Men always seem to be talking about how complicated women are. While we pretend to know ourselves inside and out, the truth is, the female body is super complicated, especially when estrogen and progesterone are constantly in flux! But learning your body’s various cycles is well worth the effort.
While you’re probably intimately familiar with your body’s menstruation cycle (especially the not-so-fun menstrual bleeding part when your uterine lining comes out), you may not know much about how progesterone, estrogen, and other hormones fluctuate. You might also have a lot of questions about your ovarian cycle (specifically the follicular phase). This phase initiates the shedding of your endometrium and marks the start of your most fertile time of the month. The follicular phase of your menstrual cycle occurs between the day menstruation starts and the initiation of your ovulation phase.
What Is the Follicular Phase?
During the early follicular phase, your body is hard at work creating primordial follicles surrounded by granulosa cells. Granulosa cells help guide the oocyte (also known as the egg) through its development cycle. They also produce LH receptors and steroids.
In the early follicular phase, there are many forming follicles surrounded by granulosa cells. As the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) rises, anywhere between five and seven ovarian follicles emerge (also known as a Graafian follicle or antral follicle). However, later on in the follicular phase, a single dominant follicle emerges. Your body also undergoes changes to prepare for ovulation, including producing more cervical mucus.
One possible reason for the emergence of a dominant follicle is that a single follicle expresses the highest amount of FSH receptors, which promote its growth. The dominant follicle will eventually form the corpus luteum, which is a structure that develops in the ovaries and releases an egg into the fallopian tube. This happens during the next phase of the menstrual cycle, which is the ovulatory phase. If an egg doesn’t implant during the ovulation phase, your body will go on to rid itself of your endometrium during the menstruation phase.
The luteal phase is the phase of your menstrual cycle that marks the beginning of ovulation and ends at the start of your next period. Estrogen levels once again rise sharply during the mid-luteal phase before dropping off as the menstrual cycle ends.
Even if your estrogen levels are normal, you need an optimal progesterone level during this phase. If you struggle to get pregnant, it could be because you have a luteal phase defect. This is insufficient progesterone production during the luteal phase. Progesterone is the dominant hormone in the latter part of the luteal phase. If progesterone levels are not high enough during the luteal phase, you may not be able to maintain a pregnancy.
Supporting Your Body With Wise Dietary Choices
To support your body and optimize estradiol hormone production during the follicular phase, you should try to eat phytoestrogen foods (such as pumpkin seeds, berries, and grains). These are estrogen-rich foods that can help support your body as it produces higher levels of estradiol.
How You Might Feel During the Follicular Phase
You may feel more energetic than usual during the follicular phase of your menstrual cycle, and your skin may take on a youthful glow. This is because estradiol and other reproductive hormones increase significantly while progesterone decreases. During the mid-follicular phase, a higher estrogen level gives you a nice mood boost and helps you feel more energetic. A decreased level of progesterone during this phase further enhances energy. When estrogen levels rise, they trigger the drop of FSH production.
Enjoy it while you can because you’re likely to feel less energetic or even become prone to headaches and nausea when your estrogen drops and progesterone levels increase as the corpus luteum releases an egg and triggers your ovulation phase.
What Does FSH Have to Do With the Follicular Phase?
While estrogen and progesterone fluctuate throughout your ovulation cycle, the main hormone in the follicular phase is the follicle stimulating hormone (also known as FSH). In women, this hormone begins to rise in the early follicular phase and stimulates the growth of eggs inside the ovaries. It also helps manage the menstrual cycle. The surge of FSH and luteinizing hormone (also known as LH) helps stimulate progesterone production in the corpus luteum.
FSH hormone is produced by the anterior pituitary gland and helps your body prepare for pregnancy. If your pituitary gland produces too much or too little FSH during the follicular phase of your menstrual cycle, you could experience infertility issues.
There are blood tests available that can reveal your FSH secretion levels at critical times during your menstrual cycle. For basic fertility testing, your doctor will likely recommend getting an FSH test on day 3 of your menstrual cycle. If you get an FSH test on the wrong day, you won’t be able to get an accurate insight into how fertile you are. This is because FSH levels vary naturally throughout your menstrual cycle.
If you have low FSH or luteinizing hormone levels, you may want to talk to your OBGYN about possible treatments. You may also be able to restore healthy FSH and luteinizing hormone levels on your own with help from Hertime, a natural supplement designed to help the body bring its female hormones into proper balance throughout the menstrual cycle.
How Long Is the Follicular Phase?
Normal follicular phase length is around 14 days. A healthy follicular phase length in young women of reproductive age is anywhere between 11-13 days. However, as women age, their follicular phase length becomes shorter. A short follicular phase could indicate that your ovaries are getting older and you’re approaching menopause.
A long follicular phase could mean it takes your body more time than usual to ovulate. But don’t worry; a longer cycle shouldn’t affect your ability to go through ovulation or get pregnant.
Can One Get Pregnant During the Follicular Phase?
There is a short window right at the end of your follicular phase and immediately before ovulation when you may be able to get pregnant from intercourse. Even though ovulation lasts a measly 12-24 hours, you actually have about six days to get pregnant because sperm can live approximately five days inside you. This is also known as the fertile window, and it’s about ten days to two weeks before your endometrium sloughs off and your period starts.
To increase your likelihood of detecting your body’s most fertile ovulation window, try using the basal body temperature method. To do this, track your basal temperature every morning before you get out of bed. Your temperature will rise right before you ovulate. That means your most fertile window is approximately two to three days before your temperature rises. You’ll need to track your basal body temperature for several months to detect your body’s specific pattern and get the timing of intercourse just right.
Get the Skinny on Hormone Balancing
Now that you’ve gotten to this point in the follicular phase guide, you understand that your body needs to maintain a precise balance of hormones to support pregnancy. It’s surprisingly easy for your hormone levels to get out of balance and mess up your most carefully laid plans. That’s where Hertime comes in. Made with safe and effective natural ingredients, Hertime supplements can help you experience healthy menstrual cycles and balanced hormones. It could be the key to supporting your body through the follicular phase and beyond.