Menstrual Education: Learn About The 4 Phases of Your Menstrual Cycle
Did you know that as women, our body goes through FOUR different cycle phases each month?
Yes! They're known as our menstrual phase, follicular phase, ovulatory phase and luteal phase. And depending on where, and how you like to learn, you may heard of them as our four inner seasons, the winter (menstrual), spring (follicular), summer (ovulatory) and fall (luteal) phase.
Some people even label them according to the moon cycle phases, the new moon, waxing, full moon or waning phase. Whatever your way is, they all reflect the knowlegde and the wisdom of our four different menstrual cycle phases that we cycle through each month.
What is a menstrual cycle?
Your menstrual cycle describes the sequence of events and hormonal changes that occur within your body as it prepares for the possibility of a pregnancy each month. The rise and fall of hormones trigger the steps in your menstrual cycle. This is because hormones cause the organs of your reproductive tract to respond in certain ways.
How long is the menstrual cycle?
Every woman's cycle is uniquely different - but the process is the same. The menstrual cycle is the time from the first day of our period until the first day of our next period.
The average length of a menstrual cycle is 28 days. However, because we're all having our own experience, a cycle can range in length from 21 days to about 35 days.
What are the FOUR phases of the menstrual cycle?
- The Menstrual Phase
- The Follicular Phase
- The Ovulation Phase
- The Luteal Phase
Phase 1. Menstrual Phase
The menstrual phase is the very first stage of your menstrual cycle. This is the time when your uterine lining breaks down, and your period starts. Your estrogen and progesterone hormone levels drop too.
Your period starts when an egg isn’t fertilized, meaning you haven't gotten pregnant. And, because pregnancy hasn’t taken place, the thickened lining of the uterus that's needed to support a pregnancy is no longer needed - so it sheds and releases through the vagina. This is your period. During your period, you release a combination of blood, mucus, and tissue from your uterus.
Phase 2. Follicular Phase
There is some overlap with the follicular phase and the menstrual phase, because the follicular phase actually starts during your period, and ends when you ovulate. It's called the Follicular phase because it starts when the hypothalamus signals your pituitary gland to release Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), stimulating the follicles in your ovaries to mature.
FYI — these follicles contain your immature eggs. Only the healthiest (and strongest) egg will go on to mature. The rest of the follicles will be reabsorbed into your body.
During this time estrogen level rises, which causes the lining of your uterus (the endometrium) to grow and thicken, in preparation for a fertilized egg.
Phase 3. Ovulation
Ovulation is the culmination of all the hard work your body has been doing over the last couple of weeks during the first two phases of your menstrual cycle. If you have a 28-day cycle, ovulation usually happens on or around day 14 — right in the middle of your menstrual cycle.
This is the time of the month when you can get pregnant! Let me clarify and say here, that your ovulation day isn't always the same each month.
Ovulation starts when the rising estrogen levels during the follicular phase trigger your pituitary gland to release luteinizing hormone (LH). This is when a mature egg gets released from its follicle in your ovary and travels down the fallopian tube towards the uterus (to potentially be fertilized by sperm).
Ovulation is only a 24 hour event, this is how long the egg can survive. After a day, the egg will die or dissolve if it isn’t fertilized.
Phase 4. Luteal Phase
The luteal phase of your menstrual cycle is the time between ovulation and your next period (menstrual phase). During the luteal phase, progesterone produced by the corpus luteum (the empty follicle where egg matured and released) helps thicken the womb lining in preparation to receive a fertilized egg.