Understanding Your Menstrual Cycle

illustrative wheel of menstrual cycleEvery woman has her own unique menstrual cycle. A cycle refers to the number of days from one period to the first day of the following period. If you understanding your cycle, you'll by ready for your period, you can predict ovulation, and you will recognize signs that might mean you're pregnant or irregularities that you want to mention to your doctor.

Tracking your menstrual cycle involves taking note of key days in your cycle and observing changes in cervical mucus, then recording this information.

Tracking Your Cycle

1. Decide how you'll chart your monthly cycle. You can use an online tool like Pregnancy.org's Charting Tool or you can keep track on a paper calendar.

2. Mark the first day of menstrual flow. The first day of your menstrual flow is day 1 of your chart. Do NOT include spotting prior to your period as day 1. Mark each day of bleeding. You may want to note if it is heavy, medium, light or spotting.

3. Note changes in cervical mucus as you near ovulation. During the second week of their cycle, most women will experience more discharge. It may be cloudy or white.

4. Mark the probable day of ovulation on your calendar. During ovulation, cervical mucus usually is very wet, slippery, clear and stretchy, resembling a raw egg white. Another sign is the onset of a sharp or dull aching in the right or left lower part of your abdomen, which can last from 12-36 hours. Another way to determine the time of ovulation is to do a home ovulation predictor test. This simple urine test, available at many drug stores, can predict ovulation 24-36 hours in advance.

5. The luteal phase refers to the days between ovulation and the beginning of menstrual bleeding. During the luteal phase, cervical mucus decreases. Premenstrual symptoms like bloating and moodiness may occur. The average length is 14 days; for most women it falls between 10 and 16 days. Too short a luteal phase can cause fertility problems.

6. When bleeding appears again, you have completed one full menstrual cycle. Mark this date. Cycle length that is between 21 and 40 days (or longer) is considered normal.

7. Continue tracking your menstrual cycle on your calendar. You will become familiar with your cycle after a few months and know when to expect bleeding and ovulation. Planning vacations and other special events can be much simpler when you know dates you'd like to avoid.

Using Your Cycle Data

Wondering about an irregular cycle? Coffee, alcohol, dieting, exercise, and emotional stress all affect your menstrual cycle -- some more than others. You might want to note on your calendar if one of these factors could be causing variations.

Trying to make a baby? Dr. Craig L. Bissinger recommends trying to have relations every 24-48 hours, starting two days before you expect ovulation. In order to account for the occasional irregular month, continue this regimen for a few days past your expected ovulation.

Trying to prevent conception? Avoiding relations a few days before ovulation is expected to a day after ovulation may help you not to get pregnant.

Want to vacation without a visit from "Aunt Flo?" Planning vacations and other special events can be much simpler when you know dates your menstrual cycle is expected.

Want to talk and connect with your peers that are trying to conceive? Click here!

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