What is hyperovulation?
Usually, every menstrual cycle, your ovaries release only one egg that, under normal circumstances, waits to get fertilized. But, in some cases, more than one egg may emerge from either one or both of the ovaries, resulting in a condition called hyperovulation.
In many cases, this can lead to the conception of multiple babies and is usually the reason behind fraternal twins that are conceived naturally without the help of fertility treatments.
Why does it happen?
The follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is literally responsible for stimulating the development of follicles, which go on to produce the egg that is released each cycle. A week post that, the FSH levels start to drop and only the most developed follicle is able to survive this decrease in the hormone level. The dominant follicle then starts to produce estradiol, a hormone that triggers a surge in the luteinizing hormone (LH), ultimately leading to ovulation.
But, in some cases, the FSH is at a higher level than normal or does not drop after a week. And guess what happens when the FSH levels remain surged? Hyperovulation! Studies have shown that people who naturally gave birth to fraternal twins have higher levels of FSH or release the hormone more frequently.
However, there is no particular FSH level that guarantees hyperovulation in people. And, even if someone does manage to undergo hyperovulation, it doesn’t always ensure the birth of multiple babies.
Does it happen often?
It is particularly difficult to pinpoint exactly the percentage of people that ovulate more than one egg because while ovulation kits may be able to tell you when you will be ovulating, it does not tell you the number of eggs that are to be released. Also, due to something called the vanishing twin syndrome, a look at people with fraternal twins isn’t a likely representation of hyperovulation.
In this syndrome, even when two fertilized eggs get implanted into the uterine lining, one of them naturally disappears quite early into the pregnancy, usually even before the first ultrasound. This is the reason why the rate of fraternal twinning cannot be taken as an accurate representation of hyperovulation.
Further, there have been several studies that have established a percentage anywhere between 10-50% of people with the potential to ovulate multiple times a month or undergo hyperovulation. But due to the wide range of discrepancies present in the studies and the other factors making it difficult to detect hyperovulation, it is not possible to say how often it exactly occurs.
What are the risk factors that can increase the chance of hyperovulation?
Even though it’s not possible to know how often hyperovulation occurs, the factors associated with the FSH hormone and the rate of fraternal twins can help us determine the risk factors associated with it:
- Conceiving post 30 - Since FSH levels rise with age, it becomes more likely for people over 30 to give birth to multiple babies.
- Coming off birth control pills - In a 1977 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, it was found that immediately after you stop taking birth control pills, the likelihood of the ovaries releasing multiple eggs increases.
- Using IVF to get pregnant - IVF treatments usually introduce more than one embryo into the womb to facilitate a higher chance of getting pregnant. Due to this, anywhere around 20-30% of successful IVF treatments result in twins and thus indicate a higher chance of hyperovulation.
- Genetic constitution - Several studies have shown that some people are genetically predisposed to have a higher level of FSH or tend to produce the hormone more than once in their cycle. This can lead to hyperovulation and a higher chance of conceiving multiple babies at once.
- Using fertility medications - There are fertility medications that assist ovulation and these medicines can often cause more than one egg to be released at a time, resulting in multiple children.
- Conceiving while breastfeeding - According to a 2001 study in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, getting pregnant while breastfeeding can increase the odds of having twins to 11.4% as opposed to a normal percentage of 1.1%.
- Previous pregnancies - If you have been pregnant multiple times, especially with more than one baby, you are more likely to conceive multiple babies at once.
Dairy consumption - In a 2006 study published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, it was found that people who consumed dairy products were at least five times more likely to conceive multiple babies as opposed to those that abstain from dairy.
Are there any signs of hyperovulation?
There aren’t usually any symptoms of ovulation that can help you determine when it is that your body is releasing the egg and so, the same applies to hyperovulation. The only way you can confirm hyperovulation is through an ultrasound that can show you the number of eggs released.
But, while self-assessing, a few women have reportedly noted severe ovulation pain and a heavier white discharge that is more white and stretchy.
What are the fertility boosting supplements available?
If you are looking to conceive naturally, you can increase your chances by taking certain supplements like:
- Folic acid - It helps to increase egg health while preventing ovulatory infertility in women who are trying to conceive, also enhancing chances of conception in women undergoing fertility treatments.
- Vitamin E - It is an important antioxidant that helps in repairing cells, thus improving egg quality and helping with carrying the pregnancy to term. It is an essential supplement for older women who are trying to conceive.
- Vitamin D - It helps restore hormonal balance and improves ovarian stimulation and is thus an excellent supplement for promoting fertility.
- Fish oil - Omega 3 fatty acids can improve the egg quality for women who are trying to conceive and is usually found in fish oil tablets.
Selenium - A highly effective antioxidant, selenium promotes the health of the uterine follicles which facilitate the release of the egg.
Hyperovulation is not an everyday occurrence and is likely linked to increased fertility in women with a chance to have multiple babies. However, with advancing technologies, it is possible to have multiple and successful pregnancies with IVF these days and if you are going the natural way, you can look at supplements to increase your chances of conceiving.