Ovulation is the release of egg from the ovaries. This event occurs when the de Graaf’s follicles rupture and release the secondary oocyte ovarian cells. After ovulation, during the luteal phase, the egg will be available to be fertilized by sperm. In addition, the uterine lining (endometrium) is thickened to be able to receive a fertilized egg. If no conception occurs, the uterine lining as well as blood will be shed during menstruation.

Ovulation occurs about midway through the menstrual cycle, after the follicular phase. The few days surrounding ovulation (from approximately days 10 to 18 of a 28-day cycle), constitute the most fertile phase. The time from the beginning of the last menstrual period (LMP) until ovulation is, on average, 14.6 days, but with substantial variation between females and between cycles in any single female, with an overall 95% prediction interval of 8.2 to 20.5 days.

The process of ovulation is controlled by the hypothalamus of the brain and through the release of hormones secreted in the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). In the pre-ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle, the ovarian follicle will undergo a series of transformations called cumulus expansion, which is stimulated by FSH. After this is done, a hole called the stigma will form in the follicle, and the secondary oocyte will leave the follicle through this hole. Ovulation is triggered by a spike in the amount of FSH and LH released from the pituitary gland. During the luteal (post-ovulatory) phase, the secondary oocyte will travel through the fallopian tubes toward the uterus. If fertilized by a sperm, the fertilized secondary oocyte or ovum may implant there 6–12 days later.

The follicular phase (or proliferative phase) is the phase of the menstrual cycle during which the ovarian follicles mature. The follicular phase lasts from the beginning of menstruation to the start of ovulation.

For ovulation to be successful, the ovum must be supported by the corona radiata and cumulus oophorous granulosa cells. The latter undergo a period of proliferation and mucification known as cumulus expansion. Mucification is the secretion of a hyaluronic acid-rich cocktail that disperses and gathers the cumulus cell network in a sticky matrix around the ovum.

An increase in cumulus cell number causes a concomitant increase in antrum fluid volume that can swell the follicle to over 20 mm in diameter.

Estrogen levels peak towards the end of the follicular phase. This causes a surge in levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This lasts from 24 to 36 hours, and results in the rupture of the ovarian follicles, causing the oocyte to be released from the ovary via the oviduct.

Through a signal transduction cascade initiated by LH, proteolytic enzymes are secreted by the follicle that degrade the follicular tissue at the site of the blister, forming a hole called the stigma. The secondary oocyte leaves the ruptured follicle and moves out into the peritoneal cavity through the stigma, where it is caught by the fimbriae at the end of the fallopian tube (also called the oviduct). After entering the oviduct, the oocyte is pushed along by cilia, beginning its journey toward the uterus.

By this time, the oocyte has completed meiosis I, yielding two cells: the larger secondary oocyte that contains all of the cytoplasmic material and a smaller, inactive first polar body. Meiosis II follows at once but will be arrested in the metaphase and will so remain until fertilization. The spindle apparatus of the second meiotic division appears at the time of ovulation. If no fertilization occurs, the oocyte will degenerate between 12 and 24 hours after ovulation. Approximately 1-2% of ovulations release more than one oocyte. This tendency increases with maternal age. Fertilization of two different oocytes by two different spermatozoa results in fraternal twins.

Ovulation. (2016, September 27). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:09, September 27, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ovulation&oldid=741425027