For those of us without biology degrees, we don't know a lot about ovulation. Other than, obviously, you kind of need to be ovulating to get pregnant, seeing as that's when an egg is released.
Luckily, some people have a bit more information than that to help us understand what goes on in there when it comes to our reproductive organs. Allow the scientific researchers at period and ovulation tracking app Clue to explain:
Ovulation time can vary
While ovulation typically happens 13-15 days before the start of each period, the exact timing can actually fluctuate from cycle-to-cycle. In fact, you might have the occasional cycle when you don’t ovulate at all.
We ovulate a LOT throughout our lives
In the West, world, women ovulate roughly 400 times throughout our lifespan. The number is influenced by contraceptives (many of which block ovulation), pregnancy and breastfeeding. Certain health conditions, like eating disorders and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can also affect reproductive health and change the time and regularity of ovulation. Prehistorically, women ovulated less than half as often.
Whether or not you ovulate is dependent on a number of factors
A lot goes into every ovulation and if the conditions aren’t right, it just won’t happen. The development and release of an egg occurs in response to constant fluctuations in reproductive hormones. The cycle as a whole is impacted by nutritional, emotional, energetic and socioeconomic factors. Even short-term elements like jet lag, seasonal changes, stress and smoking can affect ovulation.
Your brain plays a pretty important role
The brain and ovulation are closely linked, as ovulation can’t happen without the necessary signals from the brain. Throughout your menstrual cycle, the brain produces bursts of the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which stimulates the growth of the follicles, which in turn produce oestrogen. Once a dominant follicle is chosen, it grows to about two centimetres in diameter (roughly the size of a grape) and the body’s levels of oestrogen reach their peak. Once the follicle is ready, the brain releases a surge of the luteinizing hormone, which triggers ovulation.
Ovulation messes with your body
Ovulation doesn’t just affect your reproductive health, it provides the body with the necessary levels of oestrogen and progesterone, which affects things such as bone density, heart health, mental health, quality of sleep and more. This is why it is important to get enough of these hormones and to keep track and monitor your cycle.
It can cause cramps just like your period
While you might think of cramps as an uncomfortable side-effect of your period, there is a different kind of cramp that can actually happen around the time of ovulation. Ovulation pain is a cramp-like pain that about 1 in 5 people feel on side of the lower abdomen. It can appear suddenly and last a few hours or even a few days. Recognising this pain can be a useful indicator of your fertile window and ovulation.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.