While safe abortions are legal in South Africa, understanding your menstrual cycle will help you determine when you’re ovulating. In this article, we outline everything that you need to know about menstruation.
What is menstruation?
Menstruation is the clinical term for getting your period. Essentially, women who have already gone through puberty will, on a monthly basis, experience bleeding out of their vagina. The reason for this is because the lining of the uterus has become thicker, meaning that it’s prepared itself for the possibility of pregnancy.
If you don’t fall pregnant, your body will shed the thickened lining of the uterus and bleeding will take place at the same time; the bleeding usually lasts between three to eight days. The length of time between periods generally ranges from 21 – 35 days.
Overview of a menstrual cycle
Days 1 – 5: The day that bleeding begins is considered to be the first day of a period. Your period can last between 3 – 8 days, but the average is 5 days. You’ll find that bleeding will be heaviest on the first and second day.
Days 6 – 14: When the bleeding stops, it is an indication that the uterine lining is preparing itself for the possibility of pregnancy. The uterine lining becomes thicker and filled with nutrient-rich blood vessels.
Days 14 – 25: On approximately the 14th day, an egg is released from an ovary and travels through the fallopian tubes to the uterus. If there is sperm present in the fallopian tube at this time, fertilsation of the egg can occur. The fertilised egg will then travel to the uterus and try to implant itself onto the thickened uterine wall.
Days: 25 – 28: If the egg isn’t fertilised or failed to implant itself to the uterine wall, a hormonal change occurs which signals the uterus to prepare itself to shed the thickened lining.
The cycle begins again on Day 1 with bleeding.
When am I ovulating?
Your period should follow a regular pattern and so you can keep track of your cycle.
Record when your period starts and ends, what the flow was like, and describe any pain or other symptoms (bloating, breast pain etc.), changes in mood or behaviour that you experienced. Over several cycles, you will be able to see patterns in your cycle or identify irregularities that are occurring.
In addition to tracking your period on a calendar, there are other ways that can be used in conjunction to help you understand your menstrual cycle more clearly. Speak your doctor about cervical mucous testing, basal body temperature readings as well as ovulation prediction kits.
Handy menstrual and ovulation calculator apps
Have a look at the following apps to find out which one is right for you.
- Period Tracker Flo, Ovulation & Pregnancy Calendar
How Marie Stopes can help you
At Marie Stopes South Africa, we can help you determine:
- If you are pregnant
- How far along you are in your pregnancy (gestation)