Unplanned Pregnancy: Understand Your Body

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Currently, almost half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned or unintended. -Guttmacher Institute 

Let’s change that statistic.

Since the beginning of time, women’s bodies were designed to create life. Understanding your bodies and our cycles will enhance your quality of life by enhancing your understanding of yourself. If you understand how your body works, you will be one step ahead of facing an unplanned pregnancy. Did you know a female egg only survives around 24 hours or less once it is released from the ovary? Did you know sperm can live in a woman up to 5 days?

You may have heard the term ‘cycle’. A women’s cycle refers to the entire menstruation cycle– from the first day of your last period to the first day of your next period. An average cycle is 28 days. When you menstruate, your body sheds the lining of the uterus. That’s where the blood comes from. While this is definitely not a fun process, it’s necessary to keep your body healthy if a pregnancy does not occur. The time when the lining of the uterus is being shed is referred to as a menstrual ‘period’ and it usually lasts 3-5 days. Some women may have bleeding for up to a week.

Having a menstrual cycle and a menstrual period is a good thing! It means your body is doing its job of regulating your hormones and keeping you healthy.

During the first half of your cycle (remember, a cycle is calculated from the first day of your last period to the first day of your next period) your estrogen levels begin to rise. Estrogen is an essential female hormone. While your estrogen levels are rising, your body is maturing an egg in your ovaries. Typically this egg is released halfway through a women’s cycle, around day 14. This process is called ovulation.

When you ovulate, you are more susceptible to pregnancy. You can become pregnant if your released egg is fertilized by a man’s sperm cell. The fertilized egg (called a zygote) needs to then attach to the uterine wall. If it is not fertilized or does not attach, it will break apart and be released during your next menstrual period.

Some women may think they can only get pregnant during the 12-24 hour window they have a released egg from the ovary (after ‘ovulation’). This is however, a common misconception. Because male sperm cells can live up to 5 days inside a female, you could become pregnant five days before or occasionally 2 days after ovulation. This means women are fertile for around SEVEN DAYS each cycle.

Understanding how your body works, especially your menstrual cycle, will help prevent unplanned pregnancies in your life. If you do not want a pregnancy at this stage in your life, become familiar to when you are fertile and when you are not. Remember, anytime there is sex involved there is an opportunity for pregnancy.

Things to Remember:

  • Women’s bodies are designed to create life
  • A menstrual cycle is typically around 28 days long
  • Ovulation occurs around day 14, halfway through your cycle
  • Sperm can live in a woman up to 5 days
  • Women are fertile approximately 7 days each cycle
  • Understand your body and help fight unplanned pregnancies!

Want more information? Visit Womenshealth.org to learn more about your body and your menstrual cycle.