Understanding a Woman’s Fertility Cycle

Understanding a Woman’s Fertility Cycle


Woman: Women often ask, “What is occurring inside my body during my monthly fertility cycle?” A woman’s ovaries contain her eggs, the special cells of human reproduction. Hormones regulate a woman’s fertility cycle, which usually spans a 28- to 30-day period. A woman’s fertility cycle begins on the first day of her menstrual period. Earlier in the cycle, the egg begins the process of maturing. That egg matures inside of a fluid-filled sac called the follicle. The follicle increases in size during the first half of the menstrual cycle. Halfway through the cycle, the follicle pops or ruptures, releasing the egg, which then passes into the Fallopian tube. This is called ovulation. If a healthy sperm is present in the Fallopian tube, the egg will be fertilized, leading to conception. As the follicle grows, it produces a very important hormone called estrogen. After the egg is released, that follicle shrivels up and becomes something called the corpeus luteum and begins making another important hormone called progesterone. Here is a diagrammatic representation of the hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle. As you can see, estrogen rises to a peak just before ovulation and then falls dramatically. After ovulation, estrogen is still being made, but now progesterone becomes the dominant hormone. These hormonal changes are critically important for normal fertility. Estrogen goes right back to the follicle, causing it to mature completely. Estrogen stimulates the lining of the womb to build it back up after it was shed during the menstrual period in preparation for the baby to implant. And estrogen travels through the bloodstream to the bottom part of the womb, which is called the cervix, and causes a clear, slippery fluid to be produced. This special fluid, in and of itself, plays an important role in a couple’s ability to conceive. First, when that fluid is not present in the vagina, sperm die within hours. The egg only lives for 12-15 hours, which would make the fertile window very short. When the fluid is present and it’s usually produced by a woman’s body about four to five days before ovulation, it protects the sperm from the acidity of the vagina and allows the sperm to live for up to five days, lengthening the fertile window. At the molecular level, the cervical fluid is also important because it creates swimming channels for the sperm, which allow the sperm to reach the egg. One of the things that we pay close attention to is the quantity and quality of the cervical fluid, also called cervical mucus. If sub-optimal, there are medications and supplements, which can improve the quality of this fluid. Because the cervical fluid is stimulated by a woman’s estrogen spike at the time of ovulation, it’s also a great external sign of what is occurring hormonally inside of her body. It’s like a window into the hidden workings of her reproduction system. Thank you for choosing Saint Peter’s. Captions by GetTranscribed.com

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