Age 35. That’s when I started to finally understand my Menstrual Cycle.
I don’t really have too many memories of my first period. All I know is that I was 11. But what I do remember throughout all my menstruating years is how much I hated getting my period. All the countless accidents, pain and uncontrollable moodiness, and just feeling overall discomfort.
“Why do we have to get burdened with this every month?”
“Why can’t men get their periods AT LEAST ONCE?”
“Can I please just stay home watching Pride and Prejudice with a bucket of popcorn and pillows and blankies?”
If you’re reading this post, chances are that you know what a bloody nightmare (in all senses of the word bloody) it is to change your pad or tampon at school, work, or any other public place. So yes, no wonder most of us strongly dislike our period days.
Side rant – I went to a catholic middle school where the girl’s uniform was a baby blue and white stripped skort (if a skirt and shorts had a baby, that’s a skort in case you’re wondering). Can you imagine the stress levels as a teenager, getting your period when that’s the uniform? My emergency kit consisted not only of pads, but a navy sweater to tie around the waist – because there were ALWAYS accidents. I petition to stop making girls/menstruating people wear light color bottoms as part of a uniform. It’s miserable!
Although we all know about the struggles that come with our periods, I think it’s safe to say that many of us don’t really know that much about our menstrual cycle. In fact, did you know that your cycle consists of 4 phases and it’s not just about your period? It can even be argued that the most important of the phases is actually ovulation and not your actual bleeding days. It’s all very mind-blowing how amazing our bodies are.
Learning more about your period will not necessarily make all the discomfort go away. But I can promise you this: understanding your FULL cycle and the changes that your body goes through, will help you prepare and take better care of it. And it’s never too late to start. So sex ed. class is in session!
The 4 Phases Of The Menstrual Cycle
The menstrual cycle is a natural and complex process. It happens monthly starting during puberty and goes on until menopause. Fun fact – on average, we experience about 450 cycles/periods in our lifetime. Since our cycle plays such an important role in fertility and our overall health, let’s dive into the 4 phases of the menstrual cycle and explore how it impacts our bodies.
Phase 1: Menstruation
The menstrual cycle begins with menstruation, aka your period. The bleeding days are mainly about your body shedding the lining of the uterus. It is triggered by the drop of your hormone levels if fertilization of the egg does not occur. This phase typically lasts 3-7 days, and the average menstrual flow is around 30-40 milliliters. Hormone levels, specifically estrogen and progesterone, are low during this phase.
Phase 2: Follicular Phase
Following menstruation, the follicular phase begins. The body prepares for ovulation by stimulating the development of follicles in the ovaries, which contain eggs. One dominant follicle continues to develop, while the others regress. Rising levels of estrogen trigger the thickening of the uterine lining in anticipation of a fertilized egg implanting itself. The follicular phase generally lasts from 10 to 16 days.
Phase 3: Ovulation
Ovulation marks the midpoint of the menstrual cycle and typically happens around day 14 in a 28-day cycle. The dominant follicle releases a mature egg into the fallopian tube, making it available for fertilization. During this phase, you may experience slight discomfort or pain in the lower abdomen. During this time, estrogen levels reach their peak just before ovulation.
Phase 4: Luteal Phase
After ovulation, the luteal phase begins. The ruptured follicle transforms into a structure called the corpus luteum, which secretes progesterone and prepares the uterus for potential pregnancy. If fertilization does not occur, hormone levels decline, causing the uterine lining to break down, resulting in your period and start of a new cycle. The luteal phase usually lasts about 12-14 days.
Let’s Talk Hormones
Throughout the menstrual cycle, the fluctuation of multiple hormones play an important part in regulating and influencing the body. The main hormones involved are estrogen, progesterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and luteinizing hormone (LH). These hormones work together to regulate the growth and release of eggs, prepare the uterus for pregnancy, and give overall support to the menstrual cycle.
The Hormone Dance Recap
During the follicular phase, FSH stimulates the growth of ovarian follicles, which in turn produce estrogen. At the peak of the menstrual cycle, LH surges, triggering ovulation. This surge also prompts the ruptured follicle to transform into the corpus luteum, which secretes progesterone. Another fun fact – the word progesterone comes from the latin pro (for) and gest (gestation or pregnancy). If fertilization doesn’t happen, then your hormones will plummet and it’s what will trigger the start of your period.
This hormone roller-coaster ride that we experience every cycle can have a SIGNIFICANT impact on our physical and emotional well-being. Estrogen, for example, contributes to feelings of happiness, mental sharpness, and improved mood. Progesterone, on the other hand, can induce sleepiness, anxiety, and mood swings. The rise and fall of these hormones create a dynamic environment within the body, influencing everything from energy levels and libido to mood and emotional state.
That’s why understanding the flow of hormones throughout your menstrual cycle, is just about the most empowering thing you can do. Because it will help you better navigate the shifts and changes that you experience every month when it comes to your emotions, energy levels, and overall well-being. By fully embracing this beautiful dance that your body engages in every month, you can practice self-care tailored to each phase and optimize your overall health and happiness.
Are You Keeping Track?
Fully understanding your Cycle (not just your period) allows you to properly take care of your body’s needs. We are cyclical beings and have a 28-day clock, not only a 24-hour one. Believe it or not, we are different from one Monday to the next when it comes to mood, appetite, energy, and even mindset.
Our body’s needs change with the hormonal shifts that happen throughout our cycle. And the very first step to fully knowing your body and how to take care of it, is by tracking your cycle. Check out The Nutrinut Period Tracker to start your empowering self-care journey to fully embracing your cycle!
The Nutrinut Period Tracker*
A printable PDF to help you keep track of:
-Length of your cycle
-Length and intensity of period (bleeding days)
-Symptoms before, during, and after your period
-Shifts in basal body temperature (to track ovulation)
*This is a downloadable PDF and not a physical product.
Printable Period Tracker$4.99