Navigating Infertility: A Deeper Dive into the Menstrual Cycle

When I first embarked on my fertility journey, I realized how little I truly knew about my own body—especially when it came to the menstrual cycle. 

Sure, I remembered the basics from school. The good old Sex Education class. When I think back I remember a very vague overview of the female reproductive system and mastering the art of sliding a condom onto a banana, pinching the end of it and rolling it down as we all masked our embarrassment with nervous laughter.

We all made our jokes and god forbid we would ask a question with genuine interest. Well, I am sure I am not the only one from that sex education class who hit infertility issues later in life. Little did we know.

Starting Out Trying For a Baby

Many of us, including me, have gone through life knowing that you will get your period once a month. Your body is subject to that wonderful cycle all the way to menopause. Some are lucky to not get period pains, but many, myself included, have a monthly hit of the old painkillers, anti-inflammatories and rooting in the cupboards because the hot water bottle is lost again.

When you first start out trying for a baby, you go through all the usual articles of when is best to try and they say you want to try around ovulation. Now, thinking back to my education on the female reproductive system, I wasn't too sure as and when that would happen. No shame about that, I never looked into it and if you have no idea too, never fear, I am here!

So, with a quick go on our friend ‘the Google’. I found clear information that repeatedly says that you ovulate around 2 weeks before your next menstruation cycle and it usually happens once per month. Now that information is all well and good if you know exactly when your next period is, but at first, I had no idea because I had never thought to track.

So, I got myself a little tracking app. I tried out a few, but I landed on Femometer I went with this app because it had great reviews and it built up data over time so I could track more accurately.

Fun Fact Day one of your period is actually day one of your cycle. I always thought it was the last days of the cycle. Nope.

Locking in when your ovulation happens is pretty key to making sure you do your “baby dancing” at the right time, but it is also good to note that ovulation can last around 16 to 36 hours and that is your window. So you will want to have your ‘sexual relations fun’ around that time.

I then wanted to know more about what to look for when you are ovulating and there are a few fun things to check.

First, Pee sticks! I used MomMed

But other things the articles state to look out for are:

  • Changes in Cervical fluid
  • Increase in basal body temperature
  • Tender breasts
  • Increased sex drive

and there are a few more, here is one of many sources

I spent my first year tracking ovulation on my pee sticks and doing the baby dance. Being over 30 years of age, we decided to seek out help as our best efforts were not working.

Fertility Fun

We sat with the gynaecologist listening to her break down a 3D model. Thrust into a crash course of the female reproductive system.  Where was this fancy 3D thing back in the day? Sure did beat a PowerPoint image. 

I joke, but I never thought it would be so overwhelming.

Suddenly, terms like “follicular phase”, "luteal phase", “follicle count”, and “ovarian size” became part of my everyday vocabulary. I found myself diving headfirst into the complexities of reproductive health, eager to understand every bit of the menstrual cycle and its impact on my fertility.

Sounds like an adventure you say? It was! A difficult one as I had to embark on this learning quest in a language that was not my own, Italian.

Understanding the menstrual cycle wasn't just about cramming my brain with facts; it was about taking back the reins of my own body. Delving into the nitty-gritty of my reproductive system, I started seeing it less like some cryptic puzzle and more like a machine that wasn't quite as “well-oiled” as it should have been at my age, where every phase and hormone had its crucial part to play in the big picture.

Get Informed

Gaining insight into the menstrual cycle didn't miraculously erase the stress and anxiety of dealing with infertility, but it definitely made it more manageable. 

Armed with knowledge (and how to say all of it in Italian), I felt better equipped in discussions with healthcare providers. Instead of feeling like a passive observer, over time I started taking an active role in my fertility journey. Before, I just let them talk. But, it was a weight off my shoulders when I was confident enough to ask questions. 

Why am I telling you that? Because I started with no clue about the monthly cycle and reproduction and it was daunting! When given options I had no idea what to choose. It gave me anxiety and I felt like a spectator as professionals made decisions. 

If you get informed from the off, then you will know what they are talking about when they throw words at you like follicles, the perfect thickness of uterine lining, ovarian size, maturity of eggs and so on.

For example, I know that men could “fire blanks” but I never knew women could too! I never new you could have follicles grown and not fire an egg at the time of ovulation!

Now, I cannot go into the inner workings of the reproductive system here for you, I would recommend you do that research yourself. But I can give you a whirlwind tour so you aren't reading this post forever.

The Basics:

  • It's like a monthly check-in with our reproductive system, making sure everything's running smoothly and ready for potential baby-making action.

Phases of the Cycle:
Now, let's break it down. The menstrual cycle has a few key phases, each with its role to play.

  • The follicular phase is where our ovaries start gearing up follicles to release an egg.
  • Then ovulation, when that egg is mature enough to be released and potentially meet some sperm.
  • Finally, the luteal phase where your uterine lining thickens to provide a cosy cushion just in case an embryo decides to stick and start a pregnancy.


  • Ah, hormones. Throughout the menstrual cycle, our hormone levels go on a rollercoaster ride, rising and falling with some sudden vertical drops.
  • Estrogen, progesterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) (follicles increase and egg matures), luteinizing hormone (LH)  (After ovulation the uterine lining will start to thicken) Hence the ‘follicular phase’ and the ‘luteal phase’


  • Of course, we can't forget about menstruation itself. When that egg doesn't meet its match, it's time for the uterus to shed its lining and start fresh for the next cycle.
  • Cramps come from the uterine contractions that are needed to start shedding that uterine lining.
  • and you see here it comes low on the list as if it is the last part of the cycle. Which in theory it is, but the first day of your period is the first day of a new cycle. 

Variations and Issues:

  • No two cycles are exactly alike, and that's normal.
  • Sometimes, things might be a bit amiss. Irregular cycles, heavy bleeding, painful periods— these can all be signs (Not always, but can be) that something's not quite right and might need a closer look from a healthcare provider. So be sure to check if that sounds familiar.

So there you have it—a whirlwind tour of the menstrual cycle, straight from my perspective. You may think you already know this stuff but this is the basic overview. Each element is so intricate. 

A Science Experiment

Perhaps the most eye-opening aspect of my journey was realising just how comprehensive fertility testing can be. It's not just about pinpointing one potential issue, it's about examining every aspect of reproductive health, from hormone levels to fallopian tube health to uterine abnormalities. By undergoing endless tests, I gained a deeper understanding of my own body and its unique challenges, paving the way for a more personalised treatment plan.

I found treating it as a science experiment helped. Not diving in with all of my emotions. If a problem arises, let's look logically at solutions and see where we go from there. Problems, solutions and outcomes. It helps me rein in my emotions as it is very easy to go down the emotional path of “why me” and blame myself.

In the end, my journey through infertility has been a rollercoaster of emotions, but with my little science experiment approach, it's also been a journey of self-discovery and resilience. 

Did you have an approach to your fertility treatment that helped you?