If you’ve never had a menstrual cycle before, then you might not know what it’s like. Even though a menstrual cycle sounds like something that happens every month to most people who are in their twenties, it doesn’t have to be like this for all women. Some women have irregular cycles and can skip periods altogether for months at a time. But don’t worry. You don’t have to wait until you’ve been on your period for more than one month before taking action about getting pregnant. You can get pregnant the first month after those first symptoms of pregnancy start showing up. But if you want to know what’s going on with your cycle, then you can find out now.
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The anatomy of your period
The menstrual cycle is made up of four phases:
This phase begins when the first symptoms of pregnancy appear and ends when a menstrual period starts. During this phase, a woman’s body produces hormones that cause her to be able to get pregnant. The uterus grows in size, and cervical mucus becomes thicker as the cervix gets ready to release eggs (ovulated) or sperm (ovulated).
This phase is what you’re probably familiar with because it’s the time during which a woman gets pregnant. Her body begins producing more progesterone (a hormone that helps keep her uterus relaxed and prepares it for conception). The fallopian tubes also begin preparing themselves for fertilization by changing from their usual structure to one that helps them absorb sperm during ovulation.
This is the time that a woman is most likely to get pregnant. Her body continues to produce progesterone, and it also begins producing more estrogen, which helps her body prepare for pregnancy by making her more sensitive and receptive to the arrival of sperm. Her breasts also begin producing milk to feed the baby during this phase.
This is when a woman gets her period and can actually have intercourse again. After ovulation, the blood comes out of her cervix and then into the vagina as bleeding occurs (this is called _menorrhagia_ ). The blood has made its way down into your uterus so that it’s ready for fertilization.
Understanding what your menstrual cycle looks like
Most women have cycles that look something like this:
One week after menstruation starts, you begin ovulating. Ovulation happens during days 8 through 14 of your menstrual cycle. During this phase, you can have intercourse every day of your cycle (including on the first day of your period) and have ovulation.
The fertilization process begins during days 14 through 17 of your cycle. Ovulation happens during these days, and sperm enters the cervical opening. During this phase, you can have sex on any day of your cycle — even on the first day of your period — but intercourse should not happen until at least 48 hours after ovulation.
You may have sex when you want to, but it’s important to understand the risks. If you do become pregnant, your chances of a miscarriage are high during the first trimester (the first three months of pregnancy). In fact, the risk of miscarriage is highest during this time. This is because your cervix is still soft and thin, which makes it easier for the fertilized egg to escape. If you conceive during this time, you have a greater chance of having twins or triplets.
After ovulation (the fertilization process is completed), the cervix gets firm and your breasts start producing milk. Your body prepares itself to support the baby. At this point, pregnancy can last anywhere from 10 weeks to 9 months.
In addition to the menstrual phase, a woman also has other phases during her cycle:
The follicular phase
The follicular phase is when follicles are produced in your ovaries and continue growing until they mature into eggs ready for fertilization. This occurs during days 14 through 21 of your cycle.
The ovulatory phase
The ovulatory phase is when you release an egg from one of your follicles (follicle matures into an egg). This usually happens between days 14 and 18 of your menstrual cycle (but it can happen earlier or later). You ovulate every month, but not every month will produce an egg that’s ready for fertilization; in fact, some women never ovulate at all. In most cases, you’ll know that you’re pregnant because you have missed a period; however, some women may not realize they’re pregnant until they start showing signs of pregnancy — such as breast tenderness and enlarged breasts — up to six weeks after conception has occurred.
When trying to conceive or if she suspects she may be pregnant: Check your urine to see if it’s very dark yellow in color and to make sure that you’re not having a urinary tract infection. If you are, tell your doctor. Urine is also a good way to test for pregnancy, especially if you haven’t had any kind of test or treatment (such as a shot of HCG) yet.
The menstrual phase begins after ovulation (the fertilization process is complete). Your menstrual period starts and lasts about two weeks. This phase usually occurs between days 21 and 24 of your cycle. Your period can be lighter or heavier than normal — up to 20 days after ovulation — depending on whether your body had enough time to shed all the lining from the previous cycle before releasing the egg this month. After ovulation, your period may last anywhere from 7 to 14 days (it may take longer for some women). As long as your period starts, it will continue until you have a miscarriage or end up with ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that happens outside of the uterus).
During this time, you should avoid intercourse because sperm can get trapped in the lining of your uterus and cause ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage; however, if you do get pregnant during this time, expect bleeding on and off until you go into labor at about 38 weeks gestation (38 weeks is considered full term for women who are carrying single babies). For more information on ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages, check