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  • Writer's pictureGrace Health

Understanding The Phases Of The Menstrual Cycle

I’m sure we can all agree that the female body is amazing. Ideally, every month if an egg is not fertilized we bleed. For some women it happens like clockwork, meaning at around the same time in each month you get your period. For others, it may be a little hard to predict but the fact is, it happens. Now, do you know how your reproductive system works during the cycle leading up to your period?

Would it be nice to learn what happens at every stage of your cycle? Let’s get started.

What is the Menstrual Cycle?

This is for those who might be new here or simply need some clarification. The whole point of the menstrual cycle is to prepare your body for pregnancy. If you are not pregnant, your hormones signal your uterus to shed its lining. This lining becomes your period. Once you start your period, the cycle begins again.

When counting your menstrual cycle, start from the first day of your period to the day before your next period starts. The average length of a menstrual cycle is 28 to 29 days, but this is not the common length, every woman’s cycle is different.

Your menstrual cycle is divided into four phases:

  • Menstrual phase

  • Follicular phase

  • Ovulation phase

  • Luteal phase

The length of each phase varies from woman to woman, and it can change over time.

The Phases of the Menstrual Cycle

Menstrual Phase

This is the first stage of the menstrual cycle and also when you get your period. It starts when an egg from the previous cycle isn’t fertilized. Since pregnancy would not have taken place, levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone drop. The thickened lining of your uterus, which would normally support a pregnancy, is no longer needed and is shed through your vagina. Your period is not just made up of blood. It is a combination of blood, mucus, and tissue from your uterus.

During this phase, you may have period symptoms like:

  • Cramps

  • Bloating

  • Tender breasts

  • Headaches

  • Tiredness

  • Mood swings

  • Irritability

Follicular Phase

There’s a bit of an overlap between this phase and the previous one because it starts on the first day of your period and ends when you ovulate. The average follicular phase lasts for about 16 days. It can range from 11 to 27 days, depending on your cycle. It all starts when a signal is sent to your pituitary gland to release follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This hormone stimulates your ovaries to produce around 5 to 20 small sacs called follicles. Each follicle contains an immature egg.

it’s only the healthiest egg that will eventually mature. Though in some rare scenarios, it’s possible to have two eggs mature. The rest of the follicles will be reabsorbed into your body. The maturing follicle causes the thickening of the lining of your uterus that we mentioned earlier. Which creates the right environment for an embryo to grow.

Ovulation phase

The Ovulation phase is one of the most notable phases because of the changes that may be taking place. Rising estrogen levels during the follicular phase trigger your pituitary gland to release luteinizing hormone (LH). and this is what starts the process of ovulation. It happens at around day 14 if you have a 28-day cycle — but generally, it should be, right in the middle of your menstrual cycle. It lasts about 24 hours. After a day, the egg will die or dissolve if it isn’t fertilized.

During ovulation, the egg travels down the fallopian tube toward the uterus to be fertilized by sperm. The ovulation phase is the only time during your menstrual cycle when you can get pregnant. If you are trying to conceive you can learn more about ovulation here! Feeling extra horny during this phase is normal and to be expected. Some of the other main symptoms you will experience are:

  • A slight rise in basal body temperature

  • Slippery discharge that has the texture of egg whites

Luteal Phase

After the follicle releases its egg, it changes into the corpus luteum. This leads to the rise in hormones to keep your uterine lining thick and ready for a fertilized egg to implant. If you get pregnant, your body will produce human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) (the hormone pregnancy tests detect). It helps maintain the corpus luteum and keeps the uterine lining thick. But if you don’t get pregnant, the corpus luteum will shrink away and be reabsorbed. This leads to decreased levels of hormones, which causes the onset of your period and the uterine lining will shed during your period. The luteal phase lasts for 11 to 17 days. An average length of 14 days.

Symptoms experienced in this phase happen only when you don’t get pregnant and are what we refer to as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). These include:

When Should I See My Doctor About My Cycle:

Talk to your doctor if you are worried about your period. For example, if:

  • You’ve skipped periods, or your periods have stopped entirely.

  • Your periods are irregular.

  • You bleed for more than seven days.

  • Your periods are less than 21 days or more than 40 days apart.

  • You bleed between periods (heavier than spotting).

The Takeaway

There are no two-alike cycles. Every woman’s menstrual cycle is different and unique. What’s normal for you might not be normal for someone else. The most important thing is to familiarize yourself with your cycle down to what symptoms you experience when, how long your cycle is and how long you normally bleed.

Stay informed, stay in control What new fact did you learn about your cycle?

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