Stages of Menstrual Cycle

Look, you’d be fairly hard pressed to find a woman who actually looks forward to getting their period. Ever since you were a teenager, your period has been nothing short of burdensome. From coming on at unexpected (and inopportune) times and running out of pads or tampons to painful cramps and annoying acne, menstrual cycles are not the best time of the month. But, it’s not all zits and bloating! There are some pretty cool things about your period. If you really stop to think about it…menstrual cycles are kind of amazing. In fact you might not even know that much about them! Let’s learn more so you can learn to appreciate them every month.

What is a menstrual cycle?

Medically speaking, The menstrual cycle is a series of natural changes in hormone production and the structures of the uterus and ovaries of the female reproductive system that facilitates pregnancy. The ovarian cycle controls the production and release of eggs and the cyclic release of estrogen and progesterone. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days. However, it may be shorter or up to 35 days in length. A menstrual cycle is our body’s way of preparing for pregnancy each month. If pregnancy does not occur, you will have a period. 

What are the four stages of a menstrual cycle?

A woman’s menstrual cycle is divided into four stages. Each stage differs in length and is unique to each woman’s body. 

Stage 1: Menstrual phase (Days 1-7)

Day one of menstrual bleeding is the beginning of your menstrual phase and day one of your menstrual cycle. The hormone progesterone declines rapidly, which prompts the shedding of the uterine lining. Period blood consists of the uterine lining, vaginal and cervical discharge, and bacteria. The average length of a period is between three and seven days. 

How is this stage beneficial to me? 

Your energy is usually lower during your period, which may cause fatigue. Use this time to allow yourself some TLC. While it may not be possible to cancel all your plans and stay inside, there are ways to be intentional with your relaxation time. Activities you might consider: 

  • Take a bubble bath with essential oils
  • Journal or color in a notebook
  • Go on a short walk
  • Pick up a book you have wanted to read
  • Lay out in the sun and soak up the natural vitamins the sun has to offer. 

Stage 2: Follicular Phase (Days 7-14)

The follicular phase overlaps with the first stage. However, this stage lasts a bit longer. This stage gets its name follicular because the follicle hormone is released by the pituitary gland. When this hormone is released, it causes the ovarian follicles to mature to prepare for ovulation.

How is this stage beneficial to me? 

You may notice a positive mood and overall energy increase during this stage. This is because estrogen and testosterone begin to rise. Estrogen helps produce serotonin in your system and helps regulate mood. Testosterone increases your libido and helps to support reproductive health. 

Stage 3: Ovulation Phase (Days 14-21)

It took a lot of hard work for your body to reach this point in your cycle. Ovulation is the release of an egg from the follicle through the fallopian tubes in anticipation it will be fertilized by sperm. If the egg fertilizes, it then travels to the uterus for implantation. 

How is this stage beneficial to me? 

Not only are your energy levels at their peak, but your libido is also at its highest. Planning a date night with that special someone might also be beneficial. After all, your sex drive is the highest. Overall, it’s a good idea to utilize this time to get things done that you have been holding off on because you were too tired after a long day. 

Stage 4: The Luteal Phase (Days 22-28)

After a few days in this stage, your body will decrease estrogen and testosterone and increase progesterone. However, if the egg is fertilized, your body will begin to produce a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). This stage is called the luteal phase because the follicle changes into a corpus luteum. If you do not conceive, the corpus luteum will shrink and eventually be reabsorbed into the body. When this occurs, you will notice a decrease in estrogen and testosterone. This stage lasts about two weeks. 

How is this stage beneficial to me? 

Progesterone acts as a natural mood enhancer and anti-anxiety. This is beneficial as it may calm you and allow you to focus on important things. In addition, you may notice the onset of PMS symptoms such as cramping and breast tenderness. Utilize this time to manage your symptoms by staying hydrated and walking. 

What can cause menstrual cycle irregularities?

  • Pregnancy
  • Breastfeeding
  • Extreme weight gain or weight loss 
  • Excessive exercising
  • Eating disorders
  • Polycystic ovarian Syndrome
  • Loss of ovarian function before age 40
  • Uterine Fibroids
  • Menopause
  • Uterine Fibroids

When to see a doctor

It may be time to visit your care provider if you: 

  • Bleed between periods
  • Periods became inconsistent after being regular for a long time. 
  • Periods last longer than seven days every month 
  • Soak through a heavy flow pad or tampon every 2 hours
  • Periods are less than 21 or more than 35 days apart. 

Managing Your Period

An easy way to make menstrual cycles more manageable are reusable, leak proof underwear, which make a great alternative to traditional pads and tampons (i.e. never forget to pick them up at the store again). Proof period underwear consists of multiple layers of protection. Each layer works flawlessly together to create an absorbent barrier between you and your clothing. In addition, our period underwear offers a variety of styles and sizes to ensure you have the style and size that makes you feel most comfortable and confident. 

See, your period is actually really cool! It’s a perfect (albeit crampy) example of how amazing the human body can be. It’s incredible that your body prepares for the potential of childbirth every month in such a complicated and intricate way. So, the next time you’re bumming out about your period, remember how awesome your body is, and maybe you can appreciate it…even just a little bit


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