UNDERSTANDING YOUR MENSTRUAL CYCLE
Every month you deal with it since you were a young girl but, to what extent do you know about your menstrual cycle? I don’t mean the three, four, or five days of bleeding you get every month, but the full 28 day cycle during which your hormones fluctuate regularly more than the stock market. Welcome then, to menstrual cycle 101.
IN THE BEGINNING…….
In the beginning did you know that at puberty, women have about 400,000 follicles each with potential to release an egg cell (Ovum) at ovulation for fertilization? Between 300 and 500 of those follicles will ripen into eggs, by the time you reach menopause and just like the rest of your body, those follicles age along with you, by the time you reach your 30 and 40 they are not as fresh as they were in your 20s so it may take longer to get pregnant.
What is a menstrual cycle?
This is the regular natural change that occurs in the female reproductive system (specifically the uterus and ovaries) to make pregnancy a possibility. The cycle is required for the production of oocyte (prospective eggs) and the preparation of the uterus for pregnancy.
What happens during your menstrual cycle?
When your body hits puberty, some changes will start to occur. Puberty varies with individuals, it can start as early as 10 or as late as 16 years of age. During this period your body will commence the secretion of new set of hormones which tells the body to start to prepare for pregnancy every month. The length of the menstrual cycle can vary from 23 to 35days. During each cycle, an egg develops and is released from the ovaries; the lining of the uterus builds up. If fertilization (pregnancy) doesn’t occur the lining of the uterus sheds off during a menstrual period, the cycle begins again.
The menstrual cycle consists of four different stages which the length of each stage can differ from woman to woman and can change over time. The phases are:
1. Menstrual Phase
2. Follicular Phase( preparing for ovulation)
3. Ovulation phase
4. Luteal phase (End of menstrual cycle).
The first day of your menstrual flow is the day 1 of your menstrual cycle. This phase commences when an egg in the previous cycle is not fertilized. This is the stage when the thickened lining of your uterus (Womb) begins to shed off and the hormones (estrogen and progesterone) drops because pregnancy did not occur. They come off through the vagina as a combination of blood, mucus, and tissues from the uterus. During this period you have symptoms like aches and pains, bloating, tiredness, low back pain etc. On the average this phase lasts from 3 to 5 days.
FOLLICULAR PHASE (PREPARING FOR OVULATION)
This is a phase which prepares you for ovulation. It begins at the first day if ovulation and elapses with ovulation. This phase is prompted by the release of a hormone called follicular stimulating hormone (FSH) by the pituitary gland which stimulates the ovaries to produce about 5 to 20 follicles (small sacs) which contains an immature egg each. Only the healthiest egg will mature and the rest will be absorbed by the body. This process will increase the release of estrogen which thickens the lining of the uterus in preparation of possible pregnancy creating a nutrient rich environment for growth of embryo.
This phase lasts for about 16days ranging from 11 to 27 days depending on your cycle.
This is the phase where the release of a mature egg from the ovary occurs. This phase is prompted by the rising estrogen level at the follicular phase which triggers the pituitary gland to release a hormone called the luteinizing hormone (LH). The released egg travels down the fallopian tubes for fertilization by a sperm. This is the only period in your menstrual cycle when you can get pregnant. The released egg can survive for 12 – 24 hours, so keep in mind that during these days you are most likely to get pregnant. It is usually difficult to predict your ovulation day but there symptoms with which you can tell if you are ovulating, these are:
- A slight rise in basal body temperature
- Thicker discharge of egg white texture
NOTE: Ovulation happens at around day 14 if you have a 28 day cycle and 14 days from your ovulation is your menstrual flow irrespective of your cycle length.
DID YOU KNOW? Sperm can survive up to 5 days in the tubes; pregnancy can occur if a woman has sex as much as five days before ovulation.
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