The weird science of ovulation, the things I didn’t know

A few days ago when I was curled up in bed wishing my ovaries would stop hurting, I did a google search on ovulation.  I wasn’t looking for information on how women ovulate (I studied that at GCSE biology ), but more about what else happens to a woman’s body when she ovulates.  My google search terms were based on a question I had earlier on whether there is a correlation between the side of ovary a woman ovulates from and an increase in boob size.  So my search lead me to ‘ovulation symmetry‘.

There are two articles of interest I would like to share with you.  The first is an academic paper, the second is a blog post from a website called 1Flesh (advocates for natural family planning).  Both were interesting and got me thinking how much of a dark science ovulation is to the unsuspecting.

I’ll actually start with the 1Flesh blog post, called “9 reasons ovulation is pretty much like witch craft” by Marc (yup he’s a guy talking about ovulation, that’s pretty cool!).  He talks about 9 things that happen when a woman ovulate (links to supporting studies are provided in his blog post):

  1. Women become more beautiful when ovulating – lips, ears, fingers, breasts and other soft tissue parts of the body become more symmetrical, thus making us more beautiful.
  2. Gaydar initiated – the better women become at discriminating men who are a good match for them.
  3. Higher voice – again a more attractive thing to men…apparently!
  4. Smell better.
  5. Naturally want to look their best – in fact women’s self esteem lowers around ovulation, and to compensate for this tend to dress better, put make up on, even sway hips unconsciously.
  6. Spidey senses –  women have an increased ability to spot and avoid danger (I must chart this one in particular!!)
  7. Increased sex drive – unsurprising.
  8. General well being – women are less stressed and have fewer headaches.
  9. Get smart – why didn’t I know this sooner??! I could have made sure I took all my exams on these days!

So let’s go back to the 1st point – women become more beautiful when ovulating.  This is where the first hit on google provides a link to an academic paper, entitled: “Symmetry and ovulation in women”*.  It was the first line of the introduction paragraph

Many primates show visible signs they are ready to reproduce.

Many primates show visible signs they are ready to reproduce.

that got me interested:

“In primates most females show cues to ovulation.  However, among humans it is generally considered that ovulation is not perceived consciously by others nor is it usually perceived by self.”

This is very true of baboons and bonobos – they could not make it any more obvious to the male that they were ready to reproduce.  Why are humans more subtle?  Actually, I think after a year, I can now tell when I am ovulating, the signs are mostly there.  But I am not sure Chris can really tell, though perhaps he can unconsciously from the more subtle signs like the list above suggests.

The paper presents evidence that asymmetry in ears and fingers is lowest at time of ovulation.  The evidence is compelling (but I’d like to see a larger sample size).  Could measuring and tracking the length of your digits be a more effect way of determining ovulation?  Sounds easier than feeling your cervix, peeing on a stick and taking your temperature everyday!  Clearly as this paper was published in 1996 it hasn’t caught on as I assume the differences are very small and requires an accurate measuring device.  So we will just wait out on that one for now…

D.Scutt & J.T. Manning, Symmetry and Ovulation in Women, Human reproduction, vol 11 no 11, pp 2477-2480, 1996.

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