Women's Health | December 12, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
When an egg is released from one of the ovaries each month – this process is referred to as ovulation. It depends on a complex interplay of hormones and glands, such as luteinizing hormone and the pituitary gland.
Some women may have issues with ovulation, which may be erratic or not occur at all. Ovulation is a crucial process for fertility. When an ovum (egg) is fertilised with sperm in the fallopian tube a new life begins.
The endometrium (uterine lining) that has built up during the previous menstrual cycle is shed. Menstruation is triggered by a drop in progesterone and other hormones when implantation of a fertilised egg doesn’t occur.
In response to oestrogen, the lining of the endometrium starts to thicken again. Low progesterone levels encourage the pituitary gland to secrete follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) which allows the ovary to begin selection of another egg for ovulation. Between 20-30 follicles begin to grow towards maturity.
By day 8 of the cycle, one of the follicles become dominant and develops an egg inside. This dominant follicle secretes oestrogen and inhibin—resulting in a decrease in the amount of FSH. The remaining follicles disintegrate, with the dominant follicle continuing to grow until ovulation.
During ovulation, oestrogen levels reach their highest.
The hypothalamus responds by secreting gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which in return triggers the pituitary gland to secrete luteinising (LH). This allows the dominant follicle, which has formed a blister bulge on the surface of the ovary, to release the ovum within 12-36 hours of this LH surge.
The secondary oocyte travels down the fallopian tube to the uterus via wave-like structures called cilia. Its life depends on a chance encounter with a sperm within 24 hours otherwise it will die.
During the last 2 weeks of the menstrual cycle the ovarian follicle, now called the corpus luteum, releases progesterone and attaches to the ovarian wall. Progesterone is important to maintain the lining of the endometrium to be conducive to pregnancy. However, if fertilisation doesn’t take place, the corpus luteum dies and the drop in progesterone and other hormones, stimulates the shedding of the thickened uterine lining.
Ovulation kits—most work by measuring the level of LH in the urine which rise 24-36 hours before ovulation. Others will use saliva to detect increased salt concentrations in the saliva due to a rise in oestrogen.
Temperature—take your temperature every morning before you get out of bed to chart your menstrual cycle. A small increase suggests that ovulation has occurred.
Cervical fluid—note the change in cervical fluid mid-cycle, usually it will change to the consistency of egg whites.
Having sex around the time of ovulation means that the sperm and ovum have a good chance of meeting in the fallopian tube.
There are also women who are menopausal, pregnant and breastfeeding who will not experience ovulation. Damage to or removal of the ovaries will also prevent ovulation.
Click Here For Article on PCOS
To enable healthy ovulation, individual underlying factors such as an eating disorder, cysts on the ovaries or an underactive thyroid need to be addressed. Keeping some of these things in mind, here’s how to promote ovulation each month.
Otherwise known as chaste tree, vitex is used in herbal medicine to regulate the menstrual cycle. It is referred to as a hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian regular, helping to balance abnormalities in this important axis.
Vitex can be helpful for women who have hormonal imbalances, PCOS, irregular periods and suffer from anovulation (lack of ovulation).
There is also evidence that bulgarian tribulus, Cinnamomum cassia (cinnamon) stem bark, Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice) root, black cohosh and gymnema sylvestre help in the management of PCOS and promote ovulation.
Undereating, inadequate nutrition, fasting and regular crash dieting can hamper the bodies ability to ovulate. Make sure you eat regular, nutritious meals and maintain a weight within the healthy range. If an underlying eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia is related to altered eating patterns, then the help of a health professional in this area should be sought out.
Chronic stress can play havoc with the menstrual cycle. Learn ways to cope by performing regular exercise, meditation and seeking the help of a counsellor.
Hechtman L (2014). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, Australia
Vitex agnus-castus. Monograph. Altern Med Rev. 2009 Mar;14(1):67-71
Arentz S, et al. Herbal medicine for the management of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and associated oligo/amenorrhoea and hyperandrogenism; a review of the laboratory evidence for effects with corroborative clinical findings. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014 Dec 18;14:511