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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.   

What’s a ”Normal” Period?

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: 

    • Missed periods - If you don’t have a period for three months, talk to your doctor. Factors like chronic illness, pregnancy, or lifestyle changes could be stopping you from having your period. 
    • Extreme pain - While pain levels and tolerance will vary from person to person, a sudden or unusual amount of pain could be a sign to consult with your doctor. 
    • Unusual bleeding -  If you’re bleeding significantly less or more than you usually do, or are soaking multiple pads in a span of hours, reach out to your doctor. 
    • Severe PMS - Talk to your doctor if your mood swings and PMS symptoms become so severe that they interfere with your life. 


Stage 1: Menstrual Phase

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.

Symptoms include: 

    • Abdominal cramps
    • Tender breasts 
    • Bloating
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Headaches
    • Low energy 
    • Lower back pain
    • Muscle aches 
    • Diarrhea or constipation
    • Acne breakouts 
    • Mood swings

Now Is the Time To:

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:

    • Get plenty of rest and sleep
    • Don’t overwork yourself
    • Listen to your body and avoid overly exhausting yourself if you work out 
    • Avoid making unnecessary commitments 


Stage 2: Follicular 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. 

Symptoms include: 

    • Higher energy levels
    • Increased sex drive
    • Glowing skin
    • Feeling energized 

Now Is the Time To:

Your reproductive hormones are on the rise, so you’ll start feeling more energized. To take advantage of this energy upswing: 

    • Enjoy your favorite physical activities
    • Make fun plans and socialize 
    • Challenge yourself with a workout 
    • Make time for sexytime 


Stage 3: Ovulation Phase

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. 

Symptoms include: 

  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain or cramps
  • Breast tenderness
  • Cervical mucus
  • Slightly elevated body temperature

Now Is the Time To:

Higher hormone levels will likely have you feeling energetic and proactive. Some activities to consider during ovulation include: 

  • Hang out with groups to take advantage of higher energy levels
  • Start that project you’ve been thinking about 
  • Take on group projects at work or school 
  • Have that important meeting 


Stage 4: Luteal Phase

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. 

Symptoms include: 

  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Bloating
  • Food cravings
  • Breast tenderness
  • Mood swings

Now Is the Time To:

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: 

  • Keep your workload lighter if at all possible
  • Eat iron and magnesium-rich foods 
  • Maintain a solid self-care routine 
  • Avoid draining tasks and focus on individualized work

To enhance your self-care, Lady Suite’s Down-There Care Kit will leave you feeling cleansed, exfoliated, and hydrated. 

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. 


This article was written by Giselle Hernandez. She is a freelance sexual health and wellness copywriter with six years of experience writing blogs, website content, social media captions, digital ads, product descriptions, and collateral materials for clients. Check out her website to learn more about her work.


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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.