Gang, let’s be honest, Ovulation is something lots of us like to do on occasion. But the truth is, there’s a kind of mystery surrounding these regular-ish egg releases, not least the effect it can have on your physical and, yes, emotional wellbeing. And we’re not just talking about being inexplicably reduced to tears by Amazon adverts. Here are some Ovulation effects that might surprise you…
Ovulation and ice cream
If you’re now, or have ever, experienced periods, you’ve probably noticed something slightly off with your appetite each month. Those two or three days where, no matter how hard you try, you’re hungry 24 hours a day. And nothing stops it. Gang, this is the upside-down world of Leptin and its relationship with your eggs.
Now, Leptin is one of our less well-known hormones, so you’d be forgiven for never having heard of it before today. It does, though, seem to serve a pretty vital function, at least as far as we can tell. And that function is deciding how much you eat. No, it’s not your stomach, or your eyes, as you may previously have been led to believe.
Appetite for… Everything
Apparently, Leptin essentially tells you when you’ve eaten enough. High levels mean a regular, smaller appetite, and low levels can lead to increased appetite. Those levels, however, can fluctuate depending on a number of factors, including sleep quality, general fitness, and weight.
But there’s a kicker. Leptin isn’t produced by your stomach or some gland you’ve never heard of. This incredibly important hormone actually comes from fat cells. We know, it’s crazy. But it gets crazier. Because this hormone is an active ingredient in our reproductive process. How? It’s a good question, and no one’s really nailed the answer yet, so here’s what we do know: a low leptin level doesn’t just lead to an increased appetite, it also means it takes much longer for you to feel full.
And when are your Leptin levels decreasing? You’re probably way ahead of us here, but it’s right around the time you release an egg into your fallopian tube, on its way to your uterus. Or Ovulation, if you’re into the whole brevity thing.
Yup, one of the stranger Ovulation effects is that three days a month, you’re hormonally programmed to eat more. And that’s exactly what happens, right? Add this to the other hormonal upheaval happening concurrently — PMS basically starts while your Leptin levels are low — and you’re hardly to blame for throwing back that carton of Phish Food so fast it looks like you haven’t eaten for a week.
Eggs love food
So, why exactly, does Leptin feel the need to decrease in such a dramatic fashion for a few days every month? Current wisdom says the extra food intake is to prepare your body for the enormous energy expenditure that is growing a new human being. Which also explains why your appetite likely decreases a few days later if the egg is unfertilized.
All of which begs the question: how best to combat the results of a monthly lack of Leptin? Well, sleep is, as always, super important. As is a generally healthy lifestyle and diet. And that goes double if you’re carrying a few extra pounds, as your body can become Leptin resistant. Yup, for some reason, more fat cells mean it stops having the same effect somehow — so those three days of constant hunger can become every day.
And, as we’re often heard to say between these pages, knowing your cycle is crucial. It can help you prepare for those low Leptin days — mostly by padlocking the freezer and candy cupboard in good time. But more importantly, knowledge is power, and just knowing why you’re suddenly hungry all the time can maybe lift one of those weights you’re carrying. And that’s never a bad thing.
That said, eating more can also have some very real and not very fun side effects at that time of the month. Oh yes, we’re talking the bloats.
Ovulation effects: Water retention
You might have noticed that you feel bloated before your period arrives. But what about in the middle of your cycle? Water retention, or bloating, can be common around the time of Ovulation. Here’s why that happens and what you can do about it.
What is happening during Ovulation?
Ovulation is a time of big hormonal shifts. Your Estrogen levels have been increasing throughout the Follicular phase or first half of your cycle. Then, when the Estrogen level reaches a critical point, it triggers a quick increase in Luteinizing Hormone, AKA LH, which is often called the LH surge. The LH surge is what triggers your ovary to release its dominant egg.
Once your egg has started its journey, your LH levels drop quite quickly. Progesterone levels then increase as you move into the Luteal phase of your cycle.
What does Ovulation have to do with water retention?
These big hormonal changes can cause you to feel amazing all around. High Estrogen increases your energy, concentration, and confidence and even makes you more interested in sex.
The downside of one of the most important Ovulation effects, is that it can also cause you to hold on to water and swell slightly. As with almost everything, it’s hormones that tell your kidneys how much water to get rid of and how much to hold onto. The main hormone involved in regulating this is called antidiuretic hormone, or ADH. But because the hormone systems are all linked, Estrogen and the like can also have a say in bloating.
The spike of Estrogen around Ovulation triggers the body to hold on to more water. This bloated feeling usually starts a couple of days before ovulation.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you’re tracking your cycle as a method of Non-hormonal contraception then bloating does not count as a sign of Ovulation. Please don’t rely on the bloats to give you accurate information about when you’re ovulating. It can help you to work out the pattern of your cycles but shouldn’t be relied on to avoid pregnancy.
How can I beat the bloats?
Here are some simple things that can help reduce those uncomfortable bloats:
- Lower your salt intake. The more salt there is in your blood, the more your body will hold onto water to try and dilute it. Lowering salt intake will lower how much water your body retains.
- Exercise. Even 10 mins can help, as can relaxation or mindfulness techniques like yoga or meditation.
- Certain foods can make bloating worse. Try and avoid things like wheat, onions, garlic, artichokes, apples, pears, cauliflower, broccoli, or cabbage if they contribute to the bloats or gas.
Ovulation effects: How your cervical mucus changes
Have you noticed that your cervical mucus, AKA vaginal discharge, changes throughout your cycle? Those changes can be particularly noticeable around Ovulation, so here’s what to expect…
What is cervical mucus?
Cervical mucus is fluid produced by your cervix. It forms the bulk of your vaginal discharge, but cervical mucus and vaginal discharge are not the same things. In fact, cervical mucus has lots of functions and some of them are specific to the different stages of your menstrual cycle.
Why does it change during my menstrual cycle?
Cervical mucus is affected by our hormones, so changes throughout your cycle as your hormones change. It can also change if you are taking hormonal medication such as hormonal birth control, AKA contraception.
Vaginal discharge changes if you have an infection or a disruption to the bacteria in your vagina. If you: Notice that your discharge has an unpleasant smell, experience burning or stinging or you think something isn’t quite right, then please see a doctor or sexual health practitioner to rule out infection.
How does my cervical mucus change?
Throughout your menstrual cycle, your cervical mucus changes in color and volume, as well as consistency and texture. And that’s all down to your hormones – yes, they even control what’s coming out of you when you’re not bleeding. Here’s how it changes:
The volume of your mucus reaches its maximum around egg-release time. It’ll also be thin and slippery, which is why it’s often compared with raw egg white. The function of this Ovulation effect is to make it easy for sperm to travel up through the cervix, into the uterus, and finally, your Fallopian tube to meet your egg. Its pH and texture also help to protect the sperm on their journey.
Following Ovulation, which happens during the Luteal phase, you may notice less cervical mucus, or it might get thicker and more sticky.
This mucus is designed to protect the inside of your uterus and any potential new human being that might in there. It’s thicker and stickier on purpose — the texture makes it harder for the normal bacteria that live in your vagina, or, ahem, more sperm, to get through.
The rest of the month
As you’re likely bleeding during your period, chances are you won’t notice the cervical mucus. Technically, your body is still producing it, but it’s the blood that’s most obvious. Towards the end of your period, though, you may well see a red/brown discharge — that’s cervical mucus mixed with a smaller amount of blood.
Once your period is over, there might be a few days without much discharge. Later in the Follicular phase, though, you might notice your discharge increases in volume and is a lot stickier. It can range from white to cloudy or slightly yellow.
Ovulation Effects: Energy
It’s a well-known fact that people who get periods experience fluctuating energy levels. Regardless of which stage of the Menstrual Cycle you find yourself in, your energy levels are super-intertwined with your hormones. For instance, there’s a chance you’d rather eat dirt than exercise during your period. But you may well feel like running a marathon while you’re Ovulating. Here’s how and why Ovulation effects can include raising your energy levels.
Wait, there are different stages of the Menstrual Cycle?
In short, yes. Although we’ve been talking mostly about Ovulation, your cycle has four distinct phases. And they are:
- Menstruation: AKA your period
- Follicular Phase: The egg-growing stage
- Ovulation: The egg-releasing stage, when you’re most fertile
- Luteal Phase: The run-up to your period
So how, exactly, does Ovulation raise my energy levels?
Now, as we may have mentioned, Ovulation occurs around the mid-point of your cycle, and it’s the moment your egg is released from your ovaries for potential fertilization. It’s triggered by a surge in Luteinizing Hormone, letting your ovaries know that now is the time. You Estrogen is also peaking, and these Ovulation effects make for a formidably energetic combination.
Which means you’ll be particularly productive around this point in your cycle. Although Ovulation only takes 24 hours, your hormone levels can stay high for about three or four days. And that means you can make the most of these high-energy Ovulation effects for a good while.
A quick note: This is also the point at which you’re most fertile, so, you know, bear that in mind…
Handy ways to make the most of your raised energy levels:
- Get frisky in the bedroom with yourself/your partner/s, but be aware of your increased fertility.
- Finish that project you’ve been putting off.
- Be a social butterfly and make new friends, have some tough chats, or go to that social event you were on the fence about.
Do other Menstrual phases raise your energy levels?
That’s an interesting question. Estrogen levels actually start rising during the Follicular phase, so you might feel its energizing effects well before Ovulation. That’s not the case for everyone, though, as the climb can be slow, and low Estrogen can have the reverse effect.
But keeping track of your super-energetic days, when they happen, and how long they last can help you plan and predict when you’re going to be the best you. And that’s where the Hormona app comes in — we can help you track your cycle, your symptoms, good days and bad, as well giving you tips and advice on how to live your best hormone life. What are you waiting for?
When are my energy levels lowest during my cycle?
Honestly, chances are you’re at your lowest, energy-wise, during your period. Low Estrogen and Progesterone, alongside the energy it takes to expel your uterus lining, can lead to fatigue. As can sleep disruption, temperature fluctuations, cramps, moodiness, and all those other lovely things that make having periods exhausting.
So don’t feel too bad if you find it hard to be productive during that phase of your cycle. Try and make time to relax and sleep as much as you need to, and plan your social life around your exhaustion where you can.
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