What does Follicular Phase of Menstrual Cycle Tell about Your Fertility?
The menstrual cycle of a woman is a series of natural changes her body undergoes every month to prepare her for pregnancy. The uterus grows a new lining that store eggs for fertilization if there are no eggs, the uterus shed its lining. This process starts from early teens till the period ends around at the age of 50.
To be brief, there are three phases in menstrual cycle
1. Menstrual Phase
When the thickened lining of the uterus begins to shed, it means you will get bleeding from the vagina for 3-7 days with the feeling of cramp. It ranges from mild to severe and depends from woman to woman.
2. Follicular Phase
In this phase, the egg follicle, that secretes hormones, prepare itself to release an egg. Normally, one egg is released per cycle.
This process may be long and short that defines the duration of your menstrual cycle. While at the same time, uterus starts growing a new lining.
3. Luteal or premenstrual Phase
This phase is the beginning of ovulation which is the day when the egg is released from the egg follicle onto the ovary. It can occur anytime from 7th to 22nd day of a normal menstrual cycle.
What is the role of Follicles?
Follicles play an essential role in the menstrual cycle. It nourishes oocyte (a cell in the ovary) to turn into a reproductive cell. The follicles release essential hormones such as estradiol and inhibin B. These hormones then signals the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to begin the process of ovulation.
Several follicles set out on this race while only one or two would reach full maturity i.e. develop into an ovum. It might be possible that several follicles might develop and reach up to the ovulatory stage.
Follicles also transform into corpus luteum, a yellow endocrine tissue, which is responsible for releasing hormones estrogen and progesterone.
What are Antral Follicles and what is their relation with fertility?
During the follicular phase, the follicles in the tertiary stage get recruited to begin the process of development leading them to ovulation. In this phase, the follicle gains antrum, a fluid filled with cavity. Follicles that have antrum are called antral follicles.
These follicles can be seen in ultrasound while the researchers have found that more the number of active antral follicles, the more the chances of a potential number of eggs. Still, it is unknown how many follicles are there in a menstruating woman but when there are few antral follicles developing in the ovaries in a woman, her ovaries reserves might be low.
Antral follicles have the potential to produce higher levels of hormones known as anti-mullerian (AMH), as against normal follicles. This hormone circulates in a woman’s blood. With Antral Follicle Count (AFC) test, doctors can determine the number of antral follicles and evaluate your ovarian reserves, your primary ovarian insufficiency and finally tell you about your chances of fertility.
For woman undergoing IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization) treatment, the doctors stimulate ovaries to mature these follicles. This increases the chance of pregnancy for a woman who cannot conceive naturally.