Now that you’re trying to conceive, you have to pay attention to your menstrual cycle and the changes in your body during the month. You need to be tracking your menstrual cycle, if you haven’t already. This means keeping tabs of when your period starts, how many days it lasts, and the average length of your cycles. All of this information can help you pinpoint your ovulation and your most fertile period during the month.
What Happens During Your Menstrual Cycle?
Every month, your body prepares itself for pregnancy. Your uterus grows a new endometrium (lining of the uterus) to get ready for a fertilized egg. If no egg is fertilized, the uterus will shed the endometrium and you will have your period. Your menstrual cycle begins on the first day of your period, and it ends the day before you have your next period. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days, but this can vary. You may have a cycle that’s only 21 days, or 35 days, and this is perfectly normal. If you’re a teenager, an average cycle can last up to 45 days (over a month and a half!).
Hormones, especially estrogen and progesterone, affect your menstrual cycle. During the first half of your menstrual cycle, the levels of estrogen begin to rise. Estrogen makes the lining of the uterus grow and thicken to prepare your body to receive a fertilized egg. While this is occurring, an egg (called an “ovum”) in one of your ovaries is starting to mature. On day 14 of a regular 28-day menstrual cycle, the mature egg is released from the ovary. This is called ovulation.
You have the highest chance of getting pregnant if you have relations four days before ovulation, the day you ovulate, or the day after. This is your most fertile time during your cycle. After this, the chances of conception are low, since the egg only has a life span of 24 hours post ovulation.
After its release from the ovary, the mature egg will now travel through the fallopian tube towards your uterus. At this point, the hormone progesterone will increase to help estrogen thicken the lining of your uterus. The egg will live for 12 to 24 hours after it leaves your ovary. If your partner’s sperm fertilizes the egg, conception takes place. The fertilized egg will then embed and attach itself to the uterine wall, and you’ll have a baby in 40 weeks. When the mature egg is not fertilized, estrogen and progesterone levels will drop and the lining of the uterus will start to break down. You will have your period, and the cycle starts all over again.
Signs of Ovulation
Because you are most fertile during the time you ovulate, it’s important that you pay attention to the subtle signs of ovulation. The easiest way to figure out when you’re ovulating is to buy an ovulation predictor kit. These kits work by indicating a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH), which rises 24 to 48 hours before ovulation occurs.
Another way to detect ovulation is to pay attention to changes in your cervical mucus. During the course of your menstrual cycle, your cervical mucus will change in color, the amount of discharge, and the texture.
* During week 1 of your menstrual cycle, you are having your period so you will experience menstrual bleeding.
* After your period is over, you will be dry for several days. You are relatively infertile during this time.
* Next, you will experience cloudy-colored mucus that has the consistency of sticky rice. You are still relatively infertile.
* A few days before you ovulate, your cervical mucus will become clear and slippery, similar to the consistency of egg whites. You will have a lot of discharge. This is your fertile phase, so it’s baby-making time.
* After ovulation, your mucus will go back to being sticky and cloudy colored. Then, you’ll experience vaginal dryness. You are relatively infertile during this time.
In addition to checking your cervical mucus, you can also track your basal body temperature. After ovulation, your temperature will spike by 0.4 degree to 1.0 degree. You are most fertile in the two or three days before your temperature spikes. After the temperature rise, it may be too late to conceive a baby.