Last Updated: May 26, 2019

Definition - What does Ovulation mean?

Ovulation is the monthly development, maturation, and release of an egg from an ovary in preparation for potential fertilization, leading to conception.

Ovulation is a core component of a woman’s sexual reproductive functioning. Abnormalities, disorders, or health complications may impede ovulation from occurring. This occurrence, called anovulation, may result in infertility.

FertilitySmarts explains Ovulation

A woman’s body typically functions on a monthly cycle. While the cycle may not align with the exact parameters of the month, it is typically the length of a month (28-32 days long). There are three stages of a woman’s menstrual cycle: the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase. Throughout each phase, the body prepares for a potential pregnancy. A key component of this preparation is ovulation.

Ovulation is managed by a woman’s fundamental sex hormones: progesterone and estrogen. Throughout the cycle, the different hormones regulate and determine the phases of fertility and non-fertility.

The beginning of a woman’s monthly cycle is the first day of her menstrual period. This is also when the follicles or immature eggs become activated. Over the next two weeks, several eggs begin to mature. The body releases a hormone known as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which triggers only the strongest follicle to continue mature an egg. The remaining follicles are reabsorbed into the ovary.

When the egg has reached full maturity, luteinizing hormone (LH) is released, anywhere from 12-24 hours before to ovulation. LH triggers the follicle to rupture, and the egg breaks free. The egg then travels through the fallopian tube, where if sperm is present, it becomes fertilized.

The egg remains alive for a period of 12-24 hours after ovulation. If it does not come into contact with sperm during this time, it dies. The body recognizes the egg has died, and additional hormones are released, triggering menstruation. The uterine lining that was created for potential implantation is shed, and the process begins again in the upcoming cycle. Any disruption to this cycle has the potential to stop ovulation from occurring. This would result in anovulation, infertility caused by a lack of ovulation.

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