Last week I wrote about how education may prevent abortion, why banning it won't. This post is another part of the knowledge is prevention and power series.
While working at the Pregnancy Resource Center, I realized many women didn’t understand their menstrual cycle and the reproduction process. The processes of how ovulation, conception and sex work together mystified some of my clients. The menstrual cycle is an important part of being a woman and plays a big part in sexual intercourse.
One of the distinct characteristics God designed females for is the ability to bear children. The complex processes a woman’s body goes through every month is called the menstruation cycle. This cycle involves getting an egg ready to be fertilized and making a woman’s body ready to carry a baby (if conception occurs).
The menstrual cycle has three phases. The first phase is called the Follicular Phase and it starts the first day of menstrual bleeding, otherwise known as a period. The bleeding is the shedding of the lining of the uterus when conception (pregnancy) hasn’t occurred. In this phase, the hormones estrogen and progesterone are low, which causes the uterus to shed its lining, therefore bleeding occurs. This is typically a sign that pregnancy hasn’t occurred. The follicular phase is referred to as such because this is where the follicles that contain the eggs are starting to develop to get ready for ovulation, this is done by the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). These follicles are found in the ovaries.
The second phase is the Ovulatory Phase. Ovulation is the release of an egg (or eggs). The luteinizing hormone (LH) rises and about 10 to 12 hours later an egg releases from an ovary (or ovaries). It gets picked up by a fallopian tube and starts going down to the uterus. This is also when conception can happen if it meets waiting sperm. During this phase an egg-white colored mucus discharge may be noticed when wiping after using the restroom and it may also be a “wet” spot on underwear. This mucus helps the sperm survive for a few days. This phase can last 16 to 32 hours. The days before ovulation and the day of ovulation itself are referred to as fertile days. These are the days when pregnancy can occur. The main thing is pregnancy may be achieved whenever sexual intercourse is performed and sperm was released! That is one of the main reasons for sexual intercourse!
These first two phases together can vary in the amount of days. It is not true that everyone ovulates on the 14th day of their cycle or their cycle length is 28 days. That is a wrong assumption. Every woman is different. It is helpful to keep a calendar of your cycle.
The third phase is called the Luteal Phase. It starts after ovulation and usually lasts for 14 days. This part of the cycle is usually the same number of days (unless pregnant). The ruptured follicle closes after releasing the egg and a corpus luteum forms; this produces the hormone progesterone. Estrogen is present during this phase. Both these hormones help to thicken the lining of the uterus to get it ready for a baby if conception occurs. If conception doesn’t occur, the corpus luteum disintegrates, progesterone and estrogen lower and the thickened uterus lining starts to shed. Then the cycle starts again.
The menstrual cycle is usually the same amount of days. Varying from 23 to 32 days. It can change when stressed both physically and mentally.
If you have any questions, problems or concerns with your menstrual cycle please talk to a trusted healthcare provider. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Taking charge of your health begins with you.
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Christina Leeman MPH, CHES, writer and health educator, emboldens women to be the She Who Honors God with her all - body, thoughts, words, actions.
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