Summer: The Season of Ripening

Summer: The Season of Ripening
Photo by Holly Mandarich

"When the sun is shining I can do anything; no mountain is too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome." — Wilma Rudolph

In summer, the earth warms and the air stills, crops in the fields push toward maturity and trees ready themselves for fruition. Summer, too, has its analogue in the reproductive cycle: the ovulatory phase.

Ovulation, when a ripened egg is released by one of your ovaries, is the third stage of the menstrual cycle and usually takes place about two weeks before your period begins. If it is fertilized in the course of its journey, this egg will implant in the wall of the uterus, now thick with nutrients following the preparatory work that takes place during the follicular phase.

As with every chapter in the typical reproductive cycle, ovulation can be accompanied by its own unique set of signs and symptoms. As always, these can vary widely, but many of us will experience some or all of them at some point during our reproductive years.

Roughy 40% of menstruators experience something called “mittelschmerz”. Also known as ovulation pain, this can range from mild to intense and is usually felt near the ovary releasing a mature egg. Try using a heating pad or over-the-counter analgesics to relax the abdomen. If the pain becomes very severe or lasts longer than a couple of days, it may be time to tell your doctor. 

The hormones that trigger ovulation can often have an impact on how we feel. Energy may be high just before ovulation as estrogen levels reach their monthly peak and trigger the release of luteinizing hormone: the chemical signal for egg release. Progesterone then rises sharply, bringing with it a much mellower vibe. 

Like the planet, the body often grows warmer during the summertime. In this case, just after the ovary releases the egg it has been coaxed to maturity. 

The reason? The formation of a hormone-secreting temporary organ called the corpus luteum whose purpose is to ready the body just in case the egg is fertilized in the course of its journey. The result can be a rise of up to 1 degree Fahrenheit in body temperature and an increase in perspiration. If you are sensitive to heat, try adopting some summertime remedies – wearing lighter clothing and sipping cool drinks. 

Alterations in the volume, color, and texture of your vaginal discharge are not uncommon as the cervix adjusts its secretions to make itself more hospitable to sperm. 

Some of us experience some of the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome at this time, including breast tenderness, bloating, and moodiness. Over-the-counter analgesics can often help with the management of breast pain. But again, if this becomes acute or starts to interfere with daily life, it may be wise to consult your doctor.

If maximum fertility is your goal – or even if it isn’t – doctors recommend upping your nutrient level before and during ovulation. Try a diet rich in folic acid and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids in particular can lower blood pressure and improve blood flow.

Whatever symptoms you feel, make sure you max out on rest. It may help you prepare for the arrival of the luteal phase, which for many of us can be the most challenging.

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