Ovulation & Stress

What is really happening to you?

The ovulation moment is caused by a chain of events that start with the estrogen reaching its monthly peak. This stimulates the discharge of LH (luteinizing hormone) by the pituitary gland under the influence of the GnRh (gonadotropin releasing hormone) produced by the hypothalamus. The LH is the main hormone triggering the ovulation but another pituitary hormone called FSH (follicular stimulating hormone) which is increased in the first half of the cycle also has a peak now and supports the ovulation.

The estrogen has to reach a certain level and has to be high for at least 36 hours for the LH to be released. Also, the dominant follicle, which is preparing for releasing the egg (ovulation), starts producing progesterone which is necessary in this phase for the LH surge to have full expression. If any of these requirements are not met then the ovulation doesn’t occur. Together with the estrogen the testosterone also achieves its monthly maximum levels.

 

The peak of LH triggers multiple changes in the follicle that lead to the release of the mature egg 18 hours later. After their pre-ovulatory peak the estrogen and the testosterone take a dive while the progesterone keeps increasing because the remains of the follicular sac transform into a structure called corpus luteum which produces mainly progesterone but also estrogen. Therefore the estrogen starts increasing again reaching another peak together with the progesterone at the end of the 3rd week.

The ups and downs of all these hormones lead to all the physical and emotional symptoms that you experience.
The testosterone peak just before your ovulation is responsible for your sex drive going up. The estrogen also contributes to the increased sex drive and makes you more open to having and enjoying sex around your ovulation taking up a notch the effect from the 2nd week of the cycle. This is because the egg only lives for 24 hours while the spermatozoid lives for 2-3 days days which means that it can wait for the egg to be released in order to fertilise it.

 

Your behavior is also influenced by these hormones and you tend to wear sexier clothes and to be attracted to men who have deeper voice, symmetrical facial features, who are confident, competitive and playful, which are features due to higher testosterone. The drop of testosterone and estrogen will be compensated by the steady increase in progesterone which will soon be accompanied by a rise of the estrogen until the end of the 3rd week which makes the libido go up again. After reaching a peak they will both drop which will cause your libido to dip again. Just another bump on the never ending rollercoaster of having a female reproductive system.

Estrogen has receptors everywhere in the body, including the parts of the brain that control moods and emotions. Its effects on the mood work through:

  • Increasing serotonin, and the number of serotonin receptors in the brain.
  • Modifying the production and the effects of endorphins, the “feel-good” chemicals in the brain.
  • Increasing acetylcholine – your memory neurotransmitter
  • Protecting nerves from damage, and possibly stimulating nerve growth.
  • Increasing brain derived growth factor and stimulating the forming of the new synapses between the neurons.

 

After the pre-ovulatory high the lowering level of estrogen leads to a decrease of the quantity of serotonin in the brain as well as the number of its receptors. This partly explains the low mood, irritability, anxiety, fatigue and sleep issues. It might also explain why you feel the pain more intensely. Some women have what is called mittelschmertz (from the German “middle pain”). This is described as a dull, cramping or sharp stabbing pain in one side of your abdomen at the moment when the egg is released.

Serotonin is a chemical (called neurotransmitter) that nerve cells produce and it is involved in mood, cognition, and the inhibition of pain in the brain. This means that the level of serotonin will partially determine how you feel, how you think, how you interpret, how you experience and the way you act in a certain situation as well as, possibly, how much pain you feel. Serotonin actually impacts every part of your body, from your emotions to your motor skills. It is considered a natural mood stabilizer and the chemical that helps sleeping, reduces depression and regulates anxiety. It also influences eating, digesting, it heals wounds, stimulates nausea and maintains bone health.

 

Serotonin makes you feel good so any decrease in estrogen or an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone that the body sees as less estrogen will bring the mood down. It can go down more ( towards depression) or less depending on how sensitive your brain is to the fluctuations of the hormones.

Progesterone is the hormone which balances, by its rise, the effects of the lowering estrogen. Its main task is to prepare the lining of your uterus for the pregnancy by stopping the effect of the estrogen (of growing the thickness) and by increasing the secretion of the endometrial glands. It has many effects in other parts of the body, brain included. In fact, progesterone concentrations in the brain have been shown to be 20 times higher than in the blood and the brain is highly responsive to progesterone. In the brain, as in the rest of the body, progesterone counterbalances the effects of estrogen. While estrogen has an excitatory effect the progesterone has a calming effect. It works by acting on the receptors of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that aids in relaxation and sleep. This promotes a state of calm and a deeper and more resting sleep. Some of you might feel even sluggish both mentally and physically and would feel like you need more rest. It also relieves the irritability and the anxiety induced by the drop in estrogen and testosterone.

However, it is not the quantity of hormones that leads to particular changes for each woman but the unique combination of:

 

  • Hormones levels
  • Your brain sensitivity to hormones fluctuations
  • Your emotional, mental and physical background (outside the one set by the hormones)
  • The lifestyle you have – the other stress sources you have in your life and the way you see and respond to life’s stressful situations.

Have you have been wondering what to do about all these emotions, mood swings and worries about ovulation and the week after?

 

Find out how you can do this!