At the time of ovulation, one or sometimes two matured eggs leave one or the other, or even both of the ovaries. It has been observed by women who experience a painful twinge at the time of ovulation, that the ovaries usually take monthly turns at egg release. The release of the ovum produces progesterone which causes several things: the ovaries cease releasing any more eggs; the cervical mucus begins to thicken, becoming impenetrable to sperm; the endo-metrium thickens even more in the 5 - 7 days following ovulation; and lastly, the body’s “at rest” basal body temperature rises by about 0.5 degrees Celsius. It is this slight rise in tempera-ture that can be observed and charted to confirm that ovulation has indeed occurred. The viable life span of an ovum is no more than 12 - 24 hours, therefore, for the most successful chance of fertilising an egg, sexual union needs to take place 1 or 2 days before the release of the ovum into the fallopian tube. This ensures that only the fittest and healthiest sperm (which can live for up to 3 days) have had time to swim up the uterus and into the tubes to meet the fresh, young ovum.
Following ovulation, if there has been sex at the right time, and if there have been enough strong sperm to meet the egg, fertilisation occurs and the tiny embryo then travels down the fallopian tube to implant into the endometrium, about 5 - 7 days after fertilisation. If two ova were fertilised, twins will be the result. As the embryo develops, it creates the placenta which is knitted into the wall of the uterus. Implantation is assisted by the continuation in progesterone production which inhibits further ovulation, inhibits menstruation, thickens the endometrium and keeps your body temperature approximately 0.5 or more degrees Celsius higher than normal. Progesterone production continues to build up even more throughout pregnancy until the birth. This rise is considered to be one factor contributing to the nausea often experienced in early pregnancy. Following birth, progesterone drops suddenly, which in some women can contribute to a range of disturbing post-natal disorders.
If there is no fertilisation of the ovum within 12 - 24 hours of its release, it will gradually die and cease producing progesterone over the next 7 - 8 days. This depletion of progesterone triggers the gradual breakdown of the endo-metrium during the following 7 - 8 days which is eventually thin enough to be expelled from the body as menstrual blood. Other attendant symptoms of this phase are
the cervix closing and hardening, and vaginal mucus changing back to dry. The conclusion of this phase is the onset of bleeding.
The length of this phase is timed by the chemistry of the dying ovum and gradual breakdown of the endometrium, and not by any hormonal or external triggers, and is therefore fairly consistent in each woman from cycle to cycle. Normal length of the luteal or post ovulatory phase is 14 - 16 days from ovulation to onset of bleeding.
All of the above mechanisms are nature’s way of ensuring the continuation of the species. It may seem complicated when explained in the usual medical jargon, but the great news is that you don’t really need to know all that stuff at all. We often forget that women have been able to understand and manage their fertility cycles for millennia prior to such medical discoveries. Such approaches may be useful for medical profession-als but are not at all relevant for lay people. There are in fact much simpler, less intellectual, more intuitive, more accessible ways.
Just as with food and diet – you don’t need to know all about carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals to make a healthy balanced meal – you just have to use your awareness when buying, cooking, eating and interpreting the after effects, and then the rest will come naturally as you practise doing it. In exactly the same way, to know what is happening inside your body you only need to develop an awareness of what is always there, what is already manifest to you, and then use your awareness to adjust your life accordingly. It really is that simple. All the external signs and symptoms of our bodies are there to let us know what is going on, to assist us in managing and being in control of our own fertility.
Our fertility cycle can begin anytime after the age of about 10 nowadays. It then continues on, month after month until menopause. Yet how many women today really understand what is happening inside their own body? It’s not as if we don’t have the opportunity to learn – this cycle is going on all the time, not just for 3 - 6 days each month as many want to believe. And yet, so many do not know. Why not? I believe this is due to a combination of 3 factors.
Whilst I’m not into blaming the patriarchy for everything women suffer, it has definitely played a large part in this situation. The all pervasive, male dominated, scientific, reductionist approach to health and fitness is leading women away from what is truly natural,