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The Menstrual Cycle and Your "Fertile" Window

Medically reviewed by Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Kip Soliva · Updated Feb 07, 2022

    The Menstrual Cycle and Your "Fertile" Window

    You can take care of yourself through a variety of ways: you eat healthy, exercise, and get enough rest.

    Apart from doing these things, understanding the way your body works is one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself. Understanding your body is especially important for women who spend years not really paying attention to their menstrual cycle.

    Tracking your menstrual cycle has a lot of benefits.

    It tells you when you’re going to be the most energetic, more productive, and most fertile. Tracking your cycle means being able to estimate your fertile window, which is crucial if you’re actively trying to avoid pregnancy or conceive. 

    Most young women nowadays who are sexually active often have questions about their cycles about how likely they are to get pregnant. Some questions go along the lines of:

  • “Can I get pregnant during my period?”
  • “How many days after my period can I get pregnant?”
  • “Do I need to use contraception during my period?”
  • “When are my safe and unsafe days?” 
  • If you’re here looking for answers to the questions above, then you’re in dire need of a crash course on your menstrual cycle. 

    The Menstrual Cycle: All You Need To Know

    Every month, the woman’s body prepares for the possibility of a pregnancy. When the egg isn’t fertilized by a sperm cell, the uterus lining sheds, and this causes your period. 

    Each cycle begins and ends with menstruation. The first day of your cycle starts on the first day of your period. The current cycle ends when you get your period again. Ideally, the ovaries produce an egg for every cycle. When this egg isn’t fertilized, you start your period. If it happens that a sperm cell and an egg cell are in the uterus at the same time, the egg is fertilized, and this marks the beginning of a pregnancy. 

    The typical length of a menstrual cycle varies between 21 to 35 days. However, some women have cycles that are longer than that. Tracking your period ensures that you’ll be able to detect any irregularities. 

    Sometimes, a cycle will become out of sync and last way longer than it usually does. A lot of factors can contribute to this like stress, change in diet, sudden exercise, or travel. A delayed or missed period doesn’t automatically mean that you’re pregnant. However, if you’ve had unprotected sex, you can’t completely rule it out.

    The term “safe” and “unsafe” days are thrown around when talking about when couples can have sex without protection, and when they should have or avoid sex, if they want to Knowing the phases of the menstrual cycle will help you understand this better:

    Follicular phase (approximately Day 1 – Day 14)

    The follicular phase starts on the first day of your cycle or the first day of bleeding and ends when ovulation begins. The follicular phase is when the ovaries are preparing to release an egg. The pituitary glands in the brain release the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). These tell the ovaries to produce “follicles”. Only one of these follicles matures into an egg cell that’s ready for fertilization. 

    The follicular phase covers the time after your period and before ovulation. A misconception about menstrual cycles is that you can’t get pregnant as long as you’re ovulating, this is misleading. 

    In ideal conditions, the sperm can live in the uterus for up to five days. If you happen to have unprotected sex towards the end of your follicular phase and the beginning of ovulation (which is also known as the fertile window), this might be a chance for you to get pregnant. 

    Ovulatory Phase or Ovulation (approximately Day 14)

    Two weeks before your period is scheduled to begin, the ovary releases a mature egg. The mature egg starts at the surface of the ovary. Then, it slowly makes its way through the fallopian tubes and into the uterus. 

    The egg only has a life span of 24 hours. If there’s no sperm present in the uterus during this time, the egg dies. The best time to have sex if you’re trying for a baby is on your estimated ovulation day and three days before that. This is to ensure that there’s a viable sperm ready to fertilize the egg once it is released. 

    Luteal phase (approximately day 14-28)

    When ovulation occurs, the follicle bursts and releases the egg. The remnants of the follicle stay on the surface of the ovary and form the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum is responsible for thickening the lining of the uterus, in preparation for implantation of the fertilized egg. 

    If fertilization doesn’t occur, the corpus luteum withers away. This causes a drop in progesterone hormones, which causes the uterus lining to shed. You get your period, and that marks the start of another cycle.

    It’s important to note that cycles can vary from woman to woman. One study showed that some women ovulated only a couple of days into their cycles, while some ovulated much later than day 14.

    If your cycle is much longer or much shorter than 28 days, or if you suspect that you don’t ovulate on the 14th day of your cycle, then this doesn’t exactly mean your body isn’t ‘normal’. Longer or shorter cycles are perfectly fine. However, it’s best to see your doctor if you’re experiencing any of the following:

    • Your cycle is suddenly becoming irregular.
    • Bleeding between periods.
    • Missing your period for more than 90 days, and you’re getting negative pregnancy tests.
    • You’re bleeding for more than seven days.
    • You’re experiencing extremely painful period cramps

    How Many Days After My Period Can I Get Pregnant?

    If you’re trying to conceive, having sex regularly after your period can boost your chances of getting pregnant. Taking note of your ovulation dates and fertile window can give you a hint of when you should be having sex as often as possible. Ovulation test kits will let you know if you’re going to ovulate in the next 24 to 36 hours.

    If you’re trying to avoid pregnancy, knowing your fertile window and estimated ovulation date tells you when you should abstain from sex or use a method of contraception. Even if you’re not ovulating, it’s best always to be using one or two methods of contraception. 

    Key Takeaways

    Understanding your menstrual cycle can offer insight into your health and overall wellness. Tracking your 1cycle can also assist you if you’re trying to conceive or avoid getting pregnant. If you have concerns about your fertility or if you’d like to know more about your options regarding contraception, it’s best to seek the advice of a medical professional.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Kip Soliva · Updated Feb 07, 2022

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