Understanding Ovulation

Ovulation, which occurs as a result of regular menstrual cycle, is important for a woman’s health and well-being whether or not she is trying to get pregnant, experts say.

It has been discovered that many women are concerned with ovulation in relationship to their desire to get pregnant and have a baby but research reveals that what most women sometimes do not realise is that routine ovulation, serves an important role in their overall health, whether the egg gets fertilized or not.

“If ovulation is not occurring or is happening infrequently in a woman of reproductive age, there is cause for concern. Just because a woman has periods doesn’t mean she is ovulating,” the experts say.

A consultant Gynaecologist and Head of unit Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Kuje General Hospital, Dr Ngonadi Nnamdi defines ovulation as the release of an egg from one of a woman’s ovaries which after it is released, travels down the fallopian tube, where fertilisation by a sperm cell may occur.


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He said, naturally women at birth, have about five to seven million eggs that is, ovaries at the primary stage and they are not yet developed, but by the time a woman gets to puberty, she will have about 500,000 left, adding that is when the woman reaches puberty and menstruation starts.

The gynaecologist said ovulation is a process whereby every month, the follicles start developing at about the 14-day depending on the circle length.

“If a woman is having regular 28 days circle, at about the 14th day, the matured follicle which has gradually developed will be expelled close to the fallopian tubes. The process of expelling of the eggs every month is  ovulation and it occurs at least once in a month; that is, the release of eggs for possible fertilisation by sperm cells.”

According to him, ovulation occurrence depends on circle length. “Assuming the circle length is 28-30 days, in a year, a woman can menstruate up to 12 times, that is once a month or once in a cycle but if the cycle is short it is still at one circle length, if the circle is long it means a woman can menstruate up to 14 times in a year and it means she ovulates 14  times in a year.”

He said it is expected that ovulation takes place once in a month in a regular circle and for one to know that ovulation has occurred, it means the woman is menstruating regularly, adding that it is ovulation that triggers menstruation and once the egg is released, and there is no fertilization, it will lead to menstruation.

“The process of menstruation is the preparation of the womb for implantation of babies. Where that did not happen, it will now trigger menstruation. So, there are high chances of ovulation in a woman having regular menstruation than with a woman with irregular menstruation.”

Dr Ngonadi said, “it is not that easy for someone to know she has ovulated but there are signs and symptoms that helps to identify its occurrence at times which you cannot really hold to that you have ovulated but once menstruation is regular, ovulation must occur.”

He identified some of the signs as, light bleeding or spotting, breast tenderness, increased sexual drive, ovary pain characterized by discomfort or pain on one side of the abdomen, also called mittelschmerz, adding that “not everyone experiences symptoms with ovulation, so these signs are considered secondary in tracking your fertility.”

“Other signs may include; change in cervical mucus, the texture, then body temperature because after ovulation the body temperature tends to increase maybe by 0.5 degrees due to the effect of progesterone.”

The consultant gynaecologist while also enlightening women on fertile window and how ovulation occurs, said, to ascertain ovulation, it can be tracked through blood test when certain hormones arise, like the luteinizing hormone 48 hours before ovulation and after ovulation the level of progesterone.

“It can also be tracked through blood test, ultrasound and monitoring of the development of the follicles.

“The one that you can do by yourself is the daily temperature taking by using thermometer putting it in your tongue or the use of  some strips to monitor it.”

According to Dr Ngonadi, a woman can use ovulation to achieve pregnancy from knowing the specific time she is supposed to ovulate since its occurrence depends on the circle length, adding that if a woman has a regular 28 days, she ovulates on the 14th day.

He said it is very important for a woman of reproductive age to have a calendar to know the specific date since ovulation occurs two weeks before the first day of menstruation.

“Assuming the woman has 30 or 36 days, you know that two weeks before menstruation starts, that is when ovulation will occur. Take for example that of 30 days, ovulation will no longer be on the 14th day but on the 16th day.

“Therefore, for you to have ovulation interval, you have to know that egg released stays 48 hours before it is dispelled, but sperm cells can stay up to 72 hours  or more.

“At this interval, a couple trying to conceive is advised for intercourse. However, it is believed that couple desirous of conception should not only base it on circle but should have regular intercourse as much as they can to enable conception,” he said.

He also said some women experience what is known as ovulation disorder which is a group of conditions that will lead to failure of ovulation in a woman. “It is known as ovarian factor infertility; the infertility is as a result of lack of ovulation.”

“There are several causes for lack of ovulation but the commonest cause of lack of ovulation is known as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This occurrence does not have to do with age but occurs in some women especially fat women; it is a disorder.”

He added that there is also what we call premature ovarian failure. A woman can undergo menopause before 40 years of age, which could be as a result of surgery where the doctors removed the ovaries or auto-immune, where by the body cells attack itself.


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