HOW TO DETERMINE THE FIRST DAY OF YOUR MENSTRUAL CYCLE?
Menstrual irregularities are common and are usually a symptom of a variety of gynecological problems. Therefore, menstrual cycle tracking is extremely important for every woman, regardless of her reproductive plans, and nowadays modern technology makes it easier than ever.
THE NORMAL MENSTRUAL CYCLE
By «menstrual cycle» we mean the period from the beginning of one menstrual bleeding to the beginning of the next. Normally its duration is 21-35 days (average 28 days).
Day 1 of your cycle is the first day of your period, which means the first day of red bloody discharge (spotting does not count). During this time, the uterus sheds the surface layer of its lining. Between days 1-5 of your cycle, new follicles (fluid sacks containing eggs) begin to develop in the ovaries.
Between days 5 and 12, one follicle grows significantly larger than the others and is referred to as dominant. It begins to secrete estrogen, which in turn increases the thickness of the lining of the uterus, preparing it for pregnancy.
Around day 12-16, the mature egg is released (ovulation). In women with a longer menstrual cycle, ovulation can occur around day 21. The egg is viable for fertilization up to 24 hours after ovulation. Sperm can survive in the female reproductive tract for up to 5 days. Therefore, regular sexual intercourse a few days before ovulation increases the chances of getting pregnant.
In the place where the egg was released, corpus luteum is formed, which produces progesterone and estrogen and prepares the lining of the uterus for embryo implantation. If pregnancy has not occurred, around day 28 corpus luteum degenerates, stops secreting hormones and menstruation occurs.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO KNOW THE FIRST DAY OF MY MENSTRUAL CYCLE?
Knowing which is the first day of your menstrual cycle, you can easily calculate the approximate date of ovulation (day 12-16), therefore the most appropriate days for conception. This is more difficult in women with large variations in the length of the menstrual cycle. Today, there are home ovulation tests that make it much easier for couples who are trying to have a baby.
Some hormonal tests are done on a specific day of the menstrual cycle. For example, estradiol, prolactin, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels are tested on day 3 and progesterone on days 19-23.
Some drugs are taken at a specific stage of the menstrual cycle. For example, taking oral contraceptives starts on the first day of the menstrual cycle, and some women need to use progesterone from the 14th day.
HOW TO TRACK MY MENSTRUAL CYCLE?
Nowadays, there are various apps that completely replace the standard menstrual calendars. Most applications are free and have many benefits — adding input for other symptoms (headache, breast tenderness, etc.), a better description of your current period (amount of blood, pain), a reminder to take medication and even the option to share the information with a doctor or partner.
Every woman’s menstrual cycle is unique. However, significant fluctuations in the duration, frequency and amount of blood loss during your period should be discussed with your obstetrician-gynecologist.