It really amazes me every time I meet a woman who has been trying to get pregnant, yet can't tell me how many days her average menstrual cycle is.
A very common misconception is that the female menstural cycle lasts 28 Days with ovulation happening on Day 14. Well that's what the textbooks say isn't it? 28 days is the AVERAGE length of a normal cycle. This means that it's perfectly normal to have a cycle that lasts anywhere from 23 to 35 days.
Your Cycle is Unique
Your cycle is unique to you in the same way as your body is unique. There are general trends in menstrual cycles but your body reacts to your own hormones in a certain way...the key to figuring out your cycle is to listen to your body. Your body sends out signals each day and if you learn to identify these signals and monitor subtle changes you can pinpoint exactly where you are in your cycle. You can even pinpoint ovulation, almost to the instant it occurs. Amazingly you can even use this information to diagnose why you are not getting pregnant
If you are trying to get pregnant you should track your cycle every day. There are lots of ways to do this a pen and a cycle tracking chart are the most straightforward way to get started. If you prefer, there are hundreds of apps to choose from that can help you to track your cycle.
So what's a normal menstrual cycle?
First of all, every cycle starts on Day 1. This is the day of 'full-flow' or the day that you need to wear a tampon / pad. Many women experience light spotting at the start of their cycle and this should not be counted as Day 1.
If you imagine Day 1 as the first day that the uterus gets rid of the old lining from the previous cycle. It is vital that this old lining is shed in order for a new lining to build up in the next cycle.
After Day 1, your cycle is unique to you. Some women bleed for 2 or 3 days, others 4 to 5 days.
The next big event in your cycle is of course Ovulation. This occurs in the middle of your cycle so if you have a short cycle that last 23 days then you can expect ovulation to occur much earlier than if your cycle is normally 35 days.
The phase of your cycle after ovulation and before the start of your next period (Luteal Phase) is often the most ignored phase but it can provide key information about your chances of getting pregnant. During this phase there is a rise in the hormone Progesterone. Progesterone prepares the lining for implantation and pregnancy. The length of your Luteal Phase should be the same each month and should never vary by more than 1 to 2 days. If your luteal phase is too short (<10 days) then an embryo does not have enough time to implant before the lining is shed.
The only way to find out what is normal for you is to track your cycle each day. Women who can identify key events in their cycles have the highest chance of getting pregnant. In order to accurately track your cycle I always advise using a number of different methods. The most accurate are Basal Body Temperature monitoring, Cervical Mucus Monitoring and pinpointing ovulation with Ovulation Predictor Kits. When used together, these 3 methods will not only increase your chances of getting pregnant but they may also identify a reason why you did not become pregnant.
If you would like any further information please get in touch with me or leave a comment below and I am happy to answer any questions you may have.