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Getting Pregnant! Part 1....understanding your menstrual cycle.

pregnancy women's health Mar 04, 2020
All right ladies! Hoping to Get Pregnant? 

The first step to learning about hormonal imbalance, is to know how your hormones work in the first place!!! 


So we are going to dive deep into the normal menstrual cycle, how it is controlled, and some of the common things that can make it go a bit "wonky". 

 

Check out our free preparing for pregnancy guide here


What is it?


The menstrual cycle generally starts in early adolescence - average age around 12, and occurs until menopause - average age of 51.  It occurs every 21-35 days, lasting for 3-8 days and amounting in between 2-3 tablespoons of blood per cycle.  

As you can see, there is a wide variation in what is considered normal, and that is OKAY! 


Why does it happen?


The lining of the uterus builds up every month in preparation for a potential pregnancy.  When your body has been signalled by hormones that it is not pregnant (a drop in progesterone) and the lining of your uterus is shed.   They cycle then begins again!


How is it controlled?


The whole system is controlled by a complex combination of hormones that have peaks and valleys at different times of the cycle, resulting in what we know as the menstrual cycle.  There are basically four phases, and we will keep things pretty basic in this discussion, but see this great resource for a more detailed dive into the menstrual cycle.

  1. Bleeding - the first day of bleeding, is considered the first day of your menstrual cycle.  As previously discussed this usually lasts between 3-8 days.  This can be accompanied by cramping and other symptoms.
  2. Once your bleeding has stopped, your body enters the phase at which it starts to rebuild the uterine lining to help create a place where the potential fertilized ovum can implant, if successfully fertilized.  This occurs due to high levels of estrogen, which also helps to mature the follicle or egg that you will secrete during ovulation. These two phases are known as the Follicular phase. 
  3. Ovulation - in most women this occurs on day 14 of a 28 day menstrual cycle.  This is when the follicle is released, as a result of an increase in two other hormones called LH and FSH.  At this time testosterone also increases slightly which increases your interest in sex. 
  4. If the follicle is not fertilized by the sperm, there is a drop in progesterone which then triggers your uterine lining to come off which results in your next period. 

What are some associated symptoms?


There are many symptoms that can be associated with the menstrual cycle.  These can be very mild for some women, and can have huge impacts on women's lives in other cases.  Some of these symptoms include:

  • breast tenderness
  • bloating
  • achy joints and muscles
  • lower abdominal cramps
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • Bowel problems (loose stools or constipation)
  • irritability
  • food cravings
Symptoms are usually present for a few days before your period to a couple days into your period.  Depending on the symptoms there are some 
 
So as you can see, this is not a simple process, and there are a lot of hormones involved.  Occasionally things don't function normally, and you get an odd period here and there; his is nothing to worry about.  In fact, it's not uncommon for a woman to only have 10 ovulatory cycles in a 12 month period!
 
However, the reasons you should get seen regarding your period include:
  • Heavy periods leading to iron deficiency anemia
  • Periods that are not regular (ie one cycle is 20 days, next is 45 days etc)
  • Period cramps that are so severe you can not manage with ibuprofen alone. 
  • You are not getting pregnant after 6 months of actively trying.

 

So that, my friends, is the basis of your menstrual cycle! If you're wanting to read some more detailed information about menstrual cycle basics click here and if you're more into video information check this out! . If you're concerned about any of the above, book an appointment to discuss further with your health care provider and they can help you decide if you need additional investigations and treatment. 

And if you're interested in some useful Apps to help track your cycle check out some of our favourites including Flo  and Clue, and if you're looking for one specifically to help plan a pregnancy check out Natural Cycles

 

Disclaimer:

She Found Health is meant for general medical information only. The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This does not apply to every situation.  If you have questions, or if you have received different advice please contact your health care provider.  Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

The views expressed by She Found Health and our guests are not representative of any institution with which we are affiliated. 

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