Updated: Jan 31
Before I jump into this post, I want to reiterate my PSA that if you are partnered up with a man, it is so important to include him in your cycle tracking. Trust me, it will make both of your lives much easier! There will be less confusion and more understanding if you both are on the same page.
A reminder if you want to dive deeper into the female cycle, check out these books:
The Fifth Vital Sign by Lisa Hendrickson-Jack
Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler
7 Times a Woman by Dr. Lia G. Andrews
Today we are tackling some common myths about tracking the female menstrual cycle!
Myth #1: “The menstrual bleed is the only phase that I need to track.”
While the bleed is important, it is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to your cycle. Cycle tracking is ovulation tracking. When you ovulate and if you ovulate tell you so much more about your cycle, your body, and your hormone health than your period alone.
Knowing and being able to accurately predict when you ovulate each month gives you up close and personal insight on your "fertile window", or that time of month where your chances for pregnancy are high. Knowing your fertile window is how you can successfully avoid or achieve pregnancy.
Additionally, not every female has a consistent ovulatory schedule, and some may not be ovulating at all. It’s important to start tracking to determine when and if you are ovulating each month. Lack of ovulation or irregular ovulation may indicate that there is a hormonal imbalance that needs to be addressed. Once you become aware of an irregularity or imbalance, you then have the power to address it and get on track. And having regular and consistent ovulation is key, as you'll read below.
Myth #2: “I can get pregnant anytime of the month.”
Contrary to what is generally taught to the public, a female can only successfully conceive ONE day of the month—the day of ovulation.
“But, Cat!--” you may interject, “I know someone who got pregnant when she had sex on her period, surely they weren’t ovulating on their period!”
Ah yes. Let me explain.
Ovulation is the only time during your cycle where a sperm can penetrate and fertilize your egg. As you learned in my last post, the ovulatory phase lasts on average 24 hours, and up to 48 hours for some. Basically one day, maybe two.
Now, ovulation is only half of the picture, and sperm plays an equally important role in fertilization. A male’s sperm has a lifespan of 3 – 6 days after ejaculation if in the right environment. Of course, we also have to account for sperm quality, quantity, motility, and morphology when looking at the lifespan of sperm. Assuming your male partner has strong, healthy, and abundant sperm, this creates a window of about 1 week where his sperm can stay alive, seeking the opportunity for fertilization.
Know this: Your fertile window = the day you ovulate + the week leading up to ovulation.
Say you ovulate on day 14 of your cycle, and you have intercourse with insemination 6 days prior to your ovulation, on day 8 of your cycle. Given that the sperm can live up to 6 days, the opportunity for conception on day 8 is there.
Now, ovulation on day 14 is simply an average and not true for many women. It can be that some women ovulate early, say on day 7 of their cycle, or some women ovulate late, say on day 21 of their cycle.
This leads us back to the statement of “I know someone who got pregnant when she had sex on her period!”.
Let’s break this down. Say this female ovulates early, on day 9 of her cycle, and she has unprotected intercourse with insemination while she is still on her period, say on day 4 of her menstrual cycle. This leaves a 5-day window between that moment of insemination and her ovulation. And since sperm can live 3-6 days within the right environment, this leaves a clear and open opportunity for successful fertilization of her egg on the day of ovulation.
To sum it up, the only chance for a female to become pregnant is during her fertile window, which is the day she ovulates plus the week leading up to ovulation.
Hopefully this clarifies why knowing your specific and unique ovulation time is so important for fertility and conception purposes!
Myth #3: “I track my period on an app, so my app tells me when I ovulate.”
This is perhaps the most common misconception, and it's not even a little right.
If you are using a period tracking app to only mark the days that you bleed and nothing else, you are doing it wrong.
A period tracking app that only has the information for the days that you bleed does not know anything about your ovulatory cycle. These apps simply use a generalized algorithm based on the average female’s cycle length to basically guess when you are ovulating. The average female cycle lasts 28 days, and on average, ovulation occurs halfway through, on day 14. So most apps will either use the 14-day mark OR the guesstimated halfway mark to determine your projected ovulation. But this is not accurate nor reliable for truly knowing your ovulation window, as explained in Myth #2.
You should be using scientifically-backed ways to track your cycle. By correctly tracking your cycle using the methods listed below, you will actually be able to know when you are ovulating each month. And you may be surprised to find out that it does not match up with your app’s generic prediction. Cycle tracking is about connecting to your body, which is something your app cannot do.
The 3 ways to properly cycle track are:
· Basal Body Temperature
· Cervical Mucus
· Urine Testing
Read on! Up Next: 3 Ways To Track Your Cycle
Disclaimer: The information posted here is not a substitute for actual health advice. Always consult with your healthcare provider(s). Please be aware of the risks or undesired outcomes associated with improper use of cycle tracking.
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