1) What is ovulation?
The egg or oocyte is formed in the ovary of the female. It is housed in a follicle in the ovary. The egg matures through the menstrual cycle. When the egg is mature enough, it is ready for the next process of reproduction – fertilisation. For this the egg has to come out of the follicle and meet the sperm in fallopian tube. The process of release of the egg from the follicle is called ovulation. Once the egg ovulates, it is taken up by the fallopian tube.
2) What is the length of a menstrual cycle?
The normal duration of a menstrual cycle is between 22-35 days. The average menstrual cycle is about 28 days.
The first half is called the follicular phase. This is when the egg grows and ovulates. The cervical mucus starts to thin around the time of ovulation. After ovulation occurs, it is the second half of the cycle and is called the luteal phase.
The second half of the cycle is a constant 14 days. The variation in the menstrual cycle is attributable to the differences in the number of days of the follicular phase.
3) When does ovulation occur?
In a woman with a 28 day cycle, the ovulation is expected to happen any day between day 10 – day 18. This is called the fertile period. This period may vary depending on the length of the menstrual cycle but it is easy to calculate.
4) How to calculate ovulation time or fertile period?
The starting day of period is called day 1. All the calculations are from this day. The fertile period depends on the length of the menstrual cycle. If is a 28 day cycle, it is between 11-18 days. If it is a 30 day cycle, it could be between days 13- 20 of menstrual cycle.
As a rule of thumb, if you subtract 20 days from the menstrual cycle length that would approximately be the start of the fertile period. And usually the fertile period extends to about 7-10 days. As most women would have a cycle length of 28-30 days, the easiest way would be to consider day 8 – day 18 of the menstrual cycle as the fertile period. Ovulation usually happens during this time.
5) How to make use of the fertile period?
The fertile period as the name suggests is the period in which a woman has the best possibility of getting pregnant. Hence it is advisable to have intercourse daily or at least on alternate days during this period.
6) How effective is the use of ovulation calendar?
The possibility of a pregnancy is about 33% in each cycle in humans. This is called fecundity. Following the ovulation calendar and using the fertile period maximises the chances of conception in a couple but is by no means a fool proof method. Try an online Ovulaton calculator here.
Ovulation calendar and fertile period is something I always suggest to my patients on a regular basis. As in most fertility clinics I would ask patients to use LH kits to check for ovulation and have timed intercourse. But over a period of time I observed that there were quite a number of couples who came back and said that they were unable to have intercourse around the time of LH detection in urine using the LH kits. One of the most common reasons was that the male partner was stressed and hence could not perform on that particular day. There was another difficulty couples faced. When asked to have intercourse on a daily basis, the male partner again had difficulty in performing. The moment this situation arises, the couple feel upset for two reasons – 1) They could not use that particular cycle optimally 2) They are afraid that a new problem has risen.
The first thing that I do when couples come in this situation is to reassure them that this is quite normal for any person and that there is no need to be alarmed. Counselling is the key. And it has always helped the couple to regain confidence in them
With due course of time, I changed my protocol. I suggested to couples to have intercourse daily or at least alternate days from day 8 – 18, without bothering about any LH kits or ovulation. This has hugely helped my patients and needless to say that many couples have achieved their dream of a family with this small step.