Understanding Your Cycle and How Likely You Are To Be Pregnant

Nothing can produce anxiousness quite like wondering if you are pregnant. If it is too early for a pregnancy test, you have probably scanned your calendar or checked your cycle tracking App and compared it with your menstrual cycle thinking back over the past couple of weeks and tried to determine the odds of an unplanned pregnancy.

Knowledge is power, and learning about your cycle empowers you to make reproductive choices that are best for your life. Read on to learn more about understanding how your menstrual cycle works and how likely you are to be pregnant.

Understanding Your Cycle

Your “cycle” is a hormonal process your body goes through each month to prepare for a possible pregnancy. The length of your cycle is measured from the first day of your period to the day before your next period.

The average length of a woman’s cycle is 28 days, but it can vary from 21 days to 35 days. There are four phases to your menstrual cycle, and they include:

1. Menstrual Phase

The menstrual phase of your cycle is when you have your period. Your progesterone levels drop, and your uterus sheds the lining that was prepared for a pregnancy that did not occur. The menstrual phase typically lasts between three and seven days.

2. Follicular Phase

The follicular phase is about the first half of your cycle: it usually lasts from ten to seventeen days. It starts on the first day of your period and ends when you ovulate. Ovulation marks the time when one of your ovaries releases an egg and is part of the next phase of your cycle.

3. Ovulatory Phase

The ovulatory phase is the only time when you can become pregnant. This is the time in your cycle that the follicular phase has been preparing for – ovulation. Ovulation occurs about fourteen days before your next period begins. Once an egg is released, it has up to 24 hours to be fertilized in the fallopian tube.

An important thing to know about the ovulatory phase is that your sex drive will be at its highest. This noticeable change is due to several hormones that are released as nature’s way to increase the chance of pregnancy if sperm were present in the fallopian tube at the same time as an egg.

4. Luteal Phase

The luteal phase is the second half of your cycle. It starts after ovulation as the egg begins to travel through the fallopian tube on its way to the uterus, and it ends when your next period starts.

Understanding Your Cycle and How Likely You Are To Be Pregnant

Considering all this information about your cycle, how likely are you to be pregnant?

This means you are most likely to become pregnant if sperm is present a few days before ovulation or within 24 hours of when you ovulate. When you put it all together, there can be as much as a six-day window of time each month around ovulation that you are at risk of becoming pregnant.  

Keep in mind that you can become pregnant when you are breastfeeding, bleeding, or using any kind of birth control.

Pregnancy Testing Is Available

If you think you might be pregnant, Willow Womens Center is here to help you with no-cost services provided by compassionate, licensed healthcare professionals. Reach out today for your confidential appointment or call us at 608.312.2025.

Your Reproductive Health Checklist

It is no surprise that women have unique health needs, and they change throughout their lives as their bodies adapt to puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.

As a woman, how can you stay healthy and protect your reproductive health? And why is it important? Read on to find out and discover your reproductive health checklist.

What Is Reproductive Health?

Your reproductive system consists of internal and external structures, including ovaries, fallopian tubes, the uterus, the cervix, and the vagina.

Good reproductive health means that your reproductive system is not only more than free from disease but functioning well. Let’s examine why that is important.

Why Is Your Reproductive Health Important?

Taking care of your reproductive health is important for two main reasons: protecting your overall well-being and protecting your ability to choose if you want to have children in the future.

1. Caring for your reproductive health protects your overall well-being.

Taking care of your reproductive health protects your overall well-being by preventing problems down the road, such as cancer and chronic illnesses that reduce your quality of life.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), many health issues only affect women. Additionally, there are other conditions that both men and women get, but they impact women more severely.

Women-only health issues include:

  • Cancers such as uterine, cervical, and ovarian cancers
  • Gynecological problems such as vaginitis, urinary incontinence, and irregular periods
  • Pregnancy-related problems such as miscarriage, premature labor, and ectopic pregnancy
  • Other women’s issues such as bone health and osteoporosis, menopause, and violence against women

2. Caring for your reproductive health protects your ability to choose if you want to have children in the future.

In addition to protecting your overall well-being, caring for your reproductive health also can preserve your fertility and give you the freedom to choose whether you want to have children in the future or not.

For example, it is common for women to dismiss the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing because women typically don’t experience symptoms with the most common STIs. But an undiagnosed and untreated STI is a common cause of infertility, so testing is crucial – whether you have symptoms or not.

Your Reproductive Health Checklist

What can you do to take care of your reproductive health and protect your overall well-being and future fertility? Below is your reproductive health checklist to help you detect reproductive problems early, in addition to keeping you healthy to prevent reproductive health issues.

1. Regular Visits With Your Gynecologist

Since the average teen gets her first period around age 12, it is ideal for young women to start visits with a gynecologist at about age 13, whether or not they are sexually active.

Women typically have yearly gynecology visits, but you and your doctor can determine the best schedule for you by considering your history and healthcare needs. You can use those visits to discuss all of the remaining checklist tips with your gynecologist and personalize them to you.

2. Eat a Healthy Diet

“Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food” is a quote attributed to the famous physician, Hippocrates. It is catchy, but it is also true. The foods you put into your body can keep your body healthy, heal your body, or make your body sick.

Leading causes of death in the United States are diseases such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease that are all linked to an unhealthy diet, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

To protect your overall health and well-being, feed yourself a balanced diet rich in foods that nourish your body and your brain, including lots of fresh vegetables and fruit.

3. Exercise

Exercise can provide your sense of wellness by reducing stress and giving you energy. Incorporate exercise into your life as soon as you can. Just getting a few minutes of daily exercise can provide tremendous health benefits for women, including:

  • Improved bone health
  • Improved mental health
  • Improved weight control
  • Improved sleep

4. Pap Testing

A Pap test screens for cervical cancer and precancerous changes on the cervix that can become cancer.

The CDC recommends that you have your first Pap test at age 21. During your 20s, they recommend a Pap test every three years.

From ages 20-65, the CDC recommends Pap tests every three years unless there are cervical changes that require more frequent testing. After age 65, your doctor may tell you that you no longer need Pap tests.

5. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Testing

HPV is a virus that can cause cervical changes, which lead to cervical cancer. HPV testing detects the virus putting you at risk. Your doctor usually starts HPV testing in your 30s.

6. STI Testing

As we discussed above, STI testing is crucial because you probably will not have symptoms. If you are younger than age 25 and sexually active, you need to be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year.

If you are age 25 or older, you should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia yearly if you have risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners or a sex partner who has an STD.

7. Practice Safer Sex

According to Johns Hopkins, safer sex is having sex in a committed relationship with only one partner who only has sex with you when neither of you has an STI.

There are STIs that cannot be cured, which cause lifelong consequences leading to infertility, chronic pain, and death.  

8. Screenings After Age 40

Once you turn 40, other screenings are added to your reproductive health checklist, including mammograms, colon cancer screenings, and bone density scans.

Think You Might Be Pregnant?

An unexpected pregnancy is also part of reproductive health. If you think you might be pregnant, Willow Womens Center provides no-cost services by compassionate licensed healthcare professionals. Contact us today by calling 608-312-2025 or reach out online for your confidential appointment.

The Importance of STI Testing: 4 Reasons Why You Should Get Screened
Importance of STI Testing - 4 reasons why you should get tested

You may have heard the terms STI and STD and wondered what the difference is between them. Simply stated, an STD (sexually transmitted disease) is a later stage of an STI (sexually transmitted infection). A person has symptoms with an STD, but STIs are often symptomless. Here, we’ll cover the importance of STI testing, and 4 important reasons you should get regularly screened.

Who Needs STI Screening?

If you are considering abortion for an unexpected pregnancy, STI screening is crucial. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the following testing guidelines for chlamydia and gonorrhea:

  • All sexually active women younger than 25 years should be tested every year.
  • Women 25 years and older with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners or a sex partner who has an STD should also be tested every year.
  • At-risk pregnant women should be tested starting early in pregnancy.
  • All sexually active gay and bisexual men should be tested at least once a year.

Now that you know who needs STI screening, let’s examine why it is important.

4 Reasons Why STI Screening Is Important

1. STIs are common.

If you are sexually active, it is possible to contract an STI, even if you have only had one partner and use a condom. The CDC reports 20 million new STIs each year.

2. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are usually symptomless.

You can’t count on symptoms to alert you that you might have an STI because the most common STIs are often symptomless. Chlamydia is known as the “silent infection.” Most women do not have symptoms with gonorrhea either, and if they do, they often mistake them for a bladder or vaginal infection.

3. STI screening is easy, accessible, and quick.

STI screening only requires a urine sample. At Willow Womens Center, we offer the only free STI screening for women and men in Rock County.

What happens at an STI screening appointment at Willow Womens Center?

We provide STI services because we care for you and your health. When you come to Willow Womens Center for STI screening, you will be treated with respect and never judged for your sexual history. Your appointment is confidential.

  • Arrive at your appointment, and do not urinate (pee) for about an hour beforehand.
  • After a brief intake, you will be asked to provide a urine sample.
  • A licensed, registered nurse will provide you education about gonorrhea and chlamydia, the two STIs that are screened.
  • We will offer you an appointment in about one week for your test results.
  • If your test result is positive for chlamydia, we will give you a prescription to fill. Be sure to take the medication as directed until it is gone — even if your symptoms go away.
  • If your test result is positive for gonorrhea, we will give you a referral for treatment.
  • The state requires the testing company to report all positive test results to the public health department.
  • If your test result is positive, we recommend you get retested in three months to ensure that your treatment was effective.
  • The entire appointment is quick, lasting less than thirty minutes.

4. Early STI detection and treatment can preserve future fertility.

Untreated STIs can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), scarring, and cause infertility (inability to get pregnant) for men and women.  

Free Testing Is Available to Women and Men

Willow Womens Center is here for you. Take charge of your health and make your confidential STI screening appointment today by calling 608-312-2025 or use our online scheduler.

Understanding Pregnancy Ultrasounds

A pregnancy ultrasound is a test that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images your healthcare providers can view on a computer monitor to give them information about your pregnancy. You might be wondering why a pregnancy ultrasound is necessary if you have not yet made a decision about your unexpected pregnancy. Ultrasound is beneficial because the images provide your medical team with important data, and this knowledge can give you the facts you need to make an informed decision about your pregnancy.

Types of Pregnancy Ultrasounds

Pregnancy ultrasounds include transabdominal, transvaginal, Level 2, 3D, doppler, and fetal echocardiography ultrasounds.

After a positive pregnancy test, you will likely receive:

Transabdominal ultrasound

Gel is placed on your abdomen, and a roller-like device (transducer) is moved over the gel on your abdomen. The transducer picks up soundwaves that produce images onto a computer screen.

Transvaginal ultrasound

A special, smaller transducer probe is lubricated with gel and gently placed into your vagina to obtain images. Transvaginal ultrasound is used primarily in early pregnancy.

Ways a Pregnancy Ultrasound Is Useful

To Determine Pregnancy Viability

Even if you have already decided upon abortion, you will need to know if your pregnancy is viable. A positive pregnancy test result tells you that the hCG pregnancy hormone was detected in your urine. However, it does not mean you have a viable pregnancy.

According to the March of Dimes, as many as half of all pregnancies end in miscarriage: 80% of those occur in the first trimester — or the first twelve weeks. So, after a positive pregnancy test result, you will need to confirm your pregnancy is viable by ultrasound. A viable pregnancy is one that is expected to continue and result in childbirth (if no other steps are taken).

If no fetal heartbeat is detected, you would not need an abortion but would be referred for medical treatment instead.

The location of your pregnancy also impacts viability. If your healthcare provider detects a heartbeat by ultrasound, but the pregnancy is located outside of your uterus (i.e., in the fallopian tube), your pregnancy is also not viable. An ectopic pregnancy, a pregnancy implanted in the fallopian tube, is a medical emergency and requires immediate intervention.

The fetal heart rate also impacts the viability of your pregnancy. Research reveals that if an ultrasound detects a very low heart rate, called embryonic bradycardia, the rate of miscarriage is significantly higher. If embryonic bradycardia is identified during your ultrasound appointment, you will likely be asked to return in about a week to repeat the test.

To Determine How Far Along You Are in Your Pregnancy

An ultrasound can accurately measure how many weeks pregnant you are. You can’t count on using only menstrual dates for accuracy because many women experience period-like bleeding while they are pregnant.

If your pregnancy is unexpected, and you are still gathering information about how you will proceed, you will need to know how far along you are because your options will partly depend on that.

To Determine If You Have a Single Pregnancy or Multiple Pregnancy

An ultrasound can also give you a valuable indication that you might be carrying a single or multiple pregnancy.

Get the Answers You Deserve

If you have had a positive home pregnancy test or think you might be pregnant, contact our compassionate team at Willow Womens Center. We provide licensed professional medical care, including pregnancy testing and ultrasounds at no cost to you. Reach out today by calling 608-312-2025 or by using our online scheduler.

There Are so Many Different Pregnancy Tests! What’s the Difference?

You are wondering if you could be pregnant, so you go to the drugstore to pick up an at-home pregnancy test. But when you get there, it is overwhelming. There are so many to choose from! You do not want to waste money and buy one that is not accurate and then have to purchase another one. How can you tell which ones are best? In this article, we will discuss features of various at-home pregnancy tests and their accuracy so you can choose the best one for you.

Pregnancy Test Features

At-home pregnancy tests are designed to detect whether or not there is human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine.

Most women want tests that can give them test results early, quickly, and accurately. Some features to  consider when choosing a home pregnancy test are listed below:

Pregnancy Test Strips

Some pregnancy tests are so basic they are sold in packages of 10-50 at a time. They are merely testing strips without any plastic covering. To test, you would urinate into a cup, dip the test strip into the urine, and then lay the strip on a flat surface until it is ready to be read. The results display will reveal a small “control pad” and a “result pad.” A line will appear on the result pad if your test is positive. Pregnancy test strips are the least expensive option, particularly if you need to test often.

Non-Digital Pregnancy Test Sticks

Pregnancy test sticks are similar to strips except that the tests are housed in plastic so you can hold the stick directly under a urine stream. Like pregnancy strip tests, the result window will display a line if you are pregnant. The common complaint about non-digital test sticks is that the results can be difficult to read, especially if the levels of hCG are low.

You can usually purchase them in packages of one to five tests so you can retest if you need to.

Digital Pregnancy Tests

Digital pregnancy tests display a clearly written “pregnant” or “not pregnant” answer in the result window. This takes away the uncertainty that can accompany a non-digital test as you try to discern if you see a faint positive line.

Digital pregnancy tests are most accurate because they reduce human error. They usually cost a little more than non-digital tests.

Early Pregnancy Tests

Some at-home pregnancy tests are “early pregnancy tests” because they can detect hCG in your urine up to six days before you miss your period.

To get the most accurate result, test with first-morning urine or concentrated urine, so the hCG levels are easier to detect if you are pregnant.

There are drawbacks to testing that early, though.

One – they can detect chemical pregnancies. A chemical pregnancy is a pregnancy that miscarries just after implantation. Many women never know they were pregnant when they experience them. However, now that at-home pregnancy tests can detect the pregnancy hormone so early, they can cause unnecessary anxiety and grief for women.

Two – early pregnancy tests have a higher rate of false-negative results because it is too early to detect the hCG hormone. You can usually purchase early pregnancy tests in multiples because of the higher chance you will need to retest after a false negative result.

There are many different brands of pregnancy tests to choose from and it could be overwhelming. Willow Womens Center can give you a definitive answer with our free pregnancy-related services. Since all tests are most accurate after you have missed your period, we suggest waiting until a few days after your missed period to schedule your appointment by calling 608-312-2025 or by using our online scheduler.

Get the Answers You Need

If your at-home pregnancy test was positive, or you just think you might be pregnant, contact Willow Womens Center by calling 608-312-2025 for a confidential appointment. Our caring support team will help you consider all your options, so you can make the informed decision that is right for you.