Understanding the female cycle

If you’ve made the exciting decision to try to have a baby, one of the first things you should do is ensure you understand the menstrual cycle.

The menstrual cycle is divided into three phases, the follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase.

calculate my fertile days

Menstrual cycle timeline


The three phases of ovulation

Ovarian follicles can be thought of as tiny little cases in the ovaries that hold immature eggs. Many of the two million eggs women are born with are reabsorbed by the body during childhood, so by the time of puberty, women are left with around 400,000 to 500,000 eggs.

Hormones trigger follicles to grow during the follicular phase. In a natural cycle, normally only one dominant follicle goes on to mature fully and release an egg.

Ovulation occurs when the dominant follicle ruptures to release an egg which is then collected by the fimbrial end of the fallopian tube and delivered into the tube.

Some women can tell they’re ovulating when they experience symptoms such as breast tenderness, heavier and more opaque vaginal discharge, and a feeling of tightness in the abdomen, whilst others have no symptoms.

Those trying to conceive sometimes keep temperature charts or use apps to indicate when they have ovulated, others purchase ovulation kits and test their urine.

Across the population, the luteal phase lasts for a fairly consistent 14 days.

During this time, the uterine lining (endometrium) develops to receive a fertilised egg. If conception doesn’t happen, the lining sheds and women experience a period.

The conditions for a true period to occur (full bleed, not spotting) require a rise and fall in hormone levels which happens with the progression of ovulation.

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Check when you're next ovulating

Knowing when you or your partner ovulates will help you time intercourse to increase your chance of conception. As sperm can live at their healthiest inside a woman for two to five days, you’re more likely to conceive when you have intercourse on, or around one to two days before ovulation.

Ovulation Calculator

Increase your chance of getting pregnant by determining when you are most fertile

Enter the date of the first day of your previous 3 periods.

Most recent:

Second most recent:

Third most recent:

Please select dates to continue.

Based on the data from your last three periods, your next most fertile days will be in


Frequently Asked Questions

Have sex one to two days before ovulation and during ovulation. 

Typically, a woman has a 28 day cycle and ovulates on day 14.

Sperm can live at their healthiest inside a woman for two to five days.

An egg lives for only a few hours after ovulation.

The key is to look out for changes in your cervical secretions. After your period you can feel quite dry for a day or so and then get a sticky, whitish type of secretion. Then, leading into ovulation, the secretion from your vagina will change to a clear, sticky, mucus-like discharge - a bit like egg white.