Patient Resources

Understanding Ovulation & Fertility

Understanding your menstrual and ovulation cycle can help you improve your chances of getting pregnant. That does not mean only understanding the regularity of it, but understanding what happens during each phase. The first phase begins on the first day of your period. Your body releases hormones that make the eggs inside your ovaries grow. Those hormones help thicken the lining of your uterus to prepare for a fertilized egg, which happens between days 2 and 14. This is called the follicular stage.

What Happens During Ovulation?

The average menstrual cycle is 28-35 days, and ovulation typically happens between days 11 and 21 of your cycle. The release of the ripest egg is triggered by a surge of luteinizing hormone. Your cervical mucus simultaneously becomes more slippery to help sperm find their way to the egg.

Women are born with one to two million eggs, but release only 300-400 through ovulation during their lifetimes. Usually, just one is released each month. The egg travels along one of your fallopian tubes, which connects your ovaries to your uterus. Sperm may fertilize that egg, but if that does not happen within 24 hours of the egg leaving the ovary, the egg dissolves. Since sperm can live for approximately 3-5 days, knowing when you are ovulating can help you and your partner plan accordingly.

Track Your Most Fertile Days

The best chance of pregnancy is generally when sexual intercourse is performed 1-2 days before ovulation. Women with a regular 28-day cycle may count back 14 days from when you expect your next period to start, and plan on engaging in sexual intercourse every other day around that time.

Predict Ovulation by Hormone

A surge in LH, or luteinizing hormone, triggers a woman’s ovaries to release an egg. This surge usually occurs 36 hours before the egg is released. You can check your LH levels to pinpoint the day of ovulation with ovulation kits that can be found at drugstores. Test 1-2 days before the expected surge so you can note the rise in LH.

The Last Phase of Your Cycle

During the second half of the menstrual cycle, the hormone progesterone helps prepare the lining of the uterus for a fertilized egg. If it is not fertilized and does not implant, it will disintegrate, progesterone levels will fall, and the egg sheds from the body about 12 to 16 days later. Blood and tissues from the lining of the uterus are also shed, which is the process of menstruation.


The North Carolina Center for Reproductive Medicine (NCCRM) is the premiere center for reproductive health in North Carolina and the East Coast. It was established in 1992 to provide advanced reproductive techniques to couples who dream of having a child of their own. Our team specializes in fertility testing, diagnosis and treatment of infertility conditions. We’re experts in IVF, Tubal Ligation Reversal, Male Infertility, Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), Gestation Surrogacy, Family Balancing and more.

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