Do you know how long your menstrual cycle is? You may know that your period comes once a month around a certain date, and lasts for a certain amount of days, but do you know when the other phases occur? Do you know that there are other phases? There’s a lot to learn about a woman’s body, and understanding your menstrual cycle is a good first step. It’s important to know how to count menstrual cycle days in order to understand what is happening to your body at any given point in time.
Ready to dive right in? Udemy’s helpful course on learning your menstrual cycle will give you the ins and outs of all the happenings down there.
Why Is This Important?
You may be thinking to yourself “Why do I care about this? My period comes when it comes and it leaves when it leaves, and that’s all there is to it”. While you may not find this information fascinating at this second, there will come a period in your life where you will be very interested in learning all of this. That is, if you are planning on having children in the future (or trying not to have children). Why is this important? Because there is a certain period of time during your menstrual cycle that you are more fertile than any other time. If you are trying to have children, you’ll want to try to conceive during this time. If you are trying not to get pregnant, you’ll want to take extra precautions during this time.
Understanding the Four Phases
While you may be most familiar with the menstruation phase of your cycle, when you are actually bleeding, you may not be as aware that there are three other phases during your cycle that are just as important.
- Menstruation: During the month before your period (this is not an exact length of time, more on that later), your uterus is preparing a lining that a fertilized egg can latch onto. If your egg does not get fertilized by sperm during that month, then the egg disintegrates and your uterus expels both that egg and its lining in preparation for a new month.
- The Follicular Phase: During the follicular phase, your hormone estrogen is working hard to build back up that uterine lining. During this time your ovarian follicles begin to develop, each holding an egg. Later on in this phase, most of the follicles will be rendered inactive, leaving only one egg ready to be fertilized.
- The Ovulation Phase: During the ovulation phase, the egg is released into your fallopian tube, preparing to travel to the uterus. This is the phase of your menstrual cycle that you may be the most interested in, because it is consequently the phase in which you are the most fertile. As the egg continues to flow down towards the uterus, the lining of the uterus continues to thicken in preparation. It is during this phase that the egg must be fertilized in order for you to become pregnant.
- The Luteal Phase: If your egg becomes fertilized, it will be during this phase that it will latch onto the uterine lining and begin to develop. Its cells will allow your hormone progesterone to continue to develop the uterine lining to create a proper place for child development. If your egg does not become fertilized, your uterus will expel its lining, thus marking the beginning of the cycle once more.
How Can You Tell Which Phase You Are In?
At first sign of menstrual bleeding, your cycle has officially begun. Mark this day on a calendar, or use another method that will be easy for you to remember the date. The average length of a woman’s cycle is 28 days, although it can be as short as 21 days or as long as 36 days or more, it all depends on the individual. It’s important for you to determine exactly how long your cycle usually is. This can be difficult, because oftentimes periods are unpredictable. While you may be on somewhat of a schedule, chances are your periods don’t always show up every x amount of days exactly as expected (unless you are on birth control, which can help regulate your periods into a 28 day cycle).
If you are one of the lucky ones with regular periods, you only need to keep track of this for a month in order to determine the length of your cycle. If yours are a bit more irregular, track them for approximately three months and then take the average length. Remember: your cycle begins during your first day of menstruation, and begins again the next time you begin menstruating. Let’s say you find out your cycle lasts exactly 28 days. This is valuable information! You’ll probably deal with the menstruation part of your cycle for 2-7 days, although the length of this phase is not as important.
Starting from day one, keep track of the days until you reach day 14. On a 28 day cycle, this day is ovulation day. Your most fertile time is five days before ovulation, and one day after. Since sperm can live in the body for three to five days, it’s wise to be extra cautious starting a week before your ovulation day – that is, if you’re not trying to get pregnant. If you are trying to get pregnant, the few days before ovulation are your best chance for conception.
If you notice changes in your cervical mucus, it can make it easier to determine when you are on your ovulation phase if you do not follow an exact 28 day cycle. While ovulation usually happens right in the middle of your cycle, you’ll want to know exactly when it happens. If you are near ovulation or ovulating, cervical mucus will become slippery and clear. When it has this color and consistency, you are the most fertile.
Learn Your Body!
The more you know about your body, the better informed your choices will be. Whether you’re trying to become pregnant, trying not to become pregnant or are simply curious about your body, knowing how to track the days of your menstrual cycle will prove to be very beneficial.
If you’re interested in learning more about the different phases of your cycle and how to best act, eat and think during each phase to get the best results, check out Udemy’s course on biohacking your menstrual cycle! You’ll be ridding yourself of cramps and PMS symptoms in no time.