What is ovulation?

The origin of new life begins when the female germ cell, the ovum, from the ovary binds with a sperm in the fallopian tube. In normal females maturation and release of eggs takes place once in a month. Ovulation is a process which takes place in the third phase of the menstrual cycle. The release of the ovum from the Graafian follicle is called ovulation.

Ovulation is controlled by the pituitary gland and is influenced by Luteinizing hormone, which helps in releasing the yolk from the egg. Ovulation takes place at the end of the second week of the menstrual cycle, on about day 14. Ovulation depends on the interactions between the glands and hormones.

A series of events takes place before the ovulation process begins.

The primary follicle matures into the Graafian follicle, the endometrium regenerates and prepares for implantation and the Graafian follicle secretes oestrogen. This happens in the second phase (pre-ovulatory phase) of the menstrual cycle. In the third phase (ovulatory phase) ovulation takes place.

Each follicle contains an immature ovum. Follicles start to enlarge but only one follicle grows to be the primary follicle. This primary follicle develops into the mature follicle called the Graafian follicle. An ovum gets released from the Graafian follicle in the last phase of the menstrual cycle, known as the ovarian cycle.

Effects of hormones on the ovulation process

Hormones of the Pituitary Gland:

FSH – Follicle Stimulating Hormone. FSH stimulates the growth of the ovarian follicles (which contain ova). As the ovarian follicles develop, FSH also stimulates the follicle cells to secrete large amounts of oestrogen.

LH – Luteinizing Hormone. A surge, or sudden release, of LH causes ovulation, the release of a mature ovum from the dominant ovarian follicle. After ovulation, LH stimulates the empty follicle to develop into the corpus luteum. LH then causes the corpus luteum to secrete increasing amounts of progesterone and small amounts of oestrogen.

A Releasing Factor of the Hypothalamus:

GnRF – Gonadotropin “releasing factor”. GnRF is a special kind of hormone called a “releasing factor” located in the hypothalamus. A “releasing factor” causes another gland or organ to release a different hormone(s) into the blood stream. For example, GnRF causes the anterior pituitary gland to produce, store and release FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone).

Hormones of the Ovaries:

The ovaries contain the ovarian follicles which produce oestrogen while maturing. After ovulation, the dominant ovarian follicle becomes the corpus luteum which produces progesterone and small amounts of oestrogen.

Signs of ovulation

  • Change in mucus
  • Drop in body temperature
  • Increased sexual desire
  • Abdominal pain

Ovulation problems

  • Absent or infrequent periods and heavy bleeding.
  • Poor egg quality.
  • Ovarian failure, preventing the release of ova from the ovaries.
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a condition where small follicles do not develop into larger ones.
  • Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes.

We regularly provide pre- and post-embryo transfers acupuncture for patients attending Fertility Associates for embryo transfer. Our clinic is located only 9 minutes away from Fertility Associates and it is therefore very convenient. Our patients come for their pre-transfer acupuncture about 1hr 15 minutes before they are due at Fertility Associates. Once they are done there they come straight back and we see them as soon as we can.

We understand that it is difficult to know exactly when the transfer will take place and we endeavour to be flexible. So long as you notify us as soon as you can we will try our best to fit you in.

Szenan Phua, B.Med (Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine).