Ask any husband, he knows when that time of the month has come.
His wife becomes grumpy, irritable, and says things she wouldn’t dream of saying two weeks prior.
Her emotions fluctuate and he can’t keep up. She sweetly asks him to go check the mailbox, and when he returns, she is crying and doesn’t want to talk to him. What changed, he wonders.
I see all you men reading this nodding your heads. Don’t worry, I hear you, brothers. I am here for you.
I think we guys need to look briefly at the biology of the fertility cycle to understand a bit about what is going on hormonally for women. We brothers must unite. Knowledge is power.
THE FERTILITY CYCLE
An ignorance of the natural fertility cycle of women seems to be commonplace, even among practicing Catholics. I have heard countless stories of both husbands and wives, saying freedom was found in learning the rhythm of the menstrual cycle.
Seemingly every diocese requires engaged couples to gain an understanding of the woman’s cycle before their wedding by receiving instruction. However, there remain some out there who are unaware, so help them out.
Common knowledge says women menstruate once a month, and this is commonly called a ‘period.’ Since it is the most commonly known aspect of the cycle (notice, I didn’t attribute that to the PMS, ladies), it helps that we can mention it first.
When her bleeding begins, this marks the beginning of her fertility cycle.
The bleeding usually lasts a few days, as her body is shedding the lining (the endometrium) of her uterus. The endometrium is a soft membrane inside the walls of the uterus. It thickens and thins, depending on the time of the cycle.
A fertility cycle for a woman varies in length, depending on the person. The cycle typically lasts about 28 days—hence the close association with the period occurring once a month. For the sake of our description, we will use a 28-day cycle.
So, for the first five days, give or take, the woman is menstruating. When this ends, the endometrium is at its lowest point, as its contents have just been shed from the body. It then slowly builds up over the next few weeks, peaking around day 25 or so.
The significance is that the endometrium swells up, trying to create a lush, fertile environment, in anticipation that fertility occurred.
Meanwhile, the ovaries produce a hormone, called progesterone. This is an important hormone for sustaining a pregnancy so the baby can live. If the progesterone is too low, then the endometrium may not be fertile enough when implantation does occur, causing a miscarriage.
Notice that the progesterone is low before ovulation (on day 14—when the egg is released from an ovary), but quickly its levels rise afterward. This makes sense, given its role. This hormone signals the endometrium to swell up, in anticipation of their possibly being a fertilizing egg soon coming to implant in the uterus.
If implantation did not occur, then the high levels of progesterone tell the uterus to contract the endometrium, and to pass its contents out of the body (this is period your wife gets once a month or so).
In other words, guys, if conception did not occur, then this is the time when your wife likely wants nothing to do with you. She might be PMS-ing; just be patient.
Don’t take it personally.
As you can see from the chart, the level of estrogen (sometimes called ostrogen) varies wildly. Since this is one hormone tied closely to a woman’s control of emotions, this is partly to blame for her mood swings. Now you guys know what to blame.
But, gentlemen, do not be cursing estrogen because it is also responsible for your wife’s sex drive. Notice in the chart that it begins to rev up a few days before ovulation.
This spike in estrogen is also by God’s design. It purposely comes a few days before ovulation.
Take advantage, gentlemen, as this is window will become your favorite time of the month. In these few days you are most likely to find your wife more friendly to your advances. You become desirable, as her body is pumping other hormones as well as pheromones, trying to draw you together into the conjugal embrace.
Engaging in the conjugal act even once in the three to five days before ovulation means conception will likely occur—God willing.
Not pictured in the chart so well is another important component of the cycle. The uterus contains mucus that thins out or thickens, depending on where in the progression the woman find herself.
The mucus thins out and actually creates channels for the sperm to swim up, to make it easier to get to the egg. This thinning out occurs when the estrogen levels are high.
On the opposite end of the cycle, the mucus is thickest. The mucus can even work to block sperm at this time. Since there is no egg to be fertilized, your wife’s body recognizes this at that time.
The ovaries take turns releasing an egg each cycle. The egg is the female sex cell. If united with a sperm cell, the male sex cell, a new human being is formed.
After the egg is released, it can live for 12-24 hours. Knowing this, the uterus actually has the capability of helping to preserve sperm for up to five days or so, to increase the window of opportunity for fertilization to occur.
This means that a husband and wife can engage in the conjugal act on Day 10 (in the example of the chart), and still conceive. Some of the sperm cells would be waiting at the end of the fallopian tube, next to the ovary, waiting for an egg to be released.
If there, and if God’s will, one lucky sperm will unite with that egg to form a new human person. God will fuse with a soul at the moment of conception.
If conception did occur, then this one-cell human person will begin to grow, doubling in size over and over, while tumbling down the fallopian tube, until it implants in the uterus a couple days later.
We guys do play a role in the conception of our children. Hey, we even get to decide the gender of the baby. Since a woman’s DNA is X-X, she will always pass on an X chromosome to the baby. However, since we men each have an X-Y, it is 50-50 whether we will pass on an X or a Y chromosome to our child. That’s a big responsibility for us men, don’t you agree, ladies?
THE COOLEST PART
Notice that there seems to be a method to this madness. Despite the woman’s hormone levels fluctuating day-to-day, there is a rhythm to it. Dare I say, there is a grand design behind it all—thanks be to God.
To recap, the estrogen spikes a few days before ovulation, when the conjugal act on any of those days can result in conception. Meanwhile, the mucus was thinned out and highways for the sperm were created inside the uterus, to try to help the sperm get to the egg.
The endometrium begins to thicken in anticipation that conception did occur, knowing the baby will need a lush, nutrient-dense landing spot, when it enters the uterus. The baby will nestle into this area, attaching him or herself, and continue to grow from there.
Pretty cool stuff, if you ask me. I find it fascinating how this all works together.
Granted, I did not cover every hormone affected in the fertility cycle, but I wanted to highlight the ones I find most interesting.
In the next post, I intend to explore how the birth control pill attempts to destroy God’s wonderful design.
Guys, are you encouraged by this? Are you going to pay closer attention to your wife, to see if you can pick up on any of this?
And ladies, have your husband read this post. If he becomes more empathetic to your emotional roller coaster, you can thank me with a comment below.