The Ovulation Process

Ovulation is the production of a mature human egg during the menstrual cycle. This egg is needed in order for you to achieve pregnancy. Your egg, or oocyte, has gone through a long and arduous process of maturation before finally being released with the potential for conception.

You were born with about two million oocytes or eggs. By the time you reach puberty, you only have about 400,000 eggs left. As you reach menopause, the end of the fertile phase of your life, you will have very few eggs left. During the course of your fertile periods, you will have only produced about 400 mature eggs.

The egg is surrounded by a follicle, as you read earlier, which helps the egg grow and mature in response to the menstrual cycle's hormones. Once the egg is released from the follicle, it takes about 20 seconds before it is snatched up by the fingerlike projections (called “fimbria”) from the end of your fallopian tube. At this point the egg will travel down the fallopian tube, where it is ready to be fertilized.

Contrary to popular belief, your ovaries do not necessarily take turns ovulating. In fact, sometimes you will always ovulate from one ovary. Which ovary is chosen each month depends on where the dominant follicle resides. The ovary with the dominant follicle is the lucky ovary to release an egg that month.

This egg will stay alive for about 12 to 24 hours. Conception can take place any time during this period, but it usually happens within the first few hours of ovulation.

You may be able to tell when you are ovulating without charting your menstrual cycle. Some women feel a slight pain on one side or another as the egg is released. This is called “mittelschmerz,” which literally translates to “middle pain.”

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