The answer to the question, how to get pregnant, may seem like an overly obvious, but how does a woman get pregnant? The human body is wonderfully complex, and conception is full of tiny, intricate steps that are contingent on many factors – from getting the timing just right to having all the components in working order to create life as we know it.
To understand how to get pregnant and how pregnancy occurs, it’s important to know how a woman’s menstrual cycle ties into the whole process of conception. It will help you to better understand how to calculate when you’re ovulating, the process of fertilization, and implantation, too!
A Woman’s Menstrual Cycle: 28 Days Explained
The menstrual cycle is the monthly hormonal cycle a female’s body goes through to prepare for pregnancy. Your menstrual cycle is counted from the first day of your period up to the first day of your next period.
The average menstrual cycle takes about 28 days and can be broken down into two parts:
First, the Ovarian Cycle which includes:
- The follicular phase
- The luteal phase
And second, the Uterine Cycle which consists of:
- Menstruation (Period)
- The poliferative phase
- The secretory phase
Additionally, there are four major hormones involved in the menstrual cycle:
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
- Luteinizing hormone (LH)
- Estrogen (E2)
The Ovarian Cycle
The Follicular Phase
This phase starts on the first day of your period. During the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle, the following events occur:
- The pituitary gland (area of the brain that produces hormones) produces FSH which signals the ovaries to prepare an egg to be released.
- Depending on your age, several follicles (the “shell” that contains the egg) begins to grow.
- Halfway through the follicular phase, the lead (largest) egg becomes the dominant follicle and continues to mature and begins to release E2.
During a 28-day cycle, ovulation occurs during the midpoint of the cycle on day 14. For women with longer or shorter cycles it takes place 14 days before the start of their next period. During the ovulation phase:
- Rising E2 levels from the dominant follicle triggers a surge in the production of LH in the brain.
- Approximately 24-36 hours after the LH surge, the egg is released or ovulated from the ovary into the fallopian tube.
- Once the egg is released there is a 12-24 hour window when it can be fertilized by sperm in the fallopian tube.
The Luteal Phase
The luteal phase of the menstrual cycle begins right after ovulation.
- After it releases its egg, the empty follicle develops into a new structure called the corpus luteum, which secretes the hormone progesterone in preparation for a fertilized egg to implant.
- If conception has occurred after intercourse has taken place, the fertilized egg (embryo) will travel through the fallopian tube to implant in the uterus and the woman is now considered pregnant.
- If the egg is not fertilized, it will dissolve and progesterone and E2 levels drop in preparation for menstruation to start.
The Uterine Cycle
At the same time the ovarian cycle is taking place, the uterus is cycling through different stages that support conception.
Menstruation & the Proliferative Phase
Menstruation and the proliferative phase occur at the beginning of your cycle during the follicular phase of the ovarian cycle.
- If the egg is not fertilized or the embryo doesn’t implant in the previous cycle, your next cycle starts with menstruation. Your period is the shedding of old blood and uterine tissue that wasn’t needed to support a pregnancy.
- The proliferative phase is the time after your period ends before ovulation occurs when the uterine lining (endometrium) thickens to support a potential pregnancy conceived during this cycle.
Following ovulation, the endometrium secretes chemical messengers.
- PGF2a and PGE2 are two prominent prostaglandins chemical messengers that cause the uterus to cramp and help trigger your period when fertilization doesn’t take place.
- If an embryo implanted, prostaglandins production is inhibited so that the uterine lining isn’t shed.
How Long Does It Take to Get Pregnant? What Helps?
For those wondering how to get pregnant, most couples – on average – conceive within six months to a year, with about 80% of couples getting pregnant after six months of trying. That makes human beings one of the most inefficient mammals when it comes to reproduction! For more info, read our blog article Getting Pregnant: How Long Does It Take?
If you’re planning for a family, there are certain things that help – a balanced diet, exercise, and other healthy habits like not smoking and keeping stress levels down – to positively impact your fertility health and increase your chances of conceiving. For more info, check out our blog article on how to get your body ready for pregnancy.
There are also some apps that we recommend, helping track your periods, fertility, and more:
Vios Cares About Making Your Dreams of Parenthood Come True
Conceiving can take time. If you’re under 35 and have been trying to conceive for at least one year (or want more than one child) or if you’re over 35 and have been trying to conceive for six months, you should seek a fertility consultation. Additionally, if you have irregular periods you should seek consultation immediately, regardless of the time you’ve been trying to conceive.
At Vios Fertility, our team approach is to educate and bring awareness to your fertility health while helping you navigate the journey and make your dreams of parenthood a reality. If you are concerned or just want to know your fertility status contact us today to schedule an appointment.