Understanding Your Fertility Cycle
It’s always helpful to understand more about your body – knowing the changes it goes through in a month, or across years help you to feel more comfortable in your skin, and helps you identify times when those changes aren’t running to schedule. While every body is different, and has its own quirks, if you suddenly start to experience irregular periods, it could be an early symptom of something that requires a visit to the doctor.
Today we’re taking a look at your fertility: your ovulation cycle and how it affects your body in the course of a month (on average).
How Long is the Fertility Cycle?
The first thing you need to understand is that there is no single set length for the cycle your reproductive system goes through. It differs from woman to woman, and even its regularity can differ! A ‘normal’ length cycle is considered to be between 21 to 35 days, and some people experience a perfectly regular cycle of 28 days, with three days of menstrual bleeding every four weeks, like clockwork.
Others experience some variance within this range, while others have regular but dramatically longer or shorter cycles. For some women this is simply how their body works: their hormone levels result in a long cycle, with no ill effects. For others it’s the result of an illness, stress or medication – anything that effects your hormones can interact with your menstrual cycle.
The most difficult thing to live with is an irregular cycle. This makes it difficult to identify ovulation, which makes it harder to get pregnant, and also harder to identify if there any problems with your cycle.
What Happens in an Ovulation Cycle
Your cycle starts each month with your period. The bleeding is your body clearing out the previous cycles preparations for pregnancy, and leaving it ready for the next time. It’s also a clear sign that you can use to begin tracking your cycle, if you’re doing this for the first time.
As your period starts, another process is also beginning within your body: the ‘follicular phase is beginning’. Between ten and twenty eggs are being matured in the ovaries in small sacs called ‘follicles’. The healthiest one of these eggs will be selected to be released from the ovaries (known as ovulation), while the others are harmlessly reabsorbed by the body.
Once you ovulate, you move to phase two of the cycle: the Luteal phase. In the luteal phase, your body builds up a thick lining in the uterus to receive an egg it it’s fertilised. It needs to be thick to give the egg something to anchor into and nourish it as it develops into a foetus. It’s this that is ejected from your body in your period at the end of the cycle as it begins again.