These are the basics; see your midwife for more detailed information or if you have irregular cycles.
Consider your first day of menstrual bleeding as Day 1 of your cycle. During the week or so of your period, your body sheds the uterine lining it had grown the month before to nurture a pregnancy.
For about the next 3 days, your uterus will build a new lining in preparation for this cycle’s egg. You’ll notice either minimal or sticky vaginal mucus.
Approximately 10 days into your cycle, you’ll notice your vaginal mucus is thinner and more slippery, a consistency more amenable to swimming sperm.
Roughly around Day 14, you will ovulate, or release an egg.
An egg is only viable for 24 hours, but sperm can live in the female reproductive tract for 3-5 days.
Thus, to prevent pregnancy, avoid unprotected intercourse the few days before ovulation and the day after. To conceive, have unprotected intercourse during this time.
If sperm does not meet egg during this window, the ovum will be re-absorbed by your body and your uterus prepare to shed once more. You will notice a normal period approximately two weeks after ovulation.
If conception occurred, the fertilized ovum will implant into your uterus and the hormonal changes of pregnancy will begin. You will have no bleeding at all or scant bleeding inconsistent with your normal menstrual flow.
The exact timing of the events of the menstrual cycle can differ from woman to woman and even from month to month, but the overall pattern — shedding, rebuilding, ovulation, shedding — will be the same.
To obtain even more information about the specific day you ovulate, you can use a thermometer to take your temperature upon waking, before you get out of bed, each day. Your temperature will rise the day after you ovulate. Another option is to use over-the-counter ovulation predictor kits. These kits detect a hormone in your urine that peaks in the day or two prior to ovulation.
Most women under 40 who regularly have unprotected sex during their fertile days will become pregnant within 6 months; most of the rest will conceive within one year.