Do you track your menstrual cycle? Do you know your reproductive anatomy? The more conversations I have with friends, family, and clients, the more I realize how little education and awareness there is around the menstrual cycle and fertility. Let’s change that. After all, keeping track of your menstrual cycle can help you gauge its frequency and length, discover patterns in mood changes, and time ovulation (whether you’re trying to get pregnant or not). Ultimately, getting in sync with your cycle will improve your relationship with your body and get more in tune with its feedback. If you’re trying to conceive, read on. Learn how to use a fertility tracker to get pregnant.
4 MAIN PHASES OF THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE
For context, what is the menstrual cycle? Each month—during the years between puberty and menopause—a woman’s body goes through a number of changes. This series of hormone-driven events is called the menstrual cycle. During each menstrual cycle, an egg develops and is released from the ovaries. The lining of the uterus builds up. If a pregnancy doesn’t happen, the uterine lining sheds during a menstrual period. Thus, the cycle starts again. The length of each phase can differ from woman to woman, and it can change over time.
The first phase lasts 3-7 days. Estrogen and progesterone are low. The lining of the uterus sheds, causing bleeding.
Approximately 16 days, estrogen and progesterone are on the rise.
This phase is quick: 2-3 days—estrogen peaks; testosterone and progesterone rise.
The final phase is 12-14 days. Estrogen and progesterone levels are high. If the egg isn’t fertilized, hormone levels decrease and the menstrual cycle starts again.
why we need to talk about periods
Before we dive into how to use a fertility tracker to get pregnant, let’s discuss why we need to talk about periods. Unfortunately—in many countries—there’s still a lack of understanding about what’s happening to a girl’s body when she starts menstruating. Between a lack of menstrual education and the stigma attached to periods girls don’t feel comfortable talking about it with their parents, peers, or teachers. From a young age, this is doing such a disservice to females. Rather than empower her with the tools to navigate her cycle, she’s left in the dark. Periods can make us feel uncomfortable, but talking about them shouldn’t.
Empower young girls
A girl’s first period is a scary and daunting experience—especially if she hasn’t been told what’s happening. It would be made much easier if girls had the support and advice they needed to confidently manage this new transition in their life.
Remove myths and stigmas
What should be a perfectly normal experience every month can be incredibly alienating for women and girls (especially in specific communities around the world). Did you know that across certain cultures, women and girls are not allowed to enter the kitchen or cook food during their period? Some people believe it will cause food to go bad or rot. Can you imagine being shunned and banished from the kitchen just for having a period? Beyond that, research shows there’s widespread shame, silence, and physical restrictions during menstruation. Education plays a vital role in eliminating the myths and stigma associate with menstruation.
Improve long-term health
Did you know the average woman menstruates for 3,000 days during her lifetime? That’s the equivalent of 8.2 years! There’s no denying that menstruation is a significant part of our lives. It’s essential that we make menstruation a more manageable, open, and shame-free process—not only for childbearing, but for overall wellness, too.
How to pinpoint your peak fertile time
Finding the optimal time for baby-making is surprisingly tricky. It’s a relatively short window! Your fertile window starts 24-48 hours before ovulation (end of your follicular phase) and ends 24-48 hours after you ovulate. To begin, get familiar with your menstrual cycle. How many days elapse between your periods? If you’re not sure, here’s how to find out: mark your calendar on the day you get your period. This is day one. Count each day until your next period arrives. You may need to do this for 3-4 months to get an accurate measure of your cycle’s length. Normal cycles can range from 23-35 days. Ultimately, this means your ovulation window could begin as early as day nine and as late as day 21. Along with counting your cycle, get to know your cervical fluid!
Ovulation prediction kits
While plenty of products promise to pinpoint your peak fertile time frame, which ones actually deliver? Let’s begin with ovulation prediction kits. What are they? They’re sticks (or wants) that are held in urine for several seconds to pick up increased luteinizing hormone (LH), a hormone produced in the pituitary gland. LH tells the ovaries to release an egg. A surge in LH occurs 24-48 hours before ovulation. For women with regular cycles, LH kits can be very accurate! If your periods are regular and you have no other complications, these kits are reliable and most are inexpensive. Begin testing a day or two after your period ends and test through day 21.
Moving onto wearables. What are they? These are app-connected arm bands or bracelets that measure fertility signals like basal body temperature (BBT). These are designed to predict fertile windows after gathering data for weeks or months. Over time, these wearables can detect bodily trends to pinpoint ovulation. Research is still needed, but I have worn Ava and loved it!
Last but not least, insertable devices. These are products placed in the mouth or vagina. They measure markers of fertility, including BBT and electrolyte levels. Some are worn like a tampon overnight. Others track fertility through saliva during days of the cycle. My favorite insertable device comes from kegg.
As a disclaimer: fertility trackers may not work well for women with irregular cycles, such as those with polycystic ovary syndrome.
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