In-Depth look at Ovulation and Luteal Phase

This post is about the second half of your menstrual cycle. The first half is described in more detail here, and the overview of the entire cycle is here. I spit these us so the information wouldn’t be too overwhelming.

Ovulation: One day, usually day 14

Ovulation is the shortest phase of the cycle; typically 24 hours or less. This is the only time of the month you can actually get pregnant. The winning follicle that developed during your follicular phase is starting to get ready to release its egg; the follicle swells, gets triggered by luteinizing hormone (LH), and ruptures to release its egg. On rare occasions, more than one follicle develops fully and that is when more than one egg is released. The release of the egg is ovulation. The final stages of the swelling can take a few hours, but the rupture and release of the egg happens within a matter of minutes.

When the follicle ruptures, you may feel a mild pain known in German as mittelschmerz. I personally feel this quite often, it is not very painful and is usually quick.

Again, ovulation day is the only day pregnancy can actually be achieve, but recall during the follicular phase, fertile mucus is produced and allows sperm to stay alive in the cervical crypts for up to 5 days. So, if you have unprotected intercourse during the time fertile mucus is present, you could still get pregnant when you ovulate EVEN IF YOU DID NOT HAVE SEX THAT DAY. Sperm cells are called to the egg like Moana is called to the ocean. It is literally their only goal in life; fertilize the egg!

If the egg is fertilized, it will make its way to the uterus, attach itself to the uterine lining, and pregnancy begins. If the egg is not fertilized, it is simply reabsorbed back into the body.

On average, ovulation occurs around day 14 of the menstrual cycle, but again, everyone is different.

Luteal Phase: 10-16 Days

The follicle that released the egg during ovulation is now roughly a 4 inch piece of tissue called the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum produces the hormone progesterone.

Progesterone has many benefits including building muscle, promoting better sleep, helping to calming the nervous system and making it easier to cope with stress. Progesterone is also what holds and nourishes pregnancy, should it occur. If the egg was not fertilized, the corpus luteum will remain intact for about a week and continue to produce and release progesterone, this is what keeps the uterine lining thick and intact. After about a week, the corpus luteum begins to deteriorate and progesterone production starts to slow down. The plunge in progesterone production immediately triggers the uterine lining to start to disintegrate, and this is when we start our periods.

Recap of the menstrual cycle

Days 1-7 are your period, this is when your uterine lining and other fluids are shed through menstrual blood. The next phase is the follicular phase and usually last between 7-21 days. During this phase the follicles in your ovaries are getting ready to release the egg during ovulation. Next is the day, ovulation. This is the only day during the month that pregnancy can actually be achieved. *Please recall fertile mucous* After ovulation comes the luteal phase, which last 10-16 days. This is the time between ovulation and your next period. If the egg that was released during ovulation was not fertilized, it is reabsorbed by the body and triggers progesterone to halt production. The drop in progesterone is what triggers the uterine lining to deteriorate causing us to start our periods.

The average cycle is 28 days, but a healthy cycle can last between 21 and 35 days. If you are younger and just coming into puberty, a healthy cycle may last up to 45 days (because of the longer follicular cycle.) Generally, if there is fluctuation in a cycle, it will be in the follicular phase because the corpus luteum will only produce progesterone for about 14 days if the egg was not fertilized.

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