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All fertile women experience the same process. The length of the female reproductive cycle varies from woman to woman, but it doesn’t change the process. The average cycle is 28-30 days. For the sake of this example only, we will image a 28 day cycle, if your cycle is shorter or longer- don’t worry! Your cycle always begins with your menses, or your period.
What is Menses?
Menses is the shedding of the lining of the womb. If no pregnancy is detected by the body, it will expel the womb lining through your cervix and into the vagina, where it flows out of your body. The first day of your menses is the first day of the reproductive cycle.
The average menses lasts 3-5 days, though it can be as little as 2 or as many as 7, getting lighter as it progresses.
The Fertile Window
Find out all about ovulation HERE
The fertile window is considered to be 7 days, with 7 days being the maximum lifespan of sperm (however, research has shown that in more than 90% of cases, sperm lived no longer than 72 hours). The 6th day of your fertile window is the day of ovulation, as the ovum can live for around 12-24 hours after it leaves the ovaries. On average ovulation happens around 12-14 days before your next period is due. This is true of a 28 day cycle, through to a 50 day cycle. Once again, however, this is simply an average. Pregnancy tests packaging can be misleading; stating ‘can detect pregnancy from up to 4 days before your period is due!’ yet pregnancy can only be detected a certain number of days AFTER you ovulate. So, while not false, these claims should be taken with a pinch of salt.
For our 28 day cycle example, ovulation would occur on approximately day 14, meaning there are 14 days before your next period is due. During ovulation, there is also a spike in testosterone, but this is minor compared to oestrogen.
If, during your fertile phase, a sperm should enter the cervix and travel to the fallopian tube in time to meet the ovum, conception may happen! But it would be a few more days before you would know.
Straight after ovulation, your hormones settle back down. While testosterone levels stay low for the remainder of the month, both oestrogen and progesterone begin to rise again. Progesterone spikes at around 6-7 days past ovulation and oestrogen around 24 hours later. This is called the Luteal Phase.