A general understanding of the female reproductive process will help you prepare for pregnancy and help increase your chances of conception.
Prepare for pregnancy and help increase your chances of conception
The menstrual cycle is essential for reproduction and can be divided into 3 phases (follicular phase, ovulatory phase and luteal phase). This menstrual cycle is stimulated by changing levels of hormones throughout the 3 phases. The typical menstrual cycle recurs every month. The average length is 28 days, but it can vary from 20 to 45 days.
PHASE 1 – FOLLICULAR PHASE
This begins on Day One of your menstrual cycle, which is the first full day of menstrual bleeding. The lining of the uterus starts to break down because the egg ovulated during the previous menstrual cycle was not fertilised. Your body is now getting prepared to start a new menstrual cycle. For most women, these periods last typically from 3 to 5 days.
PHASE 2 – OVULTARY PHASE
The next phase is the ovulatory phase. Your body prepares for ovulation thanks to two hormones: FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) and LH (Luteinising Hormone).
A follicle is one of the many tiny sacs within an ovary that contains a developing egg. FSH stimulates a follicle to grow and the egg within it to ripen. LH stimulates the follicle to manufacture and secrete oestrogen. Increasing oestrogen levels cause the lining of the uterus to re-nourish with nutrients and blood. The heightened levels of oestrogen also produce a change in cervical mucus, causing it to thin and take on a slippery consistency. This change in cervical fluid makes it easier for sperm to make their way towards a waiting egg. All of this usually takes place between days 7 and 11 in a woman’s menstrual cycle.
When the amount of oestrogen produced in your body reaches a certain level, there is a surge of LH. 24 to 36 hours after this LH surge, the follicle will release the completely ripened egg that will travel from the fallopian tube to the womb. This is known as ovulation.
After around 11-14 days, the lining of the womb will break down. This is known as your period and your menstrual cycle begins again.
PHASE 3 – LUTEAL PHASE
The final and third phase of your menstrual cycle is called the luteal phase and follows ovulation. The corpus luteum (the follicle in which the egg bursts through) produces progesterone and oestrogen. This increased production of progesterone maintains the thickness of the uterus so that a fertilised egg has a better chance of implanting. If the egg is not fertilised within 24 hours, the corpus luteum recesses and hormone production slows down.