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Ovulation Explained

Written in Partnership with HRC Fertility, January 29, 2016

Ovulation refers to the release of a mature egg from a follicle in the ovary. The process of ovulation is controlled by several key hormones, explains Dr. Sanaz Ghazal, a fertility doctor with HRC Fertility in Fullerton, CA. The sequence is as follows:

  1. A gland called the hypothalamus, located at the base of the brain, secretes gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which acts on the anterior pituitary gland in the brain to release follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).
  2. FSH acts on the ovary and promotes follicular growth and egg maturation.
  3. Once a dominant follicle is selected and the hormone levels reach a certain threshold, the anterior pituitary releases a surge of LH.
  4. This LH surge is what triggers ovulation and allows the egg to be released from the ovary.

Women with a 28-day menstrual cycle generally ovulate between days 12 and 14. “However, several factors can impact this process and lead to an inability to produce and/or release eggs. Ovulatory dysfunction is found in about 15% of infertile couples and up to 40% of infertile women,” Ghazal says.

“Fortunately, we have effective fertility treatments that can help women with ovulatory dysfunction achieve a pregnancy,” she adds.

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