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There are benefits to knowing when you are fertile or not.
If you are an aspiring mom, it gives you a greater chance to conceive. On the other hand, if you are trying to avoid pregnancy in a natural way, it’s the best shot you’ve got.
There are several ways and tools you can use to determine your fertile period instantly.
However, if you want the information to stick with you for a long time, it is best to get to know the fundamental aspects and factors involved.
Understanding your Menstrual Cycle
The first step towards understanding your fertile period is knowing more about your menstrual cycle.
As much as I’d like to avoid this topic and forget it altogether, it’s completely futile to talk about fertility without tackling menstruation.
There have been a lot of times when we consider our periods to be the bane of our existence.
Who among us here haven’t had the experience of suffering from death-inducing menstrual cramps? Of feeling the urge to kill every person to greet you “hey”? Of having sudden outbursts of tears that perpetually branded as “emotional” and “crazy”?
It’s painful and it’s ugly and sometimes there’s nothing we want more than to get rid of it.
However, we know we can’t seriously wish that.
Looking beyond the awful things it does to us, the purpose and overall mechanism of menstruation are actually impressive and mind-blowing.
(And it better be considering how great a sacrifice it is every month.)
What is the Menstrual Cycle?
In a nutshell, a menstrual cycle is what allows our bodies to prepare for pregnancy on a regular basis.
In other words, it creates an environment that is suitable for gestation.
For this function, it makes the uterus lining thicker and the blood vessels richer, both prepare the uterus to house a fetus. If there’s no successful fertilization, the uterus starts to shed. Hence, we experience bleeding which lasts for 3 to 8 days.
But let’s talk about it in more detail.
You are most fertile a day or two before and after ovulation
A menstrual cycle is divided into three major phases:
I. Follicular phase
III. Luteal Phase
The first stage, the follicular phase, is comprised of bleeding and simultaneously, the production of follicles from which the fertile egg will rise.
After menstruation, the hypothalamus will trigger the production of gnRH or gonadotropin releasing hormone which will stimulate the pituitary gland. Here, two hormones crucial to ovulation will be produced: the LH or luteinizing hormone and FSH or follicle-stimulating hormone.
These hormones will proceed to the ovary and will produce theta cells and granulosa cells, respectively. And through the latter, the theta cells will transform androgen into estrogen. These high amounts of estrogen will aid in thickening the uterine line.
Ovulation, the second phase, marks the release of the egg into the fallopian tube, where sperm can fertilize it.
This usually happens on day 14. Take note that you are most fertile a day or two before and after ovulation.
If the egg is not fertilized 24 hours after it was released, it will disintegrate. And the process will proceed to the next phase, the luteal phase.
It is so-called the luteal phase because it greatly involves the corpus luteum. Remember the part where the egg is released into the fallopian tube? Once that starts, the follicle forms a material that houses the egg and we call it the corpus luteum, which produces progesterone.
The main function of progesterone is to develop and maintain the endometrium, wherein the fetus develops.
The corpus luteum loses its function if there’s no pregnancy. Hence, it disintegrates together with the mature egg. As a result, there will be a drop in the progesterone level, signaling the start of the shedding of the uterine or endometrial lining, which goes out of our bodies as “bleeding”.
What is the Normal Fertile Period?
While it is true that most women differ in their cycles, knowing the average normal period will certainly help you keep track of yours.
You have normal bleeding if your period occurs from 3 to 8 days, every 21 to 35 days. The amount of blood during menstruation is also an indication if you have a normal period.
Ways to Know if You are Fertile
Keeping up with your menstruation cycle calendar extremely helps in tracking your fertile period. This becomes more effective if you keep a diary. For this, you might want to make use of apps or refer to this guide on how to keep a bleeding journal.
Aside from the calendar, there are other ways to keep track of your ovulation process. One is through testing the cervical mucus, which refers to the mucus secreted by the cells found in a woman’s cervical canal.
Because its consistency changes over the course of your menstrual cycle, examining your cervical mucus will tell you which phase of your cycle you are currently in.
Basal Body Temperature
Another useful way is keeping track of your body temperature.
The downside of this method is you will have to spend months first in order to see the pattern. You will also need a basal body thermometer which you can find in any drug store.
How to measure basal body temperature?
Start by recording your body temperature right after you wake up. Do this same time every morning.
Take note that before ovulation, the average temperature of a woman’s body is around 97.2 to 97.7 Fahrenheit. Right after ovulation, it will slightly increase up to 98.1 to 98.8 Fahrenheit.
These slight fluctuations in your body temperature signify the hormonal changes your body undergoes.
If, after months of recording your body basal temperature, you haven’t detected such changes, there’s a chance that there’s no ovulation happening. In this case, you might want to consult a professional.
Regardless of what you want in life at the moment—whether you want kids or not—I personally think that there are multiple benefits in identifying your fertile period. Information is always power and as women, what else can we know more than our own bodies?