Objective: To determine variability in the phases of the menstrual cycle among healthy, regularly cycling women.
Design: A prospective descriptive study of a new data set with biological markers to estimate parameters of the menstrual cycles.
Participants: One hundred forty one healthy women (mean age 29 years) who monitored 3 to 13 menstrual cycles with an electronic fertility monitor and produced 1,060 usable cycles of data. MEASURES AND OUTCOMES: Variability in the length of the menstrual cycle and of the follicular, fertile, and luteal phases, and menses. The estimated day of ovulation and end of the fertile phase was the peak fertility reading on the monitor (i.e., the urinary luteinizing hormone surge).
Results: Mean total length was 28.9 days (SD = 3.4) with 95% of the cycles between 22 and 36 days. Intracycle variability of greater than 7 days was observed in 42.5% of the women. Ninety-five percent of the cycles had all 6 days of fertile phase between days 4 and 23, but only 25% of participants had all days of the fertile phase between days 10 and 17.
Conclusions: Among regularly cycling women, there is considerable normal variability in the phases of the menstrual cycle. The follicular phase contributes most to this variability.