THE PHASES OF YOUR MENSTRUAL CYCLE
Do you know the key changes that happen throughout your cycle?
The menstrual cycle is a (mostly) regular reproductive change that most womb owners have each month or so. This cycle is controlled by hormonal changes which then dictate the four main phases that occur every few weeks. By knowing more about each of these phases, we can then learn what our bodies may or may not need to allow us to function at our best. If we learn how best to support ourselves during this time, then maybe our period wont just be something we dread but something we can manage with kindness.
The four phases are Menstruation, Follicular, Ovulation and Luteal which are detailed with a little more information below;
1 ) MENSTRUATION
Phase one starts with the first day of bleeding, typically known as your period or your bleed. This is when an egg from the previous cycle isn’t fertilised because pregnancy hasn’t taken place, so the lining of your uterus, which is used to support a pregnancy, is no longer needed. This lining then begins to shed and leave the body through the vagina.
There’s a little overlap with phase one as phase two also starts on the first day of bleeding.
Phase two is when a hormone released by your pituitary gland stimulates your ovaries to produce small sacs called follicles. Inside each of these follicles is an immature egg. The healthiest of those eggs will eventually mature while the rest of the follicles are reabsorbed into your body. While the healthiest egg is maturing, the follicle helps to increase estrogen in the body which then helps to thicken the lining of your uterus. This thick lining is the perfect surrounding for an egg to implant, grow and develop should a pregnancy occur.
During phase three, the rising estrogen levels during the follicular phase also trigger cells in your pituitary gland to release the luteinizing hormone which is what starts the process of ovulation.
Ovulation is when your ovary releases a mature egg. This mature egg then travels down the fallopian tube toward the uterus to be fertilised by sperm.
The ovulation phase is the only time during your menstrual cycle when you can get pregnant.
After the follicle releases the egg, it changes into the corpus luteum. This is a temporary structure in the ovaries which releases hormones, mainly progesterone and a little estrogen. The rise in hormones helps to keep your uterine lining thick and a perfect environment for an egg to implant.
If you get pregnant, your body will produce a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). This is also known as the “pregnancy hormone” and it is this hormone that pregnancy tests are looking for for them to show up positive.
If you don’t get pregnant, the corpus luteum will shrink away and be resorbed into your body. The levels of estrogen and progesterone will then start to decrease, which will cause the thick uterine lining to begin to shed - heading back into phase one of your cycle aka starting your period.
During each of these phases, it’s likely that you will go through different physical, emotional and mental changes. Every body’s symptoms vary, but finding out what your pattern is will help you to determine what preventative and supportive care is best for you.