The true mark of a modern woman is to be in control of her own fertility. Getting to know your body's monthly rhythms is the first step to taking charge of your body. This information can be used both if you are trying to get pregnant or to avoid pregnancy.
In addition, if you are missing your period or having irregular periods, it is essential to know if you are ovulating. Dr. Jerilynn Prior, a BC endocrinologist, and other researchers, have found that irregular cycles, or cycles with no periods, may lead to bone loss, due to the lack of the hormone progesterone. One woman athlete developed stress fractures of the small bones of the feet after one year of no periods.
Women can inexpensively chart their cycles using mucous and temperature observations. In addition, some new tests can assist women in making these observations.
Recent developments in medical technology have also made it possible for women to accurately predict ovulation 12 to 36 hours before it happens.
How The Egg Meets The Sperm
"Every 28 days or so, from puberty until menopause, one solitary egg from a woman's store of a half million goes forth to mate," as Globe and Mail reporter Frann Harris puts it (Apr 10/90). Each egg is the size of the head of a pin and is housed in a little sac known as the follicle, which is located in the ovary.
Harris reports on the work of Dr. Roger Pierson of the Reproductive Biology Research Unit at the University of Saskatchewan. He has been recording ovulation on videotape using vaginal ultrasound. He has observed the rhythmic pumping of the follicle as it squeezes the egg out of the follicle and propels it toward the tubes.This whole process takes about three minutes and is known as ovulation.
A complex set of hormonal events trigger the egg being released. One of the key events is the release of a hormone known as luteinizing hormone (LH) from the pituitary gland in a woman's brain. This so-called LH surge triggers ovulation, and is present 12 to 36 hours prior to ovulation. Using sophisticated technology, this LH can now be detected in the urine before ovulation.
Prior to ovulation, the cervix produces a special mucous for about three to nine days, for an average of four days. The presence of cervical mucous is as crucial to fertility as ovulation. Without mucous, the sperm can not survive nor be transported to the fallopian tubes to fertilize the egg. When mucous is present, it nourishes and protects sperms allowing them to live for three to five days. Mucous appears prior to ovulation as nature's way of guaranteeing that sperm are readily available to fertilize the egg before their short life-span is over.
As Geraldine and Elaine Matus explain in their book, THE JUSTISSE METHOD FOR FERTILITY MANAGEMENT, "The cervical mucous act as a gate. The gate is open when the mucous is flowing and the sperm can enter the uterine cavity. The gate is closed when the mucous stops flowing and forms a mucous plug. This blocks the sperm's entry into the cervix and thus the uterine cavity."
After ovulation, the egg begins its journey down the fallopian tubes, perhaps to meet a sperm. The tiny egg lives for only 12 to 24 hours and is able to be fertilized by the sperm for only half that time. Right after ovulation the basal body temperature, taken vaginally or orally, rises .2 to .5 degrees centigrade.
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