Phase Three – Ovulation
Friday, 7th November 2014
This is the pivotal time of the menstrual cycle in Chinese Medicine. As the fullness of Yin reaches its total capacity ovulation occurs and Yin switches to Yang.
The increasing levels of estrogen (yin) trigger the release of Luteinizing Hormone. This stimulates the mature egg to rise to the surface of the follicle. As the egg is released the follicle develops into the corpus luteum pumping out progesterone (yang) to warm the uterus. The egg is swept up (with the help of Liver Qi flowing freely) and travels down the fallopian tubes hopefully to meet waiting sperm. This is a critical step in the equation when trying to conceive. As the egg stays alive in the fallopian tubes for no more that 24hrs it is important to have plenty of healthy sperm waiting in the sidelines to fertilize the egg. This means it is important to be having regular intercourse well before the day of ovulation.
Timing: Picking when you are ovulating can be tricky for those whose cycle does not conform to the standard 28day pattern. If you do have a regular 28 day cycle there is a very high chance that you will be ovulating on day 14 – half way through the cycle. However if your cycle is shorter it is likely that you will be ovulating earlier conversely if your cycle is longer you will be ovulating later.
With irregular cycles it is normally the follicular phase (the time from the beginning of your period to the time you ovulate) that is inconsistent making ovulation hard to pin point. While it is possible to have a shorter luteal phase, the second half of the cycle is normally 14 days long. If you are having trouble determining when ovulation is occurring it can be useful be to look back at the length of your past cycles for help. To do this all you need to do is subtract 14 from the totally length of your cycle; eg a 35 day cycle indicates possible ovulation on day 21, or a 25 day cycle means a possible ovulation on day 11. Noticing cervical mucus changes (link) can also indicate you are entering your more fertile window.
Once you know approximately when ovulation is likely to be occurring you can promptly forget all about it. Sounds a little crazy, however letting go of focusing on the actual day will do wonders for the conception process.
Instead of focusing on the day of ovulation as being the “big event” we recommend being aware of a more fertile week during which you are more consistent with intercourse 5 or 6 days before ovulation until the day or two after. This means if you are ovulating around day 14 then you can be more active with your love making from day 8 or 9 of your cycle until day 15 or 16. If you can manage intercourse every second day, or even daily through this week it would be ideal, however if you miss a day or two its no big deal, the more important thing is to be relaxed, not stressed about timing. Stress can cause all sorts of problems, especially during ovulation, check out our Laughter For Fertility post for more on this.
Continuing to have regular intercourse through the rest of the month is also highly recommended. Not only is it important for staying connected as a couple but regular intercourse will help increase sperm quality, reducing the number of dead sperm while increasing the number of new “fitter sperm”.
The whole trying to conceive thing can be really difficult on the emotions of both parties. The pressure, anxiety, hope and disappointment that cycles month after month can cause internal turmoil, disrupting the connection between the Heart energy and the uterus. If the Heart and uterus are not peacefully connected you can imagine how hard it would be for a conception to take place.
There is a lovely and very simple meditation that we like to recommend that helps with this. Lying down as you go to bed, or sitting during the day in a warm quite spot place one hand over your heart and one over your uterus. Take a few deep breaths and imagine a channel connecting the two. Now take a few minuets to fill this with white light, letting go of any blockages in your mind that you may come across. Guided meditations can also be very useful, we love the ones by Be Fertile.
Around the time of ovulation it is very important to support digestion and keep your energy levels up. Try to use the evening meal as a time for you and your partner to connect, taking the time to sit down and converse, enjoy each others company.
Flavorsome and fresh foods are needed to build qi: beef, venison, chicken, ham, rabbit, millet, sardines, trout, mackerel, eggs, tofu, chickpeas, lentils, oats, almonds, coconut, liquorice, molasses, milk, rice, sage, carrots, cherries, dates, figs, grapes, sweet potatoes, shiitake mushrooms, squash and yams are all good to include into the diet. Try these recipes:
Mackerel Quinoa Salad from Jamie Oliver – Mackrel and quinoa both enhance for the qi, you could also add roasted cauliflower or zucchini to the tomato.
Butternut Squash & Chestnut Risotto from Emma Cannon –A nice qi building recipe for vegetarians
Knob of butter
1tsp ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, chopped
900g butternut squash
375g Arboria rice
1 liter hot vegetable/chicken stock
1 tsp fresh tyhme sprigs
salt and pepper
Gentle heat butter in a saucepan and cook the leeks, cumin and garlic and squash for 8 mins, stirring occasionally. Stir in the rice until it is coated, then turn down the heat and add the stock a ladle at a time, all the liquid must be absorbed beofre adding more. Add half the thyme and chestnuts with the last of the liquid. Season with salt and pepper and sever with Parmesan shavings.
Staying away from coffee is essential, especially during the follicular phase and during ovulation. It is very heating and stimulating and can easily dry out that precious Yin. Herbal and green teas are a good substitute. We like mixing camomile with Rose Buds and peppermint. Camomile calms the nervous system, reducing stress and anxiety, while Rose and peppermint are excellent to gently move the Liver qi, a great combo for this time of the cycle.
Warm spicy Chia Tea is also a nice tea for building qi flow. Check out our Follicular Phase post for Yin nourishing foods, so important for creating healthy fertile mucus.
A healthy balance between rest and exercise is ideal during ovulation. When exercising you want to feel energised not drained or exhausted at the end. A gentle walk around the block or a yoga practise is enough, pick an exercise you enjoy. Whatever it is stay active during ovulation.
Yang energy comes fully into play in the Luteal Phase of the menstrual cycle but is born from the follicular phase. During ovulation it plays an important role in providing the energy to release the egg and creates the warmth to support conception. We will go into more detail in the next post, but for now its worth noting that keeping the body warm covering the kidneys, lower back, abdomen and feet is also a useful and simple thing you can do to help improve your natural fertility.