For those who experience periods we pose a question. Do you know what happens in your body beyond the days of your period? If the answer is no, you’re not alone. All too often, sex education is limited and glosses over the full process of the menstrual cycle. Stick around as we walk through the stages of the menstrual cycle and talk about different ways to navigate each phase.
The menstrual cycle is your body’s way of preparing for a possible pregnancy each month. According to Cleveland Clinic, the cycle begins on the first day of your period and can be anywhere from 21 to 35 days long, with an average duration of 28 days. It's common to experience symptoms like cramping, bloating, mood swings, and breast tenderness. In terms of period length, most people bleed between three to eight days.
That being said, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to periods. Variations in pain levels, period duration, amount of blood, and frequency are common. These factors can change over the course of your life and can be impacted by things like stress levels, hormonal birth control, or perimenopause. So, how can you tell which variations are healthy and which ones aren’t? Here are a few signs to keep an eye out for:
Welcome to the first stage of the menstrual cycle, when a person gets their period. At this stage, the uterine lining has thickened in anticipation of a potential pregnancy. If the egg isn't fertilized, the thickened uterine lining sheds and leaves the body. The unfertilized egg also leaves the body, along with the blood, mucus, and tissue that’s released during your period. While the duration of periods can vary, most people will spend three to seven days in the menstrual phase.
During the menstrual phase, hormone levels are low with a slight dip in progesterone and a slight increase in estrogen. People often have a hard time feeling focused, energetic, and productive during this stage. That means that now is the time to give yourself some grace and take things easy if possible. Here are some quick tips for navigating the menstrual phase:
As we move on to stage two, your period has stopped and your progesterone and estrogen levels increase sharply. The follicular phase is the longest of your cycle, lasting between 11 and 27 days with an average duration of 16 days. At this phase, sacks called follicles in the ovaries house immature eggs as they mature.
Your reproductive hormones are on the rise, so you’ll start feeling more energized. To take advantage of this energy upswing:
During this phase of the menstrual cycle, your pituitary gland releases luteinizing hormone (LH) which jumpstarts ovulation. At this point, your ovary will release a mature egg which will travel down the fallopian tube to the uterus. Ovulation usually occurs in the middle of your menstrual cycle—about two weeks before your period starts—and typically lasts between 16 to 32 hours.
Higher hormone levels will likely have you feeling energetic and proactive. Some activities to consider during ovulation include:
Time to round out the menstrual cycle with the luteal phase, where the uterus prepares to release the unfertilized egg during the upcoming period. After releasing the egg in the ovulation phase, the follicle turns into the corpus luteum which releases estrogen and progesterone. This is also the phase where most people experience PMS, along with the symptoms listed below.
With increased progesterone levels, you’re likely to feel calmer and less productive during this stage of your menstrual cycle. PMS may heighten feelings of irritability or sadness, so try to take things easy during this phase. Here are some ways to work through this stage:
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Since the menstrual cycle can have an impact on how we feel week over week, it’s important to learn how to work with your period instead of against it. Periods are also very individualized experiences, so it’s important to be mindful of how your body processes your cycle, and what symptoms are considered normal or abnormal for you. With this knowledge, we hope you’ll have an easier time navigating your menstrual cycle.
DISCLAIMER: These products have not been approved by or evaluated by the food and drug administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The information provided should not take the place of consulting a physician. It does not and should not replace treatment from a medical professional. If you need medical advice or assistance, you should consult a physician.