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Fertility Awareness: the fascination with ovulation.

We all know about the bleeding part of our cycle, the shedding of the lining of the endometrium which occurs every month, except for when pregnancy occurs. In this article we explore the secretion that happens at the other side of the cycle that may not be so obvious, however with a little attention and more awareness, there is no doubt that it exists ... I’m talking Ovulation and Cervical Mucus.

Cervical Mucus marks a very significant event in the cycle known as Ovulation.

Without ovulation, the entire cycle can become irregular, long, or most often, absent. If there is no ovulation, it is very unlikely that a woman would actually bleed, and if she did, it would not be a 'true bleed'. So what is ovulation, how does it occur and how do we know it is happening? A woman's reproductive system is a very intricate involvement of many different organs, hormones and glands producing a cyclical rhythm, which we call our menstrual cycle.

It really is rather amazing what goes on throughout the month for the 5 or so days of bleeding to occur. There is a very delicate interplay of hormones communicating with our reproductive organs to produce all of the necessary steps required to potentially become pregnant each and every month. Having said that, it is not all about pregnancy. The workings of this incredible system, our fertility, are constantly reflecting for us the state of our health ... pretty cool! The quality of our fertility is always important, whether we have the desire for a baby or not.

Our fertility (i.e. how fertile we are) is not only determined by the few days in the cycle when we are actually 'fertile', it also encompasses every other day of the month. Being a cycle, there is no part of it that can function to its optimal quality without every other part doing what it needs to do.

Yes, ovulation is the event within the menstrual cycle, when the ovary releases an egg, but did you know ...

  • We are born with around 1 million eggs in our ovaries.

  • At puberty around 300,000 of these still remain.

  • Throughout our fertile years, we would only use around 300-400 of these eggs and we don't make or acquire any more through our lifetime.

  • The eggs are encased in a shell known as a 'follicle'.

  • There is a chain reaction of hormone communication that needs to occur first before the ovary can release the egg from its follicle

  • Once released the egg has the potential to be fertilised within its 24 hour lifespan

  • The egg moves into the fallopian tube and waits for possible fertilisation

  • A secretion from the cervix (cervical mucus) is released at the time of ovulation. The sperm travel in this fluid to reach the uterus and then the fallopian tube. Without the cervical mucus, the sperm cannot survive in the vagina's very acidic environment

  • If no fertilisation occurs, the egg is re-absorbed by the body (it does not pass through with the blood as is often thought)

  • Around 11-14 days later, if the egg hasn't been fertilised and implanted into the lining of the womb, then the period arrives, cleansing the uterus by releasing the build-up of endometrial tissue (blood) that is no longer needed

You may now be getting a sense of how all of the events that take place throughout the menstrual cycle are interdependent. To be aware of these inner goings on is a very beautiful thing. You may even find yourself inspired to pay more attention and appreciate the harmony and balance that your body is always striving for, even in the most delicate and intricate ways.

Ovulation ! ... who knew it could be so fascinating !!

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