Periods and Pregnancy
It is important to understand how our own bodies work. Some women do not have the benefit of health education in school or parents who are comfortable talking about sex and a woman’s reproductive system. Although you may feel like having your period every month is an inconvenience, it is a normal, natural function of a woman’s body and a unique gift to carry a new life inside of them. But how is a woman’s period (menstrual cycle) connected to sex and pregnancy?
A complete menstrual cycle is approximately 28 days from the beginning of one period to the beginning of your next period. It can vary from woman to woman, so it is important to know your own body’s patterns. Basically, each month an egg is released from the ovary and travels down the Fallopian tube. Generally, this happens about two weeks after your period and is called ovulation. If you have sex during this time and a sperm from your partner finds that egg, it can fertilize the egg and it instantaneously begins a new life. Sperm can live in a woman’s body for 3-5 days, but the egg only lives for 24 hours after being released from the ovary. It is important to note, that ovulation can vary in timing depending on the woman and life factors such as stress. Pharmacies sell ovulation tests (similar to pregnancy stick tests) that can help you determine the days on which you are ovulating.
The fertilized egg, the embryo, then travels down the Fallopian tube into the uterus where it implants in the uterine wall to continue to grow. The wall of the uterus builds up a layer of blood and tissue to support the embryo. If the egg is not fertilized, it will dissolve and the uterus will shed the layer of blood and tissue. This shedding is what we know as menstruation, or our period, and begins the cycle again.
Usually, the first indication of a possible pregnancy is a missed period. When you call a medical office thinking you may be pregnant, it is a good idea to know the first day of your last period. This gives an initial estimate of how far along the pregnancy may be until an ultrasound can measure gestational growth of the fetus to determine a more precise due date. Ultrasounds can only begin to measure growth of the fetus at about 6 weeks from the first day of your last period.
Your smartphone or FitBit can help you track your periods! Check your app store for menstrual tracking apps.