Demystifying Your Menstrual Cycle: A Guide to Understanding Menstruation and Fertility

For individuals hoping to conceive, understanding the menstrual cycle is crucial. It's not merely a monthly inconvenience but a complex and intricate process that plays a pivotal role in fertility.

From the first day of menstruation to ovulation and beyond, the menstrual cycle involves a series of hormonal changes that prepare the body for a potential pregnancy.

Understanding your menstrual cycle is a powerful tool when attempting to conceive. At IVF Matters, we don't advocate tracking your (fertile) window but instead having UPI (unprotected intercourse) 3 to 4 times a week.

Remember, each woman’s cycle is unique, and factors influencing fertility vary. Embrace this knowledge, stay informed, and if fertility problems persist, do consult with healthcare providers or a Fertility Consultant for more personalised guidance on your fertility journey.

But first, let's delve deeper into this natural phenomenon and explore how comprehending your own menstrual cycle can aid in understanding your fertility.

The Phases of the Menstrual Cycle

1. Menstrual Phase

  • This marks the beginning of the cycle and involves the shedding of the uterine lining. It typically lasts 3-7 days and may be light and steady or heavy and short.
  • Hormone levels, specifically oestrogen and progesterone, are low during this phase.

2. Follicular Phase

  • Occurring just after menstruation, the pituitary gland secretes hormones that stimulate the ovaries to produce follicles.
  • Oestrogen levels start rising, preparing the uterine lining for potential implantation.

3. Ovulation

  • Midway through your cycle length, usually around day 14 in a 28-day cycle, an egg is released from an ovary.
  • Oestrogen levels peak, triggering a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH), leading to the release of the egg.
  • It's important to keep in mind that sperm can survive in the female reproductive tract for a couple of days, so having intercourse 3 to 4 times a week increases the likelihood of conception.

4. Luteal Phase

  • Post-ovulation, the ruptured follicle transforms into the corpus luteum, producing progesterone to prepare the uterus for a potential pregnancy.
  • If fertilisation doesn't occur, hormone levels drop, leading to the shedding of the uterine lining and the beginning of a new menstrual cycle (approximately 28 days but this can vary).

Factors Affecting Fertility and Menstrual Health

1. Lifestyle Choices

  • Diet, exercise, stress levels, and sleep patterns significantly impact hormonal balance and, consequently, the menstrual cycle. Remember to eat well, exercise moderately and get a good 7-8 hours of restful sleep each night to help you better face the day.

2. Age

  • It is a well-documented fact that infertility increases with age, especially after the age of 35, due to a decrease in the number and quality of eggs.
  • If you wish to test your Ovarian Reserve, we offer an AMH At-Home Test Kit that can provide a good indicator of your fertility status.

3. Underlying Health Conditions

  • Conditions like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Endometriosis, Thyroid Disorders, and others can affect menstrual regularity and fertility. If you are aware that you have any of these conditions, it is advisable to speak with your GP or a reproductive endocrinology specialist if you are struggling to conceive. Having an underlying health condition does not necessarily mean women will not fall pregnant, simply that you may need a little assistance to do so.

Seeking Professional Help from a Fertility Specialist

If conception proves challenging or if there are concerns about irregular cycles or heavy periods, seeking guidance from a healthcare professional or Fertility Specialist is advisable. IVF Matters can arrange to conduct tests, evaluate hormonal levels and provide tailored advice to help enhance your fertility when trying to conceive.

Learn more about our unique Prep 4 Pregnancy 3-month support service for personalised advice when trying to conceive.

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