Ovulation: Menstruation through menopause

Whether you're wondering how ovulation affects you, you're preparing for that chat with your pubescent...

Whether you're wondering how ovulation affects you, you're preparing for that chat with your pubescent son or daughter (yes! son!) or you've heard of the term and wondered what the hub-bub was about, ovulation can be confusing ... until now. Here's what you need to know.

This process occurs within the female reproductive system as shown. Ovaries produce eggs. As the eggs mature, one is released from one of the ovaries. It travels down the fallopian tube to the uterus. That's it!

So, here's the big deal about that process. It's all about whether or not that egg gets fertilized. (Sperm + egg = fertilization)

  • Normal menstrual cycle. The uterus has a lining that thickens when ovulating. If the egg doesn't get fertilized, then the egg and lining shed and menstruation occurs. Bleeding can last a few days and will repeat in about 28 days.
  • Making babies. Timing is everything if you're trying to get pregnant. But if you're not trying, the process happens regardless, so it's important to understand. It generally takes 12 to 16 days from ovulation to menstruation. It is precisely when you ovulate that you are most fertile. So if making a baby is the plan, then this is where the real planning takes place--not simply waiting to see if a period is missed or not. There are ovulation kits and fertility monitors that help pinpoint exactly when this process takes place. Please consult an Atlanta-area OB/GYN for guidance on the best course for you to avoid unnecessary frustrations "trying everything" to get pregnant.
  • Menopause. Simply, this means no ovulating. The aging ovaries no longer produce eggs, so the process above ends altogether for this stage of a woman's life. This is a gradual process, so pregnancy can still occur on the sporadic occasions when you ovulate. Unless raising kids with your grandkids is part of the plan, use birth control until it's been a year since the last menstrual cycle.

What else do you want to know about ovulating?

  • Ugh! Mood swings! Yes, hormones are released during this process. You can go from high energy to downright mean in a nano-second. Blame it on the egg.
  • Stress levels, illnesses, putting the body through crazy changes--these can all affect the timing of when you ovulate. Stability is key for baby-making planning.
  • Although you're most fertile while ovulating, a sperm can live while waiting for that egg to show up. So don't think that you're safe if you're not ovulating.

While that should help clear up any confusion, please consult an OB/GYN in the Atlanta area for details about your planned parenthood needs or changes in your cycles that are affecting your well-being and joy.

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