Women menstruate every month and menstruation runs in a cycle. So what is this cycle and what are the stages? Knowing what happens at each stage of your menstrual cycle and when each stage happens can help you to better understand the health of your body and prepare for what you can expect. Keep reading this blog post to learn more about the different stages of the menstrual cycle!
Stages of the Menstrual Cycle: The menstrual phase
When – First stage of the menstrual cycle.
Duration – On average, the menstrual phase lasts from 3-7 days.
What – The menstrual phase is when you actually have your period. During this time, you may also experience period symptoms, such as cramps, sore breasts, mood swings, irritability, bloating and headaches.
How – During the menstrual phase, an egg from the last menstrual cycle has not been fertilized. Due to there being no fertilized egg to look after, the levels of the sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, decline. Your uterus has built up a thicker lining in order to prepare for the possibility of a fertilized egg. With no fertilized egg present, the uterus begins to shed the lining that has been built, and this lining is shed in the form of a period. During your period, you release blood, mucus and tissue through your vagina.
Stages of the Menstrual Cycle: The follicular phase
When – First day of period until you begin ovulating.
Duration – On average, the follicular phase lasts approximately 16 days. It can range from 11-27 days.
What – The development of a healthy egg.
How – During the follicular phase, the brain sends signals and starts to produce and release a hormone called follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). FSH stimulates the ovaries to produce approximately between 5-20 small follicles. Each of these small follicles contains an immature egg. Only the healthiest egg will mature, and as it matures, the levels of estrogen in the body will increase. This increase in estrogen triggers the lining of the uterus to begin to thicken in preparation for a fertilized egg. The follicles that were not deemed the healthiest and therefore do not mature are reabsorbed into the body.
Stages of the Menstrual Cycle: The ovulation phase
When – Approximately halfway through your cycle (day 14 if you have a 28-day cycle).
Duration – Approximately 24 hours – if the egg is not fertilized, it will dissolve.
What – Your ovary releases a mature egg.
How – As the levels of estrogen rise during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle, this triggers the hormone called luteinizing hormone (LH) to be released. Once this hormone is released, you are now ovulating. This is when the ovary releases an egg into the fallopian tube, which it travels down to meet a sperm in order to get fertilized. It is during the ovulation phase of your cycle that you can get pregnant.
Stages of the Menstrual Cycle: The luteal phase
When – From ovulation until the next period starts.
Duration – The average length of the luteal phase is 14 days. It can last between 11-17 days.
What – The follicle that released the mature egg turns into the corpus luteum. This releases the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
How – The corpus luteum is a structure that releases hormones and is very important for conception and pregnancies to be sustained. The hormones that are released by the corpus luteum, progesterone and estrogen, maintain the thickness of the lining of the uterus so that it is ready for the implantation of a fertilized egg. If you do not get pregnant, the corpus luteum will shrink and be reabsorbed back into the body. As the corpus luteum is no longer releasing hormones, levels of progesterone and estrogen drop, which leads to your period. If you do not get pregnant, you may experience PMS symptoms during the luteal phase, such as cramps, bloating, headaches, fatigue, mood swings and sore breasts.