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 which is ready for fertilization.
The follicular phase covers the time after your period and before ovulation. A misconception about menstrual cycles is that you cannot get pregnant as long as you are 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”), you may get pregnant.
The Menstrual Cycle, Explained: Understanding the Ovulatory Phase or Ovulation (approximately Day 14)
An important part of having the menstrual explained, for those hoping to conceive, is understanding ovulation.
Two weeks before your period is scheduled to begin, the ovary releases a mature egg. The mature egg starts its journey 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 lifespan of 24 hours. If there is no sperm present in the uterus during this time, the egg dies. The best time to have sex if you are trying for a baby is on your estimated ovulation day and three days before that.
This is to ensure that there is 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. What’s left 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 does not 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.
One important thing to note when having the menstrual cycle explained is that cycles can vary from woman to woman.
One study has shown that some women ovulate only a couple of days into their cycles, while some ovulate much later than day 14.