Stages of the Menstrual Cycle

The menstural cycle, something that all women share (in the absence of some medical conditions), and yet few of us actually know much about.

 

This post should help build your knowledge around your period and maybe help to explain why the hell every week of the month seems to come with all different moods, aches and pains!

 

What is the menstrual cycle?

Your menstrual cycle comes about due to a series of hormonal changes across a month. It allows your body to prepare your for conception and make pregnancy possible.

 

These hormones include:

  • Luteinising Hormone (LH) – triggers ovulation

  • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) – controls growth of eggs

  • Oestrogen – Many roles in the body, triggers a rise in LH

  • Progesterone – prepares the uterus for fertilisation

 

How long is a normal menstrual cycle?

On average, the length of a menstrual cycle is 28 days, but it is considered normal to experience cycles lasting between 21 to 35 days. The menstrual cycle can be broken down into 4 phases; follicular phase, ovulation, luteal phase and menstruation.

 

Hormones of the menstrual cycle

 

The Phases of the Menstrual Cycle

 

Menstruation

  • Commonly known as a ‘period’

  • When the uterine lining falls away and is released from the uterus

  • Menstruation will usually last anywhere from 3-8 days

  • You may experience symptoms including pain, cramping and changes in your bowel movements

 

Luteal

Luteal phase

 

  • Day 14-28

  • The follicle which released a mature egg is now called a corpus luteum and remains on the ovary

  • It will begin to produce progesterone to support a possible pregnancy

  • High levels of progesterone can cause the PMS symptoms some women experience (acne, tender breasts, mood swings)

  • If pregnancy does not occur, the corpus luteum will begin to breakdown, leading to a drop in oestrogen and progesterone

  • Begin: menstruation

  • Expect energy levels to decrease in this phase

  • Appetite may increase (this is normal as energy expended by the body also increases slightly)

 

Follicular

Follicular phase

  • Day 1-14 or from the first day of your period until ovulation

  • Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) gradually increases, causing the ovaries to develop a follicle into a mature egg to be released during ovulation

  • This follicle or egg begins to release oestrogen into the body

  • Higher oestrogen levels encourage the uterine wall to thicken forming a lining in the uterus

  • The thickness of this lining is important during pregnancy, as it is where a fertilised egg will implant and begin to develop

  • Energy levels will be higher in this phase

  • Exercise performance may increase

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