Each month a woman’s body goes through a cycle to prepare itself for a potential pregnancy. This cycle is called menstruation, which can vary, lasting 21- 35 days. The menstrual cycle begins when the uterus sheds it’s lining through the vagina, resulting in what is commonly called your “period”.
At this point, hormones from the brain trigger the development of eggs in the ovaries, which in turn produce estrogen. Only one egg fully matures and continues to produce estrogen. This estrogen causes the lining of the uterus to thicken and to prepare for pregnancy. The mature egg is expelled from the ovary about 14 days after the cycle begins and starts its journey down the fallopian tube. At about the same time the egg is released, the cervix produces extra mucus. If a women were to have sex at this point, this mucus would help move the man’s sperm towards the egg for fertilization. If fertilization occurs, this newly formed embryo will travel down the fallopian tube to implant in the uterus and pregnancy begins. If fertilization does not occur, the cycle begins again and the egg is flushed out when the uterus sheds its lining at the beginning of a new menstrual cycle.
If you are sexually active but do not want to become pregnant there are many birth control options available. These options include: barrier methods, hormonal contraceptives, intrauterine devices (IUDs), natural family planning and permanent surgical procedures. You’ll want to discuss which might be right for you and consider the risks, effectiveness and your lifestyle with your doctor. By knowing how pregnancy works and by learning about your individual cycle, you can better prepare and plan for your future.