Let's talk about your menstrual cycle. Fun topic, huh? Every woman should know what's going on inside her body every month, because it'll help you understand your physical and emotional self a little bit better.
If you are not on the Pill or any other contraception involving hormones, you get your period -- some women have shorter cycles (26 days or less) and some women have longer cycles (32 days or more). Every woman's cycle is different, some have regular periods, some have irregular, some have a heavy flow, some are blessed with a light flow. Regardless of your cycyle, this is a basic breakdown of what's happening inside your body:
DAY 1: You get your period (wa-hoo!)
DAY 2-7 (earlier or later): You have your period.
DAY 10-18 (earlier or later): This is halfway through your cycle and this is when you ovulate and should avoid unprotected sex at all costs if you don't want to get pregnant. On the other hand, if you are trying to get pregnant, have at it ladies!
Ovulation is not necessarily on DAY 14 like you may have learned in your Sex Ed class. If you have a shorter cycle, you may ovulate as soon as DAY 10. One way to tell if you're ovulating is because you'll have really wet cervical fluid (like egg whites). This is not discharge and it's not a bad thing -- think of it as the perfect environment for sperm to swim upstream, which is why you have cervical fluid in the first place - to help you get pregnant.
You may also notice a little pinching pain on the right or left of your abdomen, right inside your hip bones. That's where your ovaries are located, and what you are feeling is the egg releasing from your ovary. Some women also experience breast tenderness, bloating, light spotting, or an increased sex drive -- almost like PMS symptoms all over again.
Want to know what happens next? Then
DAY 21-32 (earlier or later): You are done ovulating. Most women will start feeling PMS symptoms during this time which include all the fun stuff: cramps, mood swings, uncontrollable crying, feelings of depression, bloating, sore breasts, food cravings (did someone say chocolate?), fatigue, and headaches.
And then, it all repeats itself. Pretty cool to know what's going on, huh? Knowing your specific cycle will help you out tremendously.
Dear's Advice: I definitely recommend charting your cycle on a calendar. Write down when you get your period, and your physical and emotional symptoms each month for about 6 months, and see if you notice a pattern.
If you want to learn more about what's going on with your cycle, check out this book called Taking Charge of Your Fertility. It changed my life.