A picture of a fig symbolizing the menstrual cycle

If you ever find your mood or appetite shifting depending on the time of month, you're not imagining it. These changes are a natural byproduct of your menstrual cycle. Your reproductive system undergoes a series of changes every month to prepare for pregnancy. This complex cycle is heavily controlled by your hormones, which affect various areas of your well-being, from appetite to sleep hygiene. 

If the inner workings of your reproductive system are largely a mystery to you, you're not alone. We're here to help clear things up so that you're more in tune with your monthly cycles. Once you have a better understanding of how menstruation works, you can plan for pregnancy more intentionally and manage your symptoms with confidence. 

Table of Contents

  • What is the Menstrual Cycle? 
  • 4 Phases of the Menstrual Cycle and Symptoms 
  • Changes in the Menstrual Cycle 
  • Menstruation and Fertility 
  • FAQs 


What is the Menstrual Cycle? 

Your menstrual cycle refers to a series of changes that your body undergoes each month to prepare for pregnancy. It begins on the first day of your period and ends on the day before your next period. During your menstrual cycle, your hormones help prepare your uterus for a baby. If the egg released by your ovaries isn't fertilized during ovulation, your uterus sheds its lining to begin your period. 


4 Phases of the Menstrual Cycle and Symptoms 

There are four phases in your menstrual cycle: the menses phase, the follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase. Here's what you can expect during each phase. 


Phase 1: Menses 

During menstruation, the uterus sheds its lining, causing the resulting blood to flow out of the vagina. This phase lasts three to seven days on average. Keep in mind that period symptoms can vary widely from one woman to the next. However, some of the most commonly reported symptoms include abdominal cramps, bloating, headaches, mood swings, fatigue, acne, breast tenderness and food cravings. 


Phase 2: Follicular Phase 

The follicular phase begins on the first day of your period and typically lasts about 14 days. During this phase, your body releases hormones to stimulate follicular growth on the surface of each ovary. Your uterus also begins to thicken its lining to prepare for pregnancy. Common symptoms include higher energy, an increased sex drive, clearer skin and increased physical strength. 

Phase 3: Ovulation 

Ovulation typically takes place two weeks before your next period. During this phase, one of your ovaries releases a mature egg, which travels through the fallopian tube toward your uterus. This stage can last anywhere from 16 to 32 hours. Some of the most common signs of ovulation include changes in cervical fluid, increased sex drive, breast tenderness and mild cramping. 


Phase 4: Luteal Phase 

During the luteal phase, the cells in your ovaries release a hormone called progesterone. This increase in your progesterone levels thickens the lining of the uterus even more. If fertilization never occurs, your hormone levels drop and the uterus sheds its lining again, bringing us back to phase 1 of the cycle. Symptoms of the luteal phase are commonly referred to as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and they are very similar to period symptoms. 


Changes in the Menstrual Cycle 

There are various changes that might occur at any point during the menstrual cycle. Common changes include variations in cycle length, changes in vaginal secretions and excessive or very little bleeding. While it's perfectly normal for the length of your cycle to differ by a few days each month, any significant changes should be discussed with your doctor. 

If you do notice any changes with your cycle, it's a good idea to consider if anything is different in your daily life. For example, you might be more stressed than usual, or you may have an underlying health condition. See your doctor if you're concerned about any significant changes in your cycle. 


Menstruation and Fertility 

Your menstrual cycle is closely linked to your fertility. Ovulation in particular plays a direct role in your chances of conception. This is because ovulation is the stage in which an egg is released to be fertilized, which is necessary in order to become pregnant. Generally speaking, the longer your fertile window is, the more likely you are to conceive. 

Luckily, you don't need to completely leave your fertility up to chance. There are various ways to maximize your fertile window and increase your chances of getting pregnant. Eating well, managing stress, cutting back on alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight can all boost your chances of conception. Additionally, be sure to get enough exercise and take the time to relax to curb stress. 



Q: Why is my menstrual cycle getting longer? 

A: If your menstrual cycle is longer than usual, this can be due to certain medications or health conditions, such as obesity, endometriosis, hypothyroidism, or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Certain forms of hormonal birth control, like IUDs and pills, can also extend your cycle. 

Q: How to calculate period cycle? 

A: To calculate your menstrual cycle, simply count the number of days between the first day of your period and the day before your next period. Once you have an idea of your average cycle length, you can add that number to the first day of your last period to determine when your next period will arrive. 

Q: How you feel at different stages of the menstrual cycle? 

A: Before or during your period, you may feel fatigued, hungrier than usual, irritable or bloated. After your period, you're more likely to have higher energy levels and an increased sex drive. It's also common to have slight cramping and changes in cervical fluid during ovulation. 


Conquer the Menstrual Cycle 

By diligently tracking your menstrual cycle and taking note of your symptoms, you'll be more in tune with your body. Your cycle plays an important role in your overall well-being, so it's important to be aware of your symptoms and see a doctor if anything seems abnormal. 

Did you learn a lot about menstrual health? Share this article with a friend! 


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