Ovulation and Your Menstrual Cycle: Understanding the Basics

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It is sometimes surprising that women who are trying to conceive don’t really understand much about how their bodies work and how the female reproductive cycle works. This can make it extremely difficult to get pregnant when you don’t know much about your fertile times. Let’s discuss the basics of the menstrual cycle and ovulation.

1. Days 1-7

Day one of the menstrual cycle is the first day of your period. This occurs after hormone levels drop at the end of the previous cycle, signaling blood and tissues lining the uterus (womb) to break down and shed from the body. Most women have periods lasting anywhere from 3-7 days.

menstrual-period-is-day1-of-your-cycle

2. Days 7-14

During this time frame, menstrual bleeding has stopped. The body’s hormones are causing fluid filled sacs called follicles to develop on the ovaries. Each one of these follicles contains an egg.

women-after-period

These follicles grow and develop every day during this time frame. Also, the lining of the uterus will begin to thicken and prepare itself for the possibility of a fertilized egg implanting there.

3. Day 14 (or so)

Usually around day 14 in a 28 day cycle, a woman will ovulate. Ovulation occurs when the follicle has reached full maturity. The body’s hormones cause the mature follicle to burst, and the egg is released from the ovary. This is ovulation, the time during the cycle when a woman can get pregnant.

you-want-to-have-sex-when-you-are-ovulating.

4. Days 14-17

During this time frame, the egg will begin to travel down the fallopian tubes towards the uterus, where it can be fertilized. This is the time that a woman is able to get pregnant.

once-egg-and-sperm-unites-in-the-uterus-it-gets-fertilized

If the sperm and the egg unite in the uterus, the egg will become fertilized. The fertilized egg will then continue to travel down the fallopian tube where it will attach to the lining of the uterus, being to grow and turn into an embryo, and down the line, a fetus.

5. Days 17-28

The egg can only live for around 24-48 hours after it is released, so there is a small window of time in which a woman can get pregnant. If the egg is not fertilized during this time, the hormone levels will slowly begin to drop once again.

if-the-egg-is-not-fertilized-the-hormonal-levels-begin-to-drop

This is the body’s signal for the menstrual period to start once again. When it is time for a woman’s period, the egg will break apart and will shed along with the lining of the uterus during a woman’s period.

Then the entire cycle starts all over again, every month from the time a woman is around 12 or 13 years old, until the time when her body runs out of eggs, called menopause. Menopause usually occurs around age 50, but is different for every woman.

Dr. Karen Leham is double board-certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and in Reproductive Endocronology and Infertility. Dr. Leham completed her residency at Loyola University, followed by a fellowship at UCLA.