Ovulation as a marker of health and wellbeing.
“Did you know that being more ‘fertile’ can actually improve your health and wellbeing?” Dr Nat Kringoudis
Ovulation is a sign of health. Ovulation is how we make oestrogen and progesterone, both of which have amazing health benefits. So let’s dive right in and see what all the fuss is about!
Oestrogen is needed to stimulate luteinising hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), both of which work together to trigger ovulation and stimulate the production of fertile mucous.
We need sufficient oestrogen to ovulate, and we need to ovulate to make oestrogen.
Oestrogen is your ‘get up and go’ hormone, as it boosts neurotransmitters including serotonin (important for wellbeing and happiness) and dopamine (important for motivation and pleasure). If your libido has exited the building, you might have an issue with oestrogen.
For those of you who like to look good (and who doesn’t?), oestrogen has beautifying effects too including softening our skin, mucous membranes and blood vessels. It also keeps our bones nice and strong. If you struggle with vaginal dryness, recurrent UTIs, skin issues or weight gain, then there’s a chance you may have a relative oestrogen deficiency. These symptoms are common in peri-menopause and menopause, but you might be surprised to learn they are also quite common in younger women, especially those who are on the pill (read on to find out why).
One of oestrogen’s best known roles is thickening the endometrium, which is why women with excess oestrogen levels experience heavy bleeding, and women with relative oestrogen deficiency have light bleeding or spotting only.
As you can see, oestrogen is pretty important for our health. It’s all about the balance.
Progesterone is the yin to oestrogen’s yang. I love progesterone. I want every woman to have it in their life for as long as possible. Here’s why.
Progesterone thins your uterine lining and balances prostaglandins (involved with pain sensitivity) resulting in lighter and less painful periods. It stimulates your thyroid, promotes hair growth and stimulates your metabolism, supporting weight management. It reduces inflammation, builds muscle and promotes sleep.
Need more? Here’s one of my favourite reasons to love it.
Progesterone converts to allopregnanalone, a calming neurotransmitter similar to GABA, in the brain which soothes the nervous system and reduces anxiety. It improves brain health and cognitive function too.
Remember: we only make progesterone when we ovulate.
Do you need some more progesterone in your life?
Hormonal contraception and ovulation.
I don’t know about you, but I find that ovulation and fertility are rarely spoken in a positive way (unless you are trying to have a baby of course). For many teenage girls and women, if there are any issues with their period or skin, or if they are looking to prevent a pregnancy, then what is the first thing that is offered by GPs?
The oral contraceptive pill.
And what does the pill actually do?
The pill shuts down your ovaries and puts you into what is essentially chemical menopause.
I want you to stop and think about that for a moment. In fact, go back and re-read it. And now go back and reread the benefits of making your own oestrogen and progesterone through ovulating. How does that make you feel? It makes me angry. And sad. But it also drives me to educate YOU so you can be informed and make better choices for your body and your health, and for the health of our daughters.
Remember, everything is fixable. If you have hormone imbalance or you want to prevent a pregnancy, there are other (better) ways than going on the pill.
So let’s get you ovulating!
How to know if you are ovulating.
Blood tests are available, but you have to get the timing right for them to be useful. There are also testing kits you can buy from the chemist, but there are some really simple ways (that don’t cost any money) that are equally as effective.
Some women experience ovulation pain called mittelschmerz around 14 days before their period. I am one of those women so I know I ovulate. The severity of the pain can vary from a dull ache to a cramp to a sharp and sudden pain and can last from a few minutes to a day or two. Every woman is different.
If you don’t experience ovulation pain, then you can look for fertile mucous. This is clear and slippery and can be stretched between your fingers. It’s not a guarantee that you are ovulating as many women with high oestrogen levels can produce mucous throughout their cycle, but for most it’s a good indicator.
Temperature tracking is another great way to see if you are ovulating. You will need a basal thermometer and you need to take your temperature at the same time every morning before you get out of bed. Your temperature increases with progesterone (remember you only make progesterone when you ovulate), so if you can see a noticeable increase mid-cycle, you’re probably ovulating.
Ovulation is good for our health. Period.
When you are healthy, your menstrual cycle should be regular and essentially symptom-free. If this isn’t you, then your period is trying to tell you something.