Female Fertility 101
First things first, let’s run through exactly how things are supposed to be working down there. Understand the menstrual cycle is a good place to start if you’ve decided to start trying for a baby or if you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a while without any luck.
The menstrual cycle is divided into three phases, the follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase.
The three phases of ovulation
Phase 1: Follicular - maturing the egg
Ovarian follicles are like tiny little bubbles in the ovaries that hold immature eggs. Many of the two million eggs women are born with are reabsorbed by the body during childhood, so by the time a woman reaches puberty, she is left with approximately 400,000 to 500,000 eggs.
Hormones trigger follicles to grow during the follicular phase. In a natural cycle, normally only one dominant follicle goes on to mature fully and release an egg.
Phase 2: Ovulation - releasing the egg
Ovulation occurs when the dominant follicle ruptures to release an egg which is then scooped up by the fimbrial end of the fallopian tube and delivered into the tube.
Some women can tell they’re ovulating when they experience symptoms such as breast tenderness, heavier and more opaque vaginal discharge and a feeling of tightness in the abdomen, while others have no symptoms.
The TTC world involves using temperature charts and apps to track ovulation as well as over the counter ovulation kits which test urine to check for ovulation.
Phase 3: Luteal - preparing for conception
Generally, in people who menstruate, the luteal phase lasts for a fairly consistent 14 days.
During this time, the uterine lining (known as the endometrium) develops and gets ready to receive a fertilised egg. If conception doesn’t happen, the lining sheds and women experience a period.
The conditions for a true period to occur (full bleed, not spotting) require a rise and fall in hormone levels which happens with the progression of ovulation.