Hormones reign supreme when it comes to fertility. Conception and pregnancy cannot happen without our hormone cycle which is why if you’re struggling with fertility, you may want to consider learning more about your monthly cycle of hormones and tracking your cycle.
Week by week, your hormones are changing and transitioning. These changes put the body in the best possible position for a pregnancy. When your hormones are off, some of these changes can’t happen, rendering you unable to get pregnant.
Here is a week to week look at the changes that happen to your body during the 4 weeks of your cycle.
The first week of your cycle is marked by the beginning of your menstrual cycle (a.k.a. your period). The average menstrual cycle lasts anywhere from 2 to 7 days. This is the time when women tend to feel the symptoms of fatigue, cramping, irritable moods, and headaches.
The beginning of your menstrual cycle is all about shedding the lining of the uterus which is triggered by low levels of estrogen and progesterone.
The first day of your period also signals the start of the Follicular Phase. Your pituitary gland begins to churn out FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone), this tells the follicles on your ovaries to begin maturing the egg inside of them. In the weeks to come, estrogen is responsible for plumping up your uterine lining and progesterone is responsible for maintaining it.
FSH and LH also trigger an increase in estrogen which in turn, turns off the production of FSH. This safety measure is the body’s way of preventing too many follicles from being stimulated and maturing.
During the second week of your cycle, estrogen and testosterone are both rising. Testosterone will be responsible for increasing your libido (baby dancing)! Towards the end of this week (approx. on cycle days 11-14 with an average cycle length), estrogen will peak, sending a signal to your pituitary gland to release luteinizing hormone (LH). The LH surge is responsible for causing the follicle to release a mature egg.
Between week 2 and week 3, ovulation takes place. Around halfway through a woman’s cycle, an egg is released into the fallopian tubes where it waits to be fertilized. After 24 hours if the egg hasn’t been fertilized it will disintegrate.
Also, during this time, estrogen and testosterone levels take a dip while progesterone levels rise gradually all week. This can cause you to feel irritable and mentally sluggish. Progesterone will begin to rise sharply in order to maintain a thick uterine lining welcoming of implantation for a fertilized egg.
The low levels of estrogen during this phase can trigger mood swings of anger, depression, irritability, crying and more. Low estrogen levels can cause levels of serotonin to drop which leads to these mood swings.
The second half of the menstrual cycle, after ovulation, is called the luteal phase.
The final week of your cycle is when things begin ramping back up in preparation for your next cycle. This is when women tend to experience premenstrual syndrome or PMS. The hormone progesterone continues to rise until mid-week after which it will begin to drop if pregnancy has not occurred. The drop in progesterone signals to your body to shed your uterine lining which starts the cycle again.
If you aren’t experiencing some of these changes, you could have a hormonal imbalance. Consult with your doctor if you are having trouble conceiving.