In the third instalment of our Cycle School series, we’re breaking down all things ovulation.
Ovulation usually arrives around the midpoint of your cycle - but this can vary from person to person, especially if you are living with a condition like PCOS. If you struggle with irregular periods, it’s likely because you are ovulating early or late - or in some cases not at all.
This phase is often known as our inner ‘Summer’ because things are hotting up - literally and figuratively! - as both our temperature and sex drive are heightened around this time! Here we’ll explain the importance of ovulation when it comes to our fertility - and how the release of one little egg can impact our entire body.
- Oestrogen levels will be at their peak right before ovulation, as the follicle reaches its final maturity.
- As our oestrogen peaks, some people struggle with painful symptoms like breast tenderness or ovulation cramping.
- When the egg is ready, the body releases a surge of luteinizing hormone (LH) which will trigger the release of the egg down the fallopian tube - this is the process of ovulation!
- The days leading up to ovulation are when we are most fertile - so if you’re trying for a baby this is the best time to get it on.
- Studies indicate that around ovulation we get a surge in our testosterone levels. This is part of the reason your sex drive might increase - but is also why you might have more energy!
The science of your cycle - Ovulation
Ovulation itself is the moment an egg is released from your ovaries and travels down your fallopian tube - but there’s a lot more happening around that time!
As we explained in Follicular Phases 101, your follicles grow and mature into an egg and as they are growing they produce more and more oestrogen. Oestrogen levels will be at their peak right before ovulation, as the follicle reaches its final maturity. When the egg is ready, the body releases a surge of luteinizing hormone (LH) which will trigger the release of the egg down the fallopian tube.
The days leading up to - and the day of - ovulation are the days you are most likely to get pregnant and there are lots of physical signs that you’re in your fertile window! Your cervical mucus usually becomes thinner and wetter and your cervix becomes softer and higher - all to help the sperm travel up to the egg.
As soon as ovulation happens you will notice a spike in your body temperature - which is why you can confirm ovulation if you are tracking your Basal Body Temperature daily.
How you might feel around ovulation
As this is your most fertile window, it’s unsurprising that your libido will likely be at its peak! It’s thought that testosterone levels tend to be higher in women around the time of ovulation (although more research is still needed) This, coupled with your peaking oestrogen, is likely to give your sex drive a good boost.
If you’re trying for a baby then this is the perfect time to have sex (and if you’re not looking to become a parent anytime soon, then you need to be extra careful around this time!)
Aside from feeling pretty sexy, this hormonal combo can also improve your confidence and communication skills - making ovulation a great time to take on that big work presentation or ask for a promotion.
However, ovulation can be a phase of two halves. As our oestrogen peaks, some people struggle with painful symptoms like breast tenderness or ovulation cramping. You might also find that as soon as your egg is released you feel a plummet in oestrogen and a rise in progesterone, which can make you feel very fatigued and more sensitive.
Self-Care Around Ovulation
Aside from sex and work, ovulation is also a great opportunity to channel your hormonal energy rush into your workouts! Testosterone helps our muscles repair faster and stronger - so why not make more time for strength training and push yourself with weights or kettlebells when your levels are higher?
Our oestrogen levels reach their peak during this phase and excess oestrogen can have some negative side effects - including breast tenderness and skin issues. Now is a great time to include foods that help the liver process oestrogen - like kale, broccoli, garlic, radishes and onions.
It’s always a good idea to eat a diet full of Omega-3 fatty acids, but around ovulation, it’s even more important, especially if you are hoping to get pregnant as some research indicates they could help with egg implantation and general fertility outcomes. Even if babies aren’t on your mind right now, Omega-3s have lots of other benefits including improving our skin and our brain function!
Ovulation is the perfect time to delve into pleasure - with yourself or with a partner - so explore those fantasies and try new things! If you are trying to conceive, there can often be a lot of stress and urgency around ovulation - so try to go easy on yourself and have fun along the way.
Also, remember that the ovulation phase is a transition - we’re going from the happy high-energy vibes of the follicular phase to the more sensitive and introverted luteal phase. Don’t push yourself too hard and ensure you’re getting enough rest so that you don’t burn out post ovulation.