You have probably heard that your menstrual cycle should be approximately 28 days. But what exactly does that mean? When are you most likely to get pregnant according to your menstrual cycle ? When are PMS symptoms at their worst? And what exactly is happening each day during your menstrual cycle ? How do you know what are the fertile days to get pregnant?

Days of the menstrual cycle

Here’s a day-to-day breakdown of what’s really going on inside your vital reproductive organs (plus some tips on how to get the most out of each day – whether you’re trying to conceive or not). And remember: a “normal” cycle can vary anywhere from 21 to 36 days, so this is an approximation.

Also, the following only count if you are not on the pill. (Otherwise, it’s talking about the pill, not your ovaries.) Take notes. This information is essential knowledge for all women. The more you know, the better you can prepare for each phase of your cycle.

The menstrual cycle day by day

Day 1: The first day of your period is also the first day of your cycle . Unless you’re pregnant, hormone levels plummet and the blood and tissues that line the uterus break down and leak. The next 28 days are all about your ever-optimistic uterus preparing the possibility of a nine-month boarding house.

Day 2: The period continues. The second day of your cycle is generally a heavy one. And while the symptoms of PMS have (probably) cleared, you may have some cramps that accompany the bleeding. This may be a day of probably changing more sanitary pads or whatever you use to protect yourself. If you find a small clot, don’t panic. That is perfectly normal for this point in your cycle. But if you use a lot of pads or pads in a day and you get clots the size of plums, you should have a medical check-up.

Day 3: This is often the last “heavy” day of the bleed. You will likely continue to see red blood. You may also experience some changes in your vaginal pH, which could lead to yeast infections and bad smells. If so, try to keep it clean and use some remedy for the problem.

Day 4: Your menstrual period begins to clear , and it may change color from bright red to brown.

Day 5: If you usually have a five-day period, a panty-protector can do it.

Day 6: For many, this is the first day off from a period . Others have periods that last up to seven days, yet it is perfectly normal.

Day 7: By now, your period should be completely or nearly gone. This means that your body is preparing for the next month. Small follicles (small cysts on the ovaries that release an egg or two) are beginning to form. Estrogen levels are starting to rise, testosterone is still low, and progesterone is still absent.

Day 8: Those follicles are growing and preparing to release an egg . As the eggs begin to develop, they produce estrogen, so estrogen levels will start to rise. The levels of testosterone and progesterone remain the same.

Day 9: In the next few days, a follicle will continue to develop towards maturity . That extra estrogen makes the blood and nutrient-rich lining of the uterus thicken, so it’s ready if a fertilized egg implants.

Day 10: Estrogen production should now be off the charts . And the endometrium, or the lining of the uterus, continues its plans to host a possible pregnancy.

Day 11: If you are trying to conceive, now is the time to put your efforts in high gear as you are either ovulating or approaching ovulation. If you are not in the specific frame of mind, now would be a good time to introduce a lubricant into your routine, to make it more enjoyable and functional. Make sure you choose a good lubricant that will not harm the male fluid.

Day 12: Even though you may not be ovulating yet, your fertility levels are high due to increased estrogen production – and because sperm can survive a few days in a woman’s body. Your cervical mucosa is flowing and elastic, and the main follicle must be fully prepared to release one egg, while the others wither. You may notice an increase in libido at this time as the levels of testosterone (the main hormone of libido) are increasing. This is the natural way to foster that union.

Day 13: Estrogen levels are coming in , and your body is almost ready for the egg that is shed from the ovarian follicle (aka ovulation).

Day 14: You are ovulating. The egg is released from the follicle. You may feel a twinge of pain or have a little bleeding, which is perfectly normal. This is your best day to make a baby, so if you’re trying, make use of the lube and go for it. If not, don’t skip that condom.

Day 15: The egg is beginning its journey through the tube in hopes of an encounter with the sperm . If you do not want that to happen, since you had a mishap with the condom, the one the day after may be your option.

If you’re trying to get pregnant, intercourse on the day after ovulation (just in case) is good practice. If things start to get unsuccessful down there (a common occurrence during frequent intercourse), go for some solution to keep your vaginal pH under control. Now your estrogen and testosterone levels begin to decline, while your progesterone levels rise rapidly.

Day 16: The egg, always hoping , still hanging in the tube waiting for the prince of sperm.

Day 17: The lining of the uterus is thick. If the egg has successfully bonded with the sperm, it will soon make its home there. If conception has not occurred within 24 hours of ovulation, the egg dies. Estrogen levels are on their way down, while progesterone levels are through the roof.

Day 18: Now estrogen will start to make its comeback. The progesterone levels are still there.

Day 19: If you are trying to get pregnant, or think you might accidentally get it, don’t go to the pharmacy yet . It is still too early to take a pregnancy test.

Day 20: The end of your cycle is coming , and it is around this time that the symptoms of PMS will begin to rear their ugly heads. You may feel a bit bloated and moody.

Day 21: If you are trying to get pregnant and want to confirm that you have ovulated, this is the perfect time for your doctor to check to see if your progesterone is elevated.

Day 22: It is time to check if you have protective towels (or what you usually use) so you do not have to make a midnight trip in a few days.

Day 23: The SPM is in full swing. Enjoy a bubble bath or a nice organic chocolate bar.

Day 24: About a week after ovulation, progesterone levels will be high. Estrogen will start its way down.

Day 25: This will probably be your worst day of PMS. Expect significant swelling. And don’t be surprised that anything makes you cry.

Day 26: No, you are not getting fat. It is the pre-menstrual fluid retention.

Day 27: At last: PMS symptoms are ending.

Day 28: This is the time when your cycle comes to an end. If you are not pregnant, your period is on its way. The lining of the uterus, at its thickest, is ready to shed. If you start taking some natural anti-inflammatories – to avoid ibuprofen – the day before you bleed, it actually works best to reduce pain – and decrease flow. Tomorrow, the cycle begins again.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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