Ode to Ovulation

woman holding egg

Ovulation is beneficial because it’s how women make hormones.

Every month, as the ovaries get ready to release an egg, they pump out estrogen. Estrogen, in turn, stimulates serotonin, which is why women can be more outgoing and energetic in the few days leading up to ovulation.

Every month, after ovulation, one of the ovaries releases a huge amount of progesterone—the calming, soothing, anti-inflammatory hormone.  

Ovaries make progesterone with a unique little gland called the corpus luteum (which forms from the emptied egg sac). The corpus luteum is brave and fabulous—and also fleeting, with a lifespan of a butterfly (12-14 days). The gland forms very rapidly, going from nothing to a fully vascularized 4cm structure in less than one day. One researcher said this about the corpus luteum:

..there isn’t anywhere else in the body where you have to develop a tissue from scratch in such a short period of time and get a blood supply in so fast.

The high metabolism of the corpus luteum demands nutrients such as cholesterol, B vitamins, coQ10, vitamin D, iodine, magnesium, and zinc. The gland has a particularly high requirement for the antioxidant selenium, which is why selenium is the nutrient for progesterone.

Progesterone should continue for the final two weeks of the cycle, but it’s not uncommon to have a cycle with no ovulation, which is called an anovulatory cycle.

Benefits beyond babies

Ovulation is important for fertility, of course, but it’s SO much more than that. Ovulation is the only way to make estradiol and progesterone, which are beneficial for mood, energy, libido, insulin response, thyroid, skin, hair, and so much more. Read The secret powers of ovulation (it’s not just for making a baby).

What if you don’t ovulate?

Luteal phase deficiency is the medical term for a problem with ovulation and the corpus luteum. If you do not form a corpus luteum, or if it does not survive its full 12-day lifespan, then you have progesterone deficiency which can cause heavy periods.

With luteal phase deficiency, there is no temperature rise on a basal body temperature chart, and progesterone will be low on a blood test (< 8 ng/mL or 25 nmol/L). To be meaningful, the blood test must be done 5-9 days before the onset of the period. Please read The right way to test progesterone.

Tip: If you take hormonal birth control there is no point in testing progesterone because you have none.

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