Do you know what your fertile window is and how long it lasts?
Menstrual cycles are something almost all women experience once a month, and even though it’s a very natural process, there’s a lot of misunderstanding and ignorance regarding this matter. Many of us take it for granted, and we don’t stop to really understand what happens in the process. We just deal with it every month, and that’s it. The huge amount of false facts I’ve heard regarding menstruation that a lot of people actually believe couldn’t be more inaccurate. A lot of it has to do with taboos and an overall misunderstanding about how our body works, but it really is something we should be clearer about, especially if we don't want to get pregnant anytime soon. Having said that, here are some important facts worth knowing not to fall into myths and inaccuracies.
You’re not fertile during your whole cycle.
Many people believe that we’re only fertile during the phase when the egg reaches the uterus, but there’s actually a fertile window around six days prior to it when you can also get pregnant. However, at the same, it’s not true that you’re fertile during your whole cycle. So, let’s explain what the fertile window is. Generally speaking, the egg's lifespan is 12 to 24 hours, but sperm can live inside your body for up to five days, meaning that even if you have sex before ovulating, if the sperm is still alive when the egg is released, it can definitely be fertilized.
You can't pregnant during your period.
Another great myth regarding menstruation and pregnancy is that during our period we’re absolutely safe from getting pregnant. However, although it’s unlikely, it’s not impossible. The main reason that has to do more with perception, or let’s call it a technicality, rather than the menstrual cycle: sometimes women can experience spotting during the ovulation phase that can be mistaken with the actual period, especially if they don’t have a regular cycle. What happens is that ovulation is the peak of our fertile process, so if we mistake this bleeding for our period and have unprotected sex, we’re doubling the possibilities of getting pregnant. The other reason, which is more related to our period, is that not all cycles are going to be the same, so there have been cases in which the ovulation process actually begins a bit before your period ends, and since sperm, as we just mentioned, can live in our body for some time, the egg could actually be fertilized.
You can get pregnant even if you’re not getting your period.
There are many reasons why women don't get their period, which can go from not having the best diet to malnutrition, stress, hormonal disorders, among others. The absence of monthly periods is called amenorrhea, which can mean you’re not ovulating and thus you can’t get pregnant, but there are other reasons that could be making your cycle irregular while still ovulating. If you haven't had your period for over a month, you have to see your doctor immediately to determine what’s going on with your body, and it’s really important to know that you can’t just trust your gut about pregnancy, and you always have to be careful, especially if you don’t want to get pregnant.
Your menstrual cycle can change over time.
Our menstrual cycle changes throughout our life. The changes in our body and our lifestyle (diet, hormone consumption, and stress, among other causes) can have an impact on how our body experiences the menstrual cycle. So, it’s possible to have regular periods and suddenly have irregular ones, or even that your period lasts longer or less than before. It’s actually a matter of evolution and adaptation. For that reason, it’s best not to base our contraceptive methods on a calendar or an app, but actually on something more stable and effective if you want to avoid getting pregnant.
As we mentioned before, most of the misunderstandings regarding menstruation come from the historical and social taboos attached to it. Because of that, it’s easy to fall for false facts that don't help us understand our own body better. The best thing we can do is get to know our body and how it works, not only to put an end to nonsensical taboos, but also to be able to explore our sexuality in a healthy way without putting ourselves at risk.
For more facts on your period take a look at these:
Images by: @jessdewahls