The menstrual cycle lengths vary but are commonly between 23 and 35 days. The first day of your menstrual cycle is the first day of your period which can last from 3 to 7 days.
The Follicular Phase of the Menstrual Cycle
During this phase, your body prepares for pregnancy each month. Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is produced by the pituitary gland. The FSH stimulates your ovarian follicles to grow. Each follicle contains an egg. Usually, one egg becomes dominant and prepares for fertilisation each month. At the same time, your oestrogen levels start to rise. Oestrogen ensures that the lining of your womb thickens with nutrients and blood. The oestrogen levels peak about one day before the start of the ovulation phase.
The Ovulation Phase of the Menstrual Cycle
The increase of oestrogen in your body triggers what is known as the Luteinising Hormone (LH) surge. The LH surge causes the dominant follicle to rupture and release the egg. Women with 28-day cycles will usually ovulate on day 14. However, as women generally have different menstrual cycle lengths ovulation can occur 11-16 days before your next period. The release of the egg from one of the ovaries is called ovulation. The egg is released into the fallopian tube and awaits fertilisation. The egg can live for up to 24 hours. Sperm can live for 2-5 days. So, the days before ovulation and the day of ovulation itself are the most fertile.
The Luteal Phase
Next the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle begins. After ovulation, the follicle produces gg travels progesterone which stimulates the lining of the uterus to prepare for a fertilised egg. If pregnancy occurs the egg travels to the uterus and attaches to the lining of the uterus. If pregnancy doesn’t occur your body sheds the lining, your period starts and your new menstrual cycle begins.
All the pages in our Fertility section: