Understanding Your Period & Fertility


One of the most frequently asked questions women ask the nurses at Your First Look Women’s Center is, “When did I actually get pregnant?” We do not know the exact day you ovulate. Also, sperm can last five days so it is hard to tell when conception takes place. To figure out due date we use Nagel’s Rule. You add one year to the first day of your last menstrual period, subtract 3 months and then add 7 days to get your due date. That is the reason your doctor usually goes by the date of your last menstrual period.

Once you get to be about 12-14 years old, your body prepares itself each month for a possible pregnancy. The lining of your uterus thickens with blood.

Pregnancy happens after you ovulate. This is when your ovaries release an egg into your fallopian tube. The egg then makes its way toward your uterus. If sperm reach the egg and fertilize it, conception occurs. The fertilized egg then usually heads into the uterus and plants itself in the uterine lining.

If this happens, you won’t get a period. But, if the egg isn’t fertilized, your uterus will shed this lining after a couple of weeks. The shedding of that lining is your period.

Understanding Your Cycle

The average menstrual cycle is 28 days, but this can vary widely from woman to woman. The first day of your period is when you start bleeding. Bleeding can be just a couple of days or it can last a week or more. Then the uterus rebuilds that lining in case a pregnancy happens. The egg is released from the ovary about two weeks after your period (but again this can vary widely–typically between day 11 and day 21). Then about two weeks later (if the egg isn’t fertilized) the lining is shed and you get your period.

That is a really simple version of what happens. It gets complicated because we don’t really know the exact date that everything happens. Some people think you can’t get pregnant during your period, but that’s not really true. Some women do ovulate while they are bleeding. Other women will spot during ovulation.

Fertility Awareness

There are signs that can happen to indicate that you are more fertile. Many women will notice a discharge between their periods. Just before ovulation this discharge becomes wetter and resembles egg whites in consistency.

Your body temperature will also typically rise when ovulation occurs. However you need a special basal body temperature thermometer and to check your temperature daily to be able to see the rise.

There are several apps available to download to help track menstruation and ovulation. They are: Glow, Ovia, Period Tracker, Clue, Dot, Fertility Friend, and Natural Cycles.

For more information on fertility awareness, visit www.americanpregnancy.org.