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Are you trying for a baby? If you are spending lots of money on ovulation tests, you don't need to. Here's how to determine when you are in your fertile window naturally.

Trying to conceive is incredibly exciting. It may also require more patience that you really have — it may take you months to get pregnant, and you wish you had a positive pregnancy test in your hands yesterday. You could, of course, decide to be laid-back about things, and just take folic acid, eat healthily, and let nature take its course. If that's so not you, and you tick more along the lines of obsessing over pregnancy signs before you even ovulate, you're probably spending money on stuff that supposedly helps you get pregnant faster.

The stuff you're spending money on could include urine ovulation tests, saliva kits, fertility charting services, and ovulation calendar apps.

You're right that knowing when you ovulate just may help you get pregnant faster, but you don't need money to determine your most fertile days. You can make your own ovulation calculator.

The Menstrual Cycle

You're probably familiar with this already, but we'll cover it anyway in case you missed something. Women who have never tried to conceive a baby or given it much thought typically think of their menstrual cycles simply in terms of periods. It's important to keep in mind that the menstrual cycle is all about getting you ready for pregnancy, though. The body grows a new endometrium or uterine lining from scratch each month, to provide a cushy environment for that potential fertilized egg. When no fertilized egg comes along, your body spring cleans your uterus and starts the whole process from the beginning.

The whole process is directed by a variety of hormones, controlled by the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and ovaries.

The menstrual cycle has two distinct phases. The first is the follicular or proliferating stage. This is the stage in which follicles mature, and one starts dominating and gets ready to be released during ovulation. The follicular stage begins on the first day of your menstrual flow — an event that generally lasts between four and six days. It is dominated by the hormone estrogen. Follicle Stimulating Hormone, FSH, also plays a role. The follicular phase continues until you ovulate. That process is triggered by Luteinizing Hormone, the hormone detected by commercial ovulation tests. Ovulation itself lasts between 12 and 24 hours. 

The second phase of the menstrual cycle is the luteal phase, which gets its name from the corpus luteum that forms from the dominant follicle after ovulation. The corpus luteum secretes progesterone, the hormone that dominates the second part of your cycle. If you do not get pregnant, the corpus luteum stops its estrogen production after around 10 days, and starts decaying. You will soon have your period.

In the event that you do get pregnant, the production of human Chorionic gonadotropin (hCG, the hormone pregnancy tests react to) in turn signals the corpus luteum to keep on producing progesterone. You will not experience menstrual flow, and will soon start having other pregnancy symptoms too. 

We'll take a look at how to find out how you ovulate and when you are in your fertile window on the next page.
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