National Fertility Week: Understanding The Menstrual Cycle
This week is National Fertility Awarenss Week. Especially close to my heart, helping woman get pregnant naturally has been my specialty for many years. This week, I will review the many ways to help increase fertility in both woman and men.
Your menstrual cycle is the key to improving your ability to have children, either for the first time or if you are trying to have a second child. Your cycle shows you how your body is managing your hormones. Your chances of getting pregnant each month greatly depend on your menstrual cycle and even more so, on ovulation. That is why timing intercourse is an excellent way to improve your fertility chances. In my practice, I have women begin a basal body temperature (BBT) chart. This charting is a great way of seeing and understanding your menstrual cycle, ovulation and period. Get started on your BBT chart now and learn better ways to predict your ovulation time.
A Basal Body Temperature chart is a way commonly used to determine the time of ovulation. The basal body temperature refers to the temperature of your body at rest. You will need a special thermometer or ovulation thermometer and graph papers or a special chart. To determine your BBT, record your temperature everyday upon awakening before you get out of bed. Immediately after ovulation there will be a slight (no more than 0.4 to 1.0 degree Fahrenheit) but definite rise in your body temperature. Temperatures remain elevated until the next menstrual period.
Prior to ovulation, a woman's basal body temperatures generally range from 97.0 to 97.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures are suppressed at this time due to the presence of the estrogen. After ovulation, due to the production of the heat-inducing hormone progesterone, temperatures rise to about 97.6 to 98.6 F. This rise in temperature indicates that ovulation has occurred. Your most fertile day is the one immediately before the rise in temperature. This method can be best utilized along with other fertility signs such as a pain or aches felt on one side of the lower abdomen, to be accurate. When a woman is pregnant, her temperature remains elevated throughout pregnancy. This test can also be used to know whether a woman is ovulating or not. If ovulation does not occur the normal temperature remains static always.
The menstrual cycle is divided into three stages. The Follicular Stage begins with menstruation. The first shedding of blood is considered the menstrual period. Due to low levels of an estrogen called Estradiol, and the hormone progesterone, this allows for the shedding of the endometrium, the uterine wall lining. As days progress in the follicular stage, the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) slightly begins to increase. This stimulates the development of several follicles, each containing an egg. At the same time, levels of estradiol, which are secreted by the ovaries, is increasing and stimulates the uterine wall lining, making it thicker. There is an imbalance in this phase if you have low estrogen levels, your BBT (basal body temperature) chart has low temp readings before ovulation or this phase is longer than 17 days. There is also an imbalance if your BBT chart has high temp readings before ovulation above 97.5 dgrees, or if this phase is less than 10 days.
The Ovulatory Stage begins as a surge of lutenizing hormones (LH) and the follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) increase. Since only one follicle continues to develop, ovulation (egg release) often occurs 16-32 hours after the surge of hormones begins. Estradiol levels peak during the surge and progesterone levels start to increase. There is an imbalance in this phase if there is no ovulation, you have little or no cervical mucus or if you experience painful ovulation.
The Luteal Stage begins as levels of lutenizing hormones (LH) and the follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) decrease. The ruptured follicle closes after releasing the egg and forms the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum secretes progesterone and estradiol causing the uterine wall to continue to thicken. If the egg is not fertilized, the corpus luteum degenerates and no longer secretes progesterone. The estradiol levels decrease and a new menstrual cycle begins. This phase of the cycle shows an imbalance with progesterone levels unable to rise and stay elevated until your period. There is a hormonal imbalance if your BBT chart has a bi-phasic, slow, step like or saw tooth pattern or if you are having no period or very scant period.
Andrew Pacholyk, MS. L.Ac
Therapies for healing
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