Ovulation feels good because it switches on hormones.
As your ovaries get ready to release an egg every month, they pump out estrogen. Estrogen stimulates serotonin, which is why you’re more outgoing and energetic in the few days leading up to ovulation.
What happens just after ovulation is even more interesting. That’s when your ovary (one of them) releases bucket-loads of progesterone—your calming, soothing, anti-inflammatory hormone.
Your ovary makes progesterone with a unique little gland called the corpus luteum (which forms from the emptied egg-sac). I love the corpus luteum. It is so brave and fabulous—and so fleeting. It has the 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.
Your progesterone should continue through most of the second half of your cycle. Then when it drops just before your period, you may feel a little agitated (see my PMS post). You may have the odd period when you don’t ovulate, and don’t produce progesterone. That’s called an anovulatory cycle and can cause heavier bleeding or bleeding that goes on for too many days.
Benefits beyond babies
Estradiol and progesterone are powerful players in your health and metabolism. They are both essential for mood, energy, libido, insulin response, thyroid, skin, hair, and so much more. Furthermore, having adequate levels of these hormones when you are young will protect you from osteoporosis, cancer, and cardiovascular disease later in life.
Hormonal birth control shuts down ovulation. It is chemical castration, and if you take the Pill, you can wave goodbye to your sister steroids. The Pill’s pseudo-hormones bear no resemblance to your own estrogen and progesterone. To even call them hormones is a cruel joke.
Diagnosing ovulation deficiency
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. That can cause PMS, premenstrual-spotting, and heavy periods.
With luteal phase deficiency, you will not see a temperature rise on a basal body temperature chart, and your 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 your period. Please read The Right Way to Test Progesterone.
Tip: If you take hormonal birth control there is no point in testing progesterone. You have none.
In the next progesterone post, we will look at ways to improve the health of your corpus luteum and make more progesterone.