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What is a menstrual cycle? (and 7 other things to know about your period while TTC)

The menstrual cycle is a two-part process. Here's everything you need to know.

What is a menstrual cycle? (and 7 other things to know about your period while TTC)

Okay, we know. You've already had “the talk." You get the gist of how this whole getting pregnant thing works. But if you're still a little unclear about your menstrual cycle, you're not alone. A lot of women have questions about their cycles! So before we start talking about making babies, let's look at the process that enables it to happen in the first place.

What is the menstrual cycle?

All month long, a lining of blood develops inside your uterus, so that if you become pregnant, the fertilized egg has a nice place to implant and start to grow. When you don't become pregnant, that lining sheds. And that is your period.

The first day of your period is day one of your cycle. Periods last about three to seven days. The cramping you may experience during your period is actually your uterus contracting to ease the blood out. It's the same type of contractions that happen when you give birth… but we'll talk about those contractions in a few months.

How long is the menstrual cycle?

The menstrual cycle usually lasts anywhere from 21 to 35 days, and it's normal for this number to vary from month to month.

The menstrual cycle is a two-part process

Your cycle is made up of two phases: The follicular phase (before you ovulate) and the luteal phase (after you ovulate).

What is the follicular phase?

The first phase of your menstrual cycle is named after the oh-so-important hormone follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). FSH is produced by the pituitary gland in your brain, and its job is to make the follicles in your ovaries grow.

While several follicles grow, one will eventually become the dominant follicle (you go, girl), and that becomes the egg that will be released during ovulation.

As these follicles grow, they produce and release estrogen, which helps make the uterine blood lining and causes some changes in your cervical mucus, which allows it to help the sperm reach their final destination.

What is the LH surge?

When your estrogen level reaches a certain tipping point, your luteinizing hormone (LH) will surge (this is appropriately known as your LH surge). This causes that dominant follicle, or egg, to be released. This is ovulation. You may actually be able to feel ovulation, but many women don't.

Psst: For signs of ovulation, check this article out.

Now you've probably heard that you ovulate on day 14 of your cycle. And you might! Sometimes. Confused? Mother nature is tricky like that.

The follicular phase (leading up to ovulation) varies in length for many women. So one month you may ovulate on day 13, then the next month on day 16—and this can be very normal. What does not usually change is the length of luteal phase, the phase after ovulation. This is why charting your cycles is so important.

What is the luteal phase?

After the egg is released (ovulation), it survives for 12 to 24 hours. If a sperm reaches the egg during that window, pregnancy is a distinct possibility (fingers crossed). Over the course of five to six days, the egg travels through your fallopian tube toward the uterus. The corpus luteum (the egg's former home) releases progesterone and estrogen as the egg travels (progesterone helps make the uterus an even nicer place for a fertilized egg to grow). If the egg is not fertilized it will start to shrink, which decreases the hormones it's putting out. This drop in hormones causes your period.

What is conception?

If the egg is fertilized by a sperm (woohoo, your baby is made!), at the moment of conception, DNA from the egg and the sperm begin to combine to make your baby.

Welcome home, baby

After a journey down into your uterus, the newly formed human will burrow itself into your uterine lining (this is called implantation). It will continue to produce progesterone and estrogen, as well as human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG)—this is the hormone that pregnancy tests detect.

And if this happens… well, if this happens, we have a lot more to talk about.

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14 sweet 'just thinking of you' gifts for every mama

A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs.

Who says you have to wait for birthdays or holidays to give your bestie a great gift? A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs in these more-than-trying times. We've rounded up some of our favorite go-to gifts that are certain to be a bright spot in her week. But be warned, you may want to snag a few for yourself. (You deserve it, mama.)

Here are some our favorite "just because" gifts to give our hardworking mama friends.

New Mother face + body care duo

volition face + body care duo

This correcting oil and stretch mark minimizer is perfect for the pregnant mama looking to keep her pregnancy glow. The correcting oil brightens the skin while reducing dark spots, and the stretch mark minimizer works to smooth her ever-growing belly.

$70

Allover roller

esker allover roller

This jade roller goes beyond your typical face roller and can be used anywhere on the body. It works to increase stimulation and reduce puffiness and is perfect for applying any oils to the face or body. Plus, it feels like a mini spa treatment.

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Kombucha making kit

farmsteady kombucha making kit

What could be a more perfect gift for the health-obsessed friend? This kombucha making kit comes with everything you need to brew your own homemade green tea kombucha. They'll think this is the tastiest gift ever.

$45

Laetitia lipstick

cupid & psyche laetitia

This red lipstick is perfect for your makeup enthusiast bestie who is looking to spruce up her life in quarantine. Crafted in the United States, these bee and vegan-friendly and cruelty-free lipsticks are created to flatter all complexions. Cupid and Psyche Beauty makes finding the perfect red lip way too easy!

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Jigsaw puzzle

inner piecec jigsaw puzzle

Mamas need to destress now more than ever during quarantine. This adorable jigsaw puzzle is perfect for the mama who needs a brain break! The 500-piece puzzle designed by artist Ray Oranges features an abstract gradient design that fits a standard frame when completed. Bonus: It's printed on recycled paper and the company donates $1 from every puzzle sold to youth mindfulness programs.

$30

Matilda's Bloombox

matilda's bloombox

If we have to be stuck inside, we might as well have some gorgeous florals to brighten up the space. Matilda's Bloombox locally sources blooms, delivers them to her door and provides simple tips on how to arrange it into a beautiful bouquet.

$39

'I Am Enough' bracelet

I Am Enough bracelet

Let this dainty bracelet serve as a constant reminder to your bestie that she is enough. She'll wear this on her wrist and read this daily oath to herself, "I Am Enough."

$35

Glow assorted teas

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This tea gift box set covers the entire spectrum of flavors from sweet to spicy. Individually packaged in beautiful tins, your gal pal will feel like a queen sipping her morning tea. Originally $40, this set is currently on sale for just $24. We'll take two, please.

$24

Find your voice journal

find your voice journal

Journaling is a great way to ease anxiety and will slow your bestie's racing mind before bed. This gift is perfect for first time journalists and includes prompts, daily quotes and coloring pages to help her unlock her potential and find her voice.

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Premium frother

shore magic premium frother

This gift is fitting for your latte-sipping bestie who can't go a day without her coffee. All she has to do is add two scoops of collagen to her favorite drink, and she'll have a perfectly foamy drink ready in seconds. Skipping the drive-thru line has never been so easy!

$25

Bath soak infusion kit

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Say hello to hydration! She'll be feeling smooth and relaxed as ever after a long bath soaking in these salts. This vegan + cruelty-free set incorporates dead sea salt and dehydrated coconut milk powder for an ultra hydrating experience.

$32

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

It's a hard-earned title she answers to a hundred times per day. Whether she's new to the club or a seasoned professional, this delicate script 'mama' necklace is guaranteed to be a perfect fit.

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Superfood honey

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With a lack of sleep and jam-packed days, getting through the afternoon can be a real challenge. Send her a powerful pick-me-up in the form of a therapeutic blend of royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and raw honey. It makes the ideal companion for tea, smoothies, yogurt or even on its on.

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Calming midnight mask with melatonin

Who doesn't deserve a reminder to pamper themself every once in awhile? Even better, this mask does all its work at night while you're sleeping with no extra effort needed. It's an amazing plant-powered antioxidant-packed mask that has melatonin, wild dandelion leaf and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate, repair and reset facial skin. It's so good, you might want to gift it to yourself. We won't tell, mama.

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5 brilliant products that encourage toddler independence

Help your little one help themselves.

One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

EKOBO bamboo 4-piece kid set

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Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

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Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

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Lorena Canals basket

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BABYBJÖRN step stool

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We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Two weeks. I cannot believe that it has been two weeks since my second son was brought into this world. Two weeks since my husband and I welcomed baby Simon, the final piece of our little family.

But, here is the whopper: It has been two weeks since I have been the mom of a toddler and a newborn. I am now responsible for taking care of two tiny humans.

It absolutely blows my mind how much my life has changed in the last two weeks. It's definitely not all rainbows and unicorns around here, but things are going pretty well. This is me being cautiously optimistic.

What I have done is learned a lot about myself, my kids and my new life in the last two weeks.

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