Every month, most women get their period – about every 28 days. Of course, plenty of women also don’t have a menstrual period due to hormonal birth control, PCOS, or other health issues. But this cycle that most women have come to accept as another part of life can actually tell you a lot about your health, including helping women understand potential causes of infertility.
Do you know the basics of your menstrual cycle, and what to expect?
Your hormones, your health, and how to better understand the potential causes of infertility
Your cycle can typically be divided into four phases:
- Menstrual phase (From day 1 to 5): Your cycle starts on the first day of your period and this phase lasts about 5 days, though active menstruation times can vary, and shorter or longer times are normal. Bleeding occurs because the uterus sheds its lining – the soft tissue and blood vessels your body develops over the course of a month to support a potential embryo. This lining exits the body in the form of menstrual blood and is often accompanied by cramps caused by contractions of the uterus pushing the unneeded (read: not pregnant for that month) lining out. The severity of cramps, as well as the amount of blood lost, can vary from woman to woman and if you have concerns about either, you should always talk to your doctor.
- Follicular phase (From day 1 to 13): Simultaneous to menstrual bleeding is when hormones trigger new egg cells to grow in the ovaries. Each egg takes about 13 days to develop fully and grows off of the ovary in a form called a follicle. This egg growth triggers a hormone that signals the uterus that it needs to begin developing a lining to potentially support a fertilized egg that will grow into an embryo.
- Ovulation phase (Day 14): Ovulation occurs when your body releases one of the mature eggs into the fallopian tube. The release of this egg means that your body might be ready to combine with a sperm cell.
- Luteal phase (From day 15 to 28): The egg stays in the fallopian tube for about 24 hours, and if it is not impregnated, the egg cell dissolves and is absorbed back into the body naturally. At this point, another hormone is triggered to alert the body that no pregnancy is detected for that month, and the process of shedding the lining to grow a new one for next month starts over.
One thing that many women don’t realize is that some of these phases are happening co-currently, creating a kind of hormone soup in your body that affects you physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s also important to know that ovulation – the time that a woman has a mature egg ready and in place for insemination – is the shortest phase in the whole cycle. This means that tracking your cycle may seem impersonal and a cold scientific approach to something deeply emotional and personal, but it’s also an incredibly important first step to addressing infertility issues and identifying what kinds of lifestyle changes may need to occur to regulate your cycle.
Tracking your periods can help you better understand what’s “normal” for your body and also see any irregularities. Having a log that covers several months can help your doctor track your hormones and more easily diagnose potential issues. Periods are natural, normal, and a healthy party of life, so tracking them in the name of science, health, and knowledge is not only very common but helpful to many women for many reasons. Smartphone apps make it easy, but using a good old-fashioned calendar is a perfectly acceptable method.
If you’re looking to better understand your menstrual cycle, have questions about pain or irregular bleeding, or want to know how to better track phases and hormonal changes, we can help. No two bodies are exactly the same and therefore infertility treatments or hormonal health solutions should be customized to you. Our infertility clinic in Central Wisconsin uses natural, long-standing health approaches to help you understand your unique body and develop answers, solutions, and practices that work for you. Call us today with your questions or concerns and be seen by a professional, compassionate doctor who will help you take control of your health.