fertile signs – it is the LAST day that you see or feel it.
So in this instance, it is cycle day 15, even though there has been fertile mucus present for 3 days – because it is the final day that this wet feeling is experienced. The tricky part is that it isn't something you will know until after the event. But don't think you can't fall pregnant outside this time. It happens! You might like to read about that more here.
Now from cycle day 16 right through to 28, you will notice there is very little or no mucus. This is normal. During this time (it is called the Luteal Phase) your body is busy either implanting an embryo or preparing for your period. Should you notice mucus or discharge at this time, it may be indicative of excess 'damp' in your body, which may or may not be affecting you fertility – wouldn't hurt to get that checked out. What is damp? It is what chinese medicine refers to when there is an accumulation in your body, as a result of some organs not working as well as they should. It can be easily fixed. Think of it like damp that can sit under a house.
Should your cycles be a bit out of whack – say ovulation is occurring earlier or later – it's something that is good to have checked out again by somebody like me, because hormonally you may be lacking, and the consequence is 'sub fertility.' This means that you are potentially fertile, but hormonally you are imbalanced. So for example, ovulating on cycle day 9 is a problem, because it means an immature follicle is being released – making it almost impossible to be fertilised. Or your luteal phase (from ovulation to the period time) is too short, meaning that if there is a growing embryo, it can't continue to grow because it isn't being supplied hormonally with all it requires. In almost all cases, we can treat this and begin to improve fertility. We have a swag of tricks that can be applied in these circumstances.
Now I expect questions – so please, fire away. I hope this has been informative and you have a better understanding of ovulation – remember, we can fall pregnant outside these times in some circumstances – but at least being able to read your body is a great start.