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Ovulation

General characteristics

General characteristics

Ovulation is the process in which a mature, ripened egg (the ovum) is released from the females ovaries in order for fertilisation to potentially occur. Ovulation is an integral part of the a females menstrual cycle.

Knowing if and when you ovulate is important if you are trying to conceive a child as pregnancy cannot occur unless a ripe egg is released and is subsequently fertilised by a sperm cell. Conversely, knowing when you ovulate can be useful as a form of natural contraception.

The menstrual cycle (on average) is around 28 days, day1 being the first day of menstruation. Ovulation (again, generally) takes place around day 14 but some women will ovulate on day 8 or day 20 of their cycle. Ovulation times may stay consistent and steady throughout a woman's life or may vary from month to month. Signs of ovulation include a clearness and stretchiness to vaginal secretions, you may detect twinges of pain in one side around your groin area (as an ovary prepares to rupture and expel the egg), your body temperature (taken in bed after waking) will rise a little (by half a degree or so) just after ovulation so by checking this over a few months you should be able to predict when you will next ovulate, the cervix will feel softer (more like the feel of your lips) to your touch and more open when you are ovulating as opposed to feeling harder, like the tip of your nose when not ovulating, the sense of smell may be heightened, an increase in sexual desire and the breasts may become a bit more tender.

Factors that can prevent or upset regular ovulation include hormonal irregularities and disturbances, poor diet and nutritional deficiencies, stress and emotional excitement, disorders of the hypothalamus (the portion of the brain concerned with the release of reproductive hormones), thyroid disorders (under and overactive), disorders of the ovaries such as polycystic ovaries, the contraceptive pill (can upset ovulation for up to a year after coming off it), being overweight or underweight, high blood insulin levels, environmental toxins (such as pesticides, paints, plastics, body care products, petrochemicals etc), stimulants such as caffeine, excessive alcohol intake, recreational drugs, smoking,

It is also worth noting that male semen contains a chemical dubbed 'ovulation-inducing factor' or OIF, the presence of which triggers the release of ovulation inducing hormones from the hypothalamus of the female.

This webpage provides in-depth details of the biological processes leading to ovulation.

Advise will focus on ways of regulating ovulation or encouraging it to occur if the process is absent.


Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Base your diet around fresh vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, seeds and nuts to ensure good levels of nutrients.

The amino acids n-acetylcysteine and arginine have shown promise in inducing and regulating ovulation. These are present in foods such as yogurt, egg yolks, red peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, oats, wheat germ, cottage and ricotta cheese, chicken, turkey.

A low carbohydrate diet (where around 43% of daily diet is made up of carbs) is associated with higher fertility levels and more regular ovulation patterns when compared with a high carbohydrate diet (over 56% of daily diet consists of carbs). High intake of dietary sugars (such as through high carb/sugar diets) lead to high levels of insulin (produced to steer blood sugar into the cells) which in turn leads to a decrease in reproductive hormones needed for ovulation to occur. Opt instead for more complex and unrefined carbohydrates such as whole grains, beans, wholewheat products and rye breads.

Eat organic foods wherever possible to avoid the damage from pesticides, steroids and other chemical hormone disruptors.

Avoid trans fats wherever possible. Sources include margarines and most baked products such as cakes, biscuits, pies and pastries.


Useful herbs

Useful herbs

Agnus castus ('chasteberry' or 'vitex') encourages regular ovulation and help to balance the hormones involved. Take 1 teaspoon of tincture in water twice daily. It can be slow to act so be prepared to take it regularly for at least 6 months before seeing positive results.

A really useful daily tea to provide plenty of nutrients, to help regulate hormones and to increase the overall health of the reproductive organs could include nettle, oatstraw, raspberry leaf and lady's mantle in equal parts. Use a heaped teaspoon of the mix up to 3 times daily.

A tried and tested 'female corrective' formula from the herbalist Dr Christopher consists of 1 part each of tinctures of blessed thistle, cayenne, crampbark, false unicorn, ginger, raspberry leaf, squaw vine, uva ursi (bearberry) and 3 parts barberry root. Dosage varies from 1-2 teaspoons of the tincture mix up to 3 times daily.

False unicorn root/Helonias root is a useful reproductive system tonic that improves many conditions that may contribute to irregular or absent ovulation. Take 0.5-1 teaspoon of the tincture 3 times daily.

A useful formula for regulating the hormonal cycle contains 2 parts (e.g. 50ml) agnus castus and 1 part (e.g. 25ml) each of black cohosh, squaw vine, chamomile and dandelion root tinctures.

The herbs liqourice root, rehmannia root and ashwagandha root can all be used to strengthen the adrenal glands, improve the bodys resistance to the effects of stress and may improve levels of the adrenal hormone DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) which has shown to have a regenerative effect on ovarian function, especially in women with premature ovarian failure.


Natural healing

Natural healing

As ovulation is strongly influenced by light, try sleeping with a night light on in your bedroom for 3 nights midway through your cycle, around the time when ovulation should occur, then sleep in total darkness the rest of the month. Allowing the moonlight to enter your bedroom around this time (if it is visible) will also have the same effect. After a few months of this process, termed 'lunaception', regular ovulation may well be restored.

Try the Billings Method of predicting ovulation by charting your menstrual cycle, either as a means of birth control, to increase the chances of conceiving or to simply know when and if you are ovulating. Click on Billings Ovulation Method at the bottom of the page for details.

Make sure you do some moderate exercise a few times a week.

Try taking up to 1000mg daily of evening primrose oil for its hormone regulating effects.


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