The Story of Your Menstrual Cycle & Getting Pregnant
Conception Process >> The Story of Your Menstrual Cycle & Getting Pregnant
Forecasting Fertility: from Folliculogenesis to a Big-Fat-Positive!
The first step to getting
pregnant is learning about the nuances of reproduction and fertility - and this
means understanding the "epic story" of your body and the various
hormonal fluctuations that occur during your menstrual cycle. Any doctor will
tell you that education is the key to successfully conceiving! This article
will be dedicated to looking at your menstrual cycle and the changes your body
undergoes before and after ovulation. By learning when you ovulate, you will
know when to "time lovemaking" and increase the probability of getting
pregnant. We'll also look at how pregnancy testing fits into this scheme and
answer one of the most common inquiries that land here at Early-Pregnancy-Tests.com:
"When can I first begin testing for pregnancy during
my menstrual cycle?"
It's amazing how complex
human reproduction really is - and how most of us go through life not fully
grasping what goes on "beneath the hood", so to speak. Your entire
menstrual cycle is a dynamic and intricate dance of hormonal surges and corresponding
bodily changes that prepare you for pregnancy. If a pregnancy does not take
place during a given cycle, your body simply starts the dance over - and this
entire process is repeated each month starting with the onset of puberty and
lasting until the onset of menopause.
The Story of Your
Cycle: Getting Pregnant!
The Follicular Phase:
Day one of a woman's cycle is the first day of menstrual bleeding. A woman's
period signals both the end of one cycle and the beginning of the next - another
opportunity for fertility and conception. With cycle day one, a woman's body
once again begins to prepare for ovulation, and this part of the menstrual cycle
is called the follicular phase due to the fact that during this time ovarian
follicles begin to mature. An ovarian follicle is essentially
an assemblage of cells in the ovary containing an egg. As you may already know,
women are born with all the eggs they will every have, and this abundant lifetime
supply is known as a woman's ovarian reserve. During the first
two weeks of a woman's cycle, a certain number of follicles will begin to mature.
This is called folliculogenesis.
During folliculogenesis, a number of female reproductive
hormones go into action. From the brain, chemicals are released that will signal
other hormones to be produced. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone gets the fertility
ball rolling by stimulating two other agents: FSH and LH. FSH stands for follicle-stimulating
hormone, and as noted above, this is the agent that facilitates folliculogenesis.
As a by-product of this follicular processing, estrogens are also brought into
play, and these hormones are responsible for actually preparing the womb for
a pregnancy. In short, estrogen helps strengthen the uterus, increases blood
flow to the area, and assists in concentrating tissues and blood vessels that
will ultimately sustain a pregnancy.
Let's take a glance at the
graph below. During the first week of a woman's menstrual, we see a very gradual
build-up of LH and then, near the end of the first week, a more salient upwelling
of the estrogens. The thin purple line below represents the estrogen
surge. Fertility prediction devices like the ovulation microscope (Fertile
Focus) or fertility monitors (the OV-Watch, Ovacue, the ClearBlue) work, in
part, but detecting this hormonal surge and are able to forecast a "fertility
window", typically of around 5 to 6 days in duration. The mechanism of
detection in this instance is an increase in bodily salts that accompany elevated
hormone thesholds. As we see below, the second week of a woman's cycle is characterized
by a prominent swell in estrogens that thicken the womb.
While the estrogens are
on the move, the ovarian follicle continues to develop until the egg is mature
and ready to "drop" - an informal appellation for "ovulation".
The levels of follicle-stimulating hormone have, by this time,
faded off the chart and another hormone is about to sing. If an egg "drops",
then it is luteinizing hormone, or LH, that is the agent that pushes it "out
of the nest". In the chart above, we see a yellow line that represents
LH. Notice how it hits the roof in a sudden, unmistakable burst just before
midcycle. At this moment, LH works by weakening the wall of the ovarian follicle,
in turn allowing a small hole to form and from which the egg will usher forth
into the fallopian tube that leads to the womb. A urine ovulation test works
by sensing this hormonal surge and will inform you that the kairotic moment
for ovulation (and for timing intercourse) is at hand!
The Luteal Phase:
The second half of a woman's phase is named after the ovarian follicle's collapse
once the egg takes leave of the ovary. With its primary work done, the lonely
follicle becomes the "corpus luteum" - or luteal body. However, it
has another job to do now - and that is to produce yet another magical hormone,
progesterone, which warms the woman's body in preparation for
pregnancy. It's this progesterone-induced warming trend that signals ovulation
has occurred. Notably, the thermal-shift is measurable using a basal thermometer,
and progesterone is the mechanism that underpins bbt charting.
Let's pretend that you used
an LH test and were able to time intercourse on your most fertile days. Better
yet, let's pretend that you conceived! About a week following the union of sperm
and egg, the embryo finds a warm, snug spot in your womb to makes its 9-month
home. From this moment, another vital hormone is produced in the placental membrane
that orbits the embryo - and this hormone (hCG) is carried
through an incipient umbilical connection into the mother's circulatory system,
ultimately becoming present in a woman's urine.
to answer the big question noted in our introduction above, hCG must be present
in urine at a sufficient level to trigger a positive result on a home pregnancy
test. When does this take place? Well, that depends on the actual day that the
embryo connects to the mother. Normally, this happens about a week after ovulation,
but can take longer. At the same time, hCG levels rise exceedingly fast in most
cases. According to the literature, if you use our Early-Pregnancy-Tests.com
products, you may anticipate an hpt start date at no later
than ten days after you ovulate. Of course, other issues do impact this time
frame, and this is based on a bell-curve average, so some women may be able
to receive an earlier positive result while others may swing to the later side
of the curve. We always recommend follow-up tests, a close attention to directions,
and an adherence to general testing tips like using the first urine of the day
following a night's sleep. Below, you'll find a number of useful links to
articles on how hpts work and how to get the most accurate and earliest
Besides standing in as the chemical marker for home pregnancy
diagnosis, the hCG "pregnancy hormone" also tells your body that you
have a baby on board! This is rather important, because if hCG is not present
at high enough levels, your body will want to end the cycle and start your period.
Insufficient hCG may be one cause of miscarriage and in many situations, a woman
may experience a chemical pregnancy and not even know she was ever pregnant.
Hence, the pregnancy hormone tells the luteal body to keep manufacturing progesterone,
which will subsequently prevent the onset of menstruation. At this point, your
menstrual cycle stops for the next 9 months and will likely not resume until
long after you have given birth. Nursing, for example, mobilizes certain hormones
that will keep you cycle on hold for a while. That's okay, that's how nature
meant it to be. Your menstrual cycle will resume when your body is ready.
Hopefully you've found this
article informative and helpful. If you are trying-to-conceive, feel free to
peruse our articles pages for more details on many related preconception
topics. Understanding how reproduction (and reproductive hormones) work
is a sound first step, but also know that a healthful diet, a healthy weight,
and a pregnancy-friendly lifestyle are essential in making sure that the hormones
flow in your favor. That is to say, good health and a smart preconception diet
will lead to hormonal balance and increased fertility!