Understanding ovulation: When to inseminate?
When getting pregnant, ovulation is the determining factor for success. Are you planning to become pregnant, it is therefore important to know how your ovulation works in order to improve your chances of success. But what is ovulation, how does it work, and when should you inseminate with donor sperm? These are some the questions we will answer in this blog post.
What is ovulation?
In every menstrual cycle, a mature egg is released from the woman’s ovary, and this is the process of ovulation. When a mature egg is released, it travels through the fallopian tube and is made available for fertilisation. Normally only one egg is released, but in rare cases several eggs are released.
A regular menstrual cycle is on average 28-32 days (some may have longer or shorter cycles), and the ovulation occurs in the middle of the cycle, around 14 days after the first menstrual day.
How does ovulation work?
The length of the menstrual cycle is counted from the first day of a period until the first day of the next period. The cycle can be divided into four phases, and the length of each phase differ among women and depends on the total length of the cycle:
1) The menstrual phase:
The cycle starts on the first day of your period, which is the result of the previous cycle where the mature egg was not fertilised. This phase normally lasts around 4-7 days.
2) The follicular or pre-ovulatory phase:
This phase also begins on the first day of your period and normally lasts around 10-17 days. During these days, the level of your Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) increases, which triggers your follicles to develop into mature eggs. Usually, up to thousands of follicles are released during every cycle, but only one follicle will develop into a mature egg and be released. Before the egg is released, the uterine lining thickens to prepare for implanting the mature egg into the uterus.
3) The ovulatory phase:
Ovulation occurs in the middle of the menstrual cycle in response to a peak in the level of oestrogen, right when the follicular phase is over. The oestrogen level triggers a release of the Luteinizing Hormone (LH) which helps the egg to push through the ovary wall and into the fallopian tube within 24-36 hours where it is made available for fertilisation. This is the optimal time for insemination. If the egg is fertilised, it will stick to the uterine wall after a few days of transportation.
4) The luteal phase:
The luteal phase lasts approximately 14 days and is the last stage in the cycle until the next menstrual phase begins, unless fertilisation occurs. It marks a decrease in the level of FSH and LH. If the egg has not been fertilised, the body will shed the thickened uterine lining, and the menstrual cycle will start over.
Facts about ovulation:
- Women are born with approximately 1 million follicles (pre-eggs).
- Every month, up to thousands of follicles are released from the ovary but usually only one follicle will develop into a mature egg.
- A mature egg lives between 12-24 hours after leaving the ovary.
- The menstrual cycle normally lasts between 28-32 days, but some women may have shorter or longer cycles.
- Ovulation might occur even if your period has not occurred and vice versa.
- Ovulation may occur on a different day each month and at different times during your cycle.
How can I track my ovulation?
The more certain you are of the length of your cycle, the easier it will be for you to predict when your ovulation occurs. Since the length of the menstrual cycle varies among women, it is recommended to note each time your period starts. In that way you can calculate the number of days between your periods and predict the length of your menstrual cycle and therefore also estimate when your ovulation occurs.
Numerous methods for tracking your ovulation exist, and we recommend that you use more than one method at once in order to increase the probability of correctly estimating your ovulation.
You can use a mobile app to track your period, but an app alone is not sufficient as it needs several months of data before knowing your exact cycle. Instead, you can combine it with a second method, for instance by using ovulation testing strips or measure your body temperature every day.
Methods for tracking ovulation:
- Mobile fertility apps
- Ovulation testing strips
- Basal body temperature (your normal body temperature will increase a little bit right after ovulation. The temperature will decrease again right before your period begins)
- Cervical mucus
- Bracelets for ovulation tracking
When should I inseminate?
To know when is the best time to inseminate, it is necessary to have an estimation of the day of your ovulation to increase the chances of successful insemination and the likelihood of conception.
The most fertile days are between the day of ovulation (when the mature egg is being released) and the prior two days. On the day after the egg has been released, the likelihood of getting pregnant is 0 % and it is therefore better to inseminate a little early instead of waiting too long. Note that when you have a positive ovulation test, the mature egg will be released approximately 24 hours later.
By purchasing two sperm straws, you can inseminate the first straw a little early and inseminate the second straw 12 hours later. This way you will expand the period of time where fertilisation is possible. You can also use both straws on the same time if you are very sure about the exact time of your ovulation.
Need more advice?
If you are still not sure about when you should inseminate, you are always welcome to contact our Customer Service. You can also join our Facebook group Family Dreams where you can ask the other members for advice and hear about their experiences with insemination with donor sperm.