Make Your Cycle Work For You – The Four Fabulous Phases Explained.

The female menstrual cycle is complex but understanding what is happening and why gives you confidence and better emotional planning. The cycle consists of four separate but interconnected phases to prepare the body for a possible pregnancy. Controlled by glands and hormones each menstrual period, usually called a period, is 1 part of a 4 phase cycle. It is the normal shedding of your endometrium. This endometrial tissue naturally flows through your cervix and out of your vagina.

A brain structure called the hypothalamus causes the pituitary gland to produce certain chemicals, which prompt the ovaries to produce the sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone.

The menstrual cycle is a biofeedback system, which means each structure and gland is affected by the activity of the others.

Click here to download a free Periods Explained sheet.

Who Has A Menstrual Cycle? All Females!

Menstrual Cycles
Menstrual Cycles

If born female your body will develop to be able to create life and get pregnant. Males do not have the internal organs to do this so do not have periods.

A woman’s body is closely linked with her hormones as they trigger specific biological cycles, getting your body ready to create a baby inside your womb.

Whether or not you are considering getting pregnant, your body will still cycle through the four stages around every 28 days.

What Are The Four Fabulous Stages?

The four main stages of a menstrual cycle are menstruation, follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase.

Menstruation or Period.

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Menstruation or a period, is when your body sheds the thickened lining of the uterus (endometrium) from the body through the vagina. Menstrual fluid contains blood, cells from the lining of the uterus (endometrial cells) and mucus. The average length of a period is between three days and one week.

Follicular Phase.

Happy Woman Making Heart Sign

The follicular phase starts on the first day of menstruation and ends with ovulation. Prompted by the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland releases follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This hormone stimulates the ovary to produce around 5 to 20 follicles, which bead on the surface.

Each follicle houses an immature egg. Usually, only one follicle will mature into an egg, while the others die. This can occur around day 10 of a 28-day cycle. The growth of the follicles stimulates the lining of the uterus to thicken in preparation for possible pregnancy.

During the follicular phase, the developing follicle causes a rise in the level of oestrogen. The hypothalamus in the brain recognises these rising levels and releases a chemical called gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH). This hormone prompts the pituitary gland to produce raised levels of luteinising hormone (LH) and FSH.

Within two days, ovulation is triggered by the high levels of LH. The egg is funnelled into the fallopian tube and toward the uterus by waves of small, hair-like projections. The life span of the typical egg is only around 24 hours. Unless it meets a sperm during this time, it will die.

Ovulation Time.

Stress Affecting Your Cycle

This describes the release of a mature egg from the surface of the ovary. This usually occurs mid-cycle, around 2 weeks or so before menstruation starts.

NOTE: When you want a pregnancy, you can improve your chance of getting pregnant if you know about ovulation and the fertile window in the menstrual cycle.

Luteal Phase.

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During ovulation, the egg bursts from its follicle, but the ruptured follicle stays on the surface of the ovary. For the next 2 weeks, the follicle transforms into a structure known as the corpus luteum. This structure starts releasing progesterone, along with small amounts of oestrogen. This combination of hormones maintains the thickened lining of the uterus, waiting for a fertilised egg to implant.

If a fertilised egg implants in the lining of the uterus, it produces the hormones necessary to maintain the corpus luteum. This includes human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG), the hormone detected in a urine test for pregnancy. The corpus luteum keeps producing the raised levels of progesterone needed to maintain the thickened lining of the uterus.

If pregnancy does not occur, the corpus luteum withers and dies, usually around day 22 in a 28-day cycle. The drop in progesterone levels causes the lining of the uterus to fall away. This is known as menstruation. The cycle then repeats.

Periods can also fluctuate because of certain health conditions, like uterine polyps, fibroids, or PCOS, these conditions that should be addressed with your doctor. Certain bleeding conditions and medications can also affect menstrual bleeding.

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