Sunday, March 27, 2011

Be The Expert When It Comes To Your Body: Fertility and Reproductive Awareness

Jeopardy for Reproductive Health Awareness!
We had a great class size- about 35-40 women of all different nationalities.
 On Friday, I taught a class in Jabriya, Kuwait to about 35-40 women on Reproductive Health - not just the process that takes place each month in our bodies, but how we can recognize the physiological and emotional signs that accompany these regular changes. Women are responsible for passing on and sharing correct information with their daughters and friends to stop the perpetuation of misinformation.

Each month during your reproductive years, your monthly cycle is triggered by a series of hormonal processes. You can remember these by the acronym: FELOP. First, FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) begins an egg race in your ovaries and your Estrogen levels begin to rise. When a certain threshold of Estrogen is reached (between 8-30 days) the Luteinizing Hormone (LH Surge) causes the winning egg (the most developed) to burst through the ovarian wall, shedding and leaving behind it's lining (the Corpus Luteum) on the ovarian wall- this is ovulation! The egg in the pelvic cavity is swept along by the fimbria into the fallopian tubes. Meanwhile, the Corpus Luteum produces Progesterone (which prevents the release of other eggs during that cycle, causes the uterine lining- or endometrium, to thicken and sustain itself, and causes the three primary signs of fertility to change). The ovulated egg only stays alive for about 24 hours before it is reabsorbed if it is not fertilized. The Corpus Luteum has a finite lifespan of approximately 12-16 days, after which it dissolves, stops producing progesterone, and causes the lining of the uterus to shed itself. Estrogen levels once again begin to rise and the cycle begins again.

If you are trying to get pregnant, the egg is usually fertilized in the lower third of the fallopian tubes. After about a week, the fertilized egg makes it's way into the uterus and embeds itself on the uterine wall, sending a message to the Corpus Luteum to stay alive for several more months until the placenta is developed enough to produce the Progesterone needed to sustain the pregnancy.

There are three primary signs of fertility (secondary signs might include mood changes, pain in the ovaries, or other personal changes that you are able to track each month). The first is a shift in temperature - Progesterone is a heat inducing hormone and you will notice an increase of a degree or so in your waking basal temperature after you have ovulated. This is essential for tracking how long your Luteal (post-ovulatory) phase lasts- must be at least 10 days for egg to implant itself safely on the uterine wall. It will not alert you to ovulation before it occurs- so you can not rely on it alone to get pregnant.

The second primary sign of fertility is changes in cervical fluid. During the estrogenic phase of your cycle, you may observe that when you wipe your vagina, there is sticky, crumbly, whitish or rubbery fluid on your tissue. As you get closer to ovulation, you will notice an increase in the wetness of the fluid. During your peak fertile days, your cervical fluid will be egg-white like: clear, stretchy and wet. This cervical fluid is a female's equivalent to male semen- and creates a safe and nourishing medium for the sperm to travel through the usually acidic vagina safely to the fallopian tubes where it can fertilize the egg. Fertile cervical fluid is a protein substance, much like real egg-whites, and incases where women have produced little fertile cervical fluid- real egg whites have been used to increase their fertility. Women in their 20's usually experience 4-5 days of fertile cervical fluid (which can allow the sperm to live for up to 5 days inside the woman as it waits for that egg to ovulate!) while women in their 30's usually only experience 1-2 days of fertile cervical fluid. After you have ovulated and are no longer fertile, your vagina will usually feel dry or you will have drier (crumbly, rubbery) fluid again.

The third primary sign of fertility is the change in the position of your cervix (the opening to your uterus, located at the top of your vagina). Normally the cervix is low, closed, firm (like the top of your nose) and somewhat dry. When you are ovulating, your cervix will raise up towards your uterus and become shortened, open, soft (like your lips) and very moist- as it is in your cervical glands that fertile cervical fluid is produced!

By tracking and following these signs of fertility you will know when and if you are ovulating- which can help you prevent or achieve pregnancy, be able to anticipate when hormonal changes are taking place and what kinds of emotional changes they might trigger (understanding why and when you will feel a certain way can help you to cope with certain changes), and help you to be the expert on what is going on with your own body!


  1. I found it very enlightening when I started charting when I was getting pregnant with Sammi. I wouldn't have been able to "time" things right at all since while I have a 28-30 day cycle, my Luteal phase is only 10 days.

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