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The knowledge and understanding of the safe and ovulation periods are very important for both genders. This is to avoid unwanted pregnancies (Read about Pregnancy here) for those that prefer unprotected sex (Read about Sex education here) and also to know the best periods for conceiving a pregnancy. It is essential to know the way a woman’s body operate and also the menstrual cycle in order to have a perfect knowledge of both the ovulation and safe periods. The ovulation and safe periods are part of the menstrual cycle, that is, within the menstrual cycle are both the ovulation and safe periods. The menstrual cycle is the time between the first day of vaginal bleeding in a month and the first day of menses in the next month (read about menstrual cycle here). The average is 28 days but it varies in women. If a woman sees her monthly period for the month of May on the 10th and sees the one for the Month of June on the 5th, she will start counting from 10th of May till June 5 which is 27 days. She will do that for four consecutive months to know the average range of her menstrual cycle. If she has a regular cycle, it will range between 25-29 days
Note: this woman, as a case study, will be used for further explanations.
What is Ovulation? Ovulation is the release of an egg from the ovaries and this occurs when an egg or ovum is mature for fertilization by a sperm cell. This period is known as the “ovulation period”. During this period, an egg (ovum, plural ova) moves from the organs that produce the egg which is the ovary ( plural ovaries) into the fallopian tubes(also known as Oviduct or the uterine tube). The egg may get fertilized by a sperm cell if any is present, in the fallopian tube and from there moves to the womb (uterus) for development into a fetus. When the egg meets no sperm cell, the uterus which might have thickened its wall in readiness for fertilization sheds its lining which results to menstruation. About 20 eggs out of the 400,000 eggs in the ovaries mature and the ripest of all is/are released.
There are three phases of ovulation: the periovulatory or follicular phase, ovulatory or ovulation phase, and the postovulatory or the luteal phase. The follicular phase is when the layers of the egg cell become mucus-like and when the lining of the uterus starts thickening. The ovulation phase is when the fertilized egg leaves the ovaries for the fallopian tube while the luteal phase is when the fertilized egg gets implanted in the womb (uterus) and when there is no fertilized egg, the thick lining of the uterus starts breaking.
There is a term called the “fertile window”, ” fertile period “or “window period”. This is the most fertile period in a woman’s cycle. That is, the period a woman is most likely to be pregnant when sexual intercourse occurs, which is usually between the 10th and 18th days of the menstrual cycle. It is termed the “unsafe period”. On the other hand, there are sometimes or days a woman is safe and her probability of getting pregnant is almost zero. This is called the “safe period”. It is not only during the ovulation period a lady can get pregnant, pregnancy can also occur some days before and after the ovulation period if there is sexual intercourse. For those with regular menstrual cycle, it is easy to calculate their ovulation, fertile window and safe periods.
Ovulation period is usually mid of the menstrual cycle (the 14th day for those with the average (28 days) menstrual cycle. Using the lady with 27 days of menstrual cycle, her ovulation period is most likely to be in the middle days (13th and 14th day of the length of the menstrual cycle which is between May 22-23). This is not 100% reliable because her menstrual cycle might not always be 27 days. Variations might occur due to some factors. (Read about Menstrual disorders: causes and solutions)
To calculate the fertile or window period, it is advisable to calculate the menstrual cycles for more than three months and then calculate after doing this. Let us assume the lady with the 27 days of menstrual cycle got to know that her cycles range between 25,26,27,28 and 29 days. To calculate her accurate fertile periods, she will subtract 18 from her shortest cycle which is 25 days (25-18 = 7) and 10 from her longest cycle which is 29 days (29-10= 19). Thus, her fertile days are between every 7th to 19th days of her menstrual cycle. For the cycle in the months taken into consideration, the 7th day starting from the first day of her menstrual cycle (Remember the first day of her menstrual cycle is May 10) to the 19th day of the cycle, that is, between May 16-28 is her fertile periods. Periods other than these days are the “safe periods”. This can be calculated for subsequent months and cycle. This shows that pregnancy can occur some days before and after the ovulation periods. The reason for the long days is to give allowances because a sperm cell can survive in a woman for 3 days (72 hours), ovulation occurs between 24 and 48 hours and another egg might be released after the first.
Note: From this calculation, it should be noted that the fertile period is approximately a week before and a week after the ovulation period that was calculated in the above.
How to calculate ovulation and fertile periods for women with an irregular menstrual cycle?( Read about menstruation disorders here) The calculation of both ovulation and safe periods is difficult for those with irregular periods. This is why the calculation made above is not advisable for them. Despite the difficulties, these periods can be calculated. The first thing to do is to have a fertility chart or a calendar. Ovulation predictor kits which are like a pregnancy test kit can also be used to determine the ovulation period. Blood tests can be carried out for this purpose too. The menstrual cycle for several months should be marked on the calendar and the days noted. By this, one can get the insight on the average menstrual cycle.
Another method is by noticing the cervical mucus which will be dry few days after menstruation. The mucus or fluid will start increasing, become watery, and milky when close to ovulation. They become clear, white, egg-like, and stretchy and break when stretched during ovulation and becomes less in quantity, thicker and gummy. The mucus should be examined with the fingers. The changes in mucus discharge with dates should also be noted on the chart or calendar. The disadvantage with this is that there are always changes in the mucus appearance after sexual intercourse and some women even ovulate without mucus discharge.
Also, another method is by taking note of the Basal Body Temperature (BBT) which is the temperature of the body at rest. Temperature with the use of thermometer should be taken every morning and after a sleep above 5 hours. All these should be recorded. The temperature the day after ovulation occurs will increase by 5 degree Celsius. For accurate results, the temperature should be taken the same time every morning with the same thermometer. Once there is an increase in the BBT for three consecutive days, it means that ovulation has passed. The disadvantage of this method is the fluctuations of temperature due to illness, cold or infection.
The changes in the cervix can also be examined. The cervix is the passage between the vagina and the uterus that stretches during childbirth. To do this, the middle finger (after the washing of the hands) should be inserted into the vagina until the cervix is felt. During the fertile window period, the cervix is always wet, open, higher and soft while it is dry, close, lower and firm in safe periods. There will be accurate calculation if multiple methods are combined.
Other signs exhibited by most women when they are ovulating are the one-sided pain in the lower abdomen which occurs when there is breakage in the eggs. This ache can last for hours or two days. Sometimes, the breasts tend to be tenderer. Women tend to have more urge for sex, clingy to men, good-looking, radiant and physically attractive in their fertile periods. Men should note these changes.
Note: All the signs associated with ovulation discussed above are common in most women and the methods used for calculating ovulation periods can also be used by women with regular ovulation periods.
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