An average woman’s menstrual cycle is around 28 days long, although very few women have cycles that are exactly 28 days long. Women’s cycles vary vastly, and the best indicator of menstrual cycle health for that woman is cycles of similar length. When a woman’s cycles are irregular, she has a difficult time anticipating when she is ovulating, so she cannot estimate her fertile days.
A woman’s menstrual cycle starts on the first day of her period, which is when her body sheds the uterine lining and unfertilized egg from the previous cycle. Once her period is over, the woman’s ovaries produce a mature egg, which is then released from the ovary into the fallopian tubes. After the egg has been released from the ovary, it can survive for around 24 hours. In order for a cycle to result in a successful pregnancy, the egg must be fertilized soon after it is released. Sperm can survive inside a woman’s cervix and uterus for up to a week, so it helps for a woman to know when she ovulates in order to time sexual activity.
A woman can be considered fertile for the seven days before she ovulates. Therefore, if a woman has a shorter cycle, she is considered to be fertile for a larger percentage of her cycle than a woman with a longer cycle. For example, a woman with a 21-day (three-week) cycle is fertile for approximately one-third of the entire cycle, whereas a woman with a five-week-long cycle is only fertile for one-fifth of each cycle.
Statistically, it seems as if the women with shorter cycles have an advantage when it comes to trying to conceive. Those women tend to also be lucky in another way; their menstrual periods also tend to be shorter. Women who have very short cycles may have problems when it comes to fertility, though. When a woman ovulates after a very short period of maturation in the ovary, the hormonal cues in the woman’s body may not have enough time to adapt and change throughout the cycle. Therefore, that woman’s hormones may not be at levels high enough to maintain and develop a pregnancy. If a woman is concerned that her short cycles are responsible for her lack of ability to conceive, she should see her OB/GYN in order to have her hormones assessed. From there, the woman can discuss options with her doctor in order to create more hormonal balance throughout her cycle.
Women with short cycles can maximize their chances of conceiving by having sexual intercourse continuously throughout her cycle, so as not to miss her time of ovulation, since it may come earlier than anticipated in the cycle. If she finds that her cervical mucus is not thin or plentiful enough, or it does not have the “egg white” texture considered to be the ideal consistency, she can use sperm-friendly lubricant to help carry the sperm into her cervix. A short cycle does not preclude successfully conceiving a child, and can actually aid in conceiving quickly!