The Female Reproductive Cycle – the Basics

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In this article, we would look into the main features of the female reproductive system. The purpose of these details are to explain the main events happening inside a women’s body in an easy to grasp manner.

Steps of the female reproductive cycle:

 

Main parts of the female reproductive cycle
Main parts of the female reproductive cycle

The Menstrual Cycle:

A menstrual cycle or period is a female reproductive cycle which repeats itself after a set number of days. The length of a menstrual cycle is calculated from the first day of your periodĀ  till the first day of your next period. A typical menstrual period is 28 days long, but this is a text book definition. A common menstrual period varies anywhere from 21 to 32 days. A woman is said to have a regular menstrual cycle if her period comes after the same number of days each time. Similarly, a woman is said to have irregular menstrual cycles if her cycles are generally of varying lengths. Please note that it is normal for period to come 3 or 4 days early or late. If your cycles are off by 8 to 20 days, you may as well be suffering from irregular menstrual cycles.

The female reproductive cycle is distinctly divided into two parts: the follicular phase and the luteal phase. These phases are categorized on the basis of the dominant set of hormones in that particular phase.

Ovulation:

Ovulation is the process in which the female egg releases from the ovary and is ready for fertilization by the male sperm. If the sperm catches the egg in the right time frame, fertilization occurs which can result in pregnancy. Please note that ovulation alone cannot guarantee pregnancy. Pregnancy cannot take place until the fertilized egg has implanted itself to the mother’s body, through a process called ‘implantation’. Ovulation typically occurs about 12 to 14 days before the start of the next period.

Follicular phase:

The follicular phase begins at the first day of your period and ends with the onset of ovulation. The follicular phase signifies the period during which the female egg grows and develops.

The dominant hormones in this phase areĀ estrogen and the ‘follicular stimulating hormone’, commonly abbreviated as FSH. These hormones are responsible for the stimulation of the female egg, the basic entity of the female fertility. The egg grows and matures till the start of ovulation, when this egg is released and is available for fertilization.

Luteal phase:

The luteal phase starts with the onset of ovulation and continues till the next cycle starts. A new cycle is said to start when periods begin. A typical luteal phase if 12 to 14 days long. Anything significantly shorter or longer than this is considered to be a ‘luteal phase defect’. During the luteal phase, the egg starts its journey down the fallopian tube towards the uterus.

Implantation:

Implantation is the process where a fertilized egg implants itself into the uterus. It does so by sticking to one of the sides of the uterus and then plugs itself into the mother’s bloodstream. Once implanted, the egg, now an embryo, starts sending a hormone called HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) into the mother’s bloodstream which can then be detected a few days afterwards. A woman is officially pregnant once the embryo implants itself successfully. The rise in HCG levels also tell the body not to start a new cycle so that pregnancy is sustained. If a fertilized egg fails to implant, then a new cycle starts as it normally would and the egg will be washed down with the flow.

These were the main basic features of the female reproductive cycle. Browse more topic by going to the Infertility Home page using the button below.

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