Your Menstrual Cycle Phases: A Basic Guide
As a growing girl, it is essential to understand your body and its functions. Throughout your life, it undergoes several changes which are greatly impacted by hormonal fluctuations. Your overall health is directed by your menstrual cycle that regulates the feminine functions. From the time of puberty until the onset of menstruation, your body prepares for a possible pregnancy. This preparation – which follows a monthly cycle – is known as the menstrual cycle.
Contrary to popular belief, your menstrual cycle does not just involve your period days. It is made up of four short and long phases that are connected (and sometimes even overlap with each other). In the broadest sense, your menstrual cycle starts on the day of your period and ends before the start of your next period.
Read on for more information that will help you better manage your menstrual cycle:
Phase 1 - Menstrual Phase
During the menstrual phase, you are likely to experience symptoms like bloating, backache, headache, abdominal pain, cramps, and tender breasts. It can last up to 7 days.
This is the first stage of the menstrual cycle when you get your period. This phase begins if and when an egg was not fertilized in the previous cycle.
In this phase, there is a reduction in the levels of the two hormones, progesterone and oestrogen. Moreover, it is characterized by shedding of unwanted tissue cells that is discharged through your vagina. It is essentially the lining of the uterus including blood and mucus that would otherwise support a foetus.
Phase 2 - Follicular Phase
The follicular phase begins on the first day of your period. The pituitary gland releases a follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which in turn stimulates the ovaries. The ovaries are then directed to produce small sacs known as follicles.
Every follicle contains one immature egg, out of which the healthiest one can mature into an embryo. During this phase, there is an increase in the oestrogen levels in the body and the lining of the uterus thickens. This function takes place in order to create a favourable environment in which the embryo can develop and be nurtured.
This phase does overlap with the menstrual phase and ends when you ovulate. It usually lasts for about 16 days but varies based on your cycle.
Phase 3 - Ovulation Phase
Some symptoms that signal ovulation include a thick white vaginal discharge and an increase in body temperature. You may become pregnant during this ovulation phase
The process of ovulation begins due to a rise in oestrogen levels. There is a spike in oestrogen during the follicular phase, which, in turn, triggers the pituitary gland to release the luteinizing hormone (ovulation stimulant). It is this hormonal release that triggers the ovulation phase. The mature egg is released, and it travels in the direction of the uterus to be fertilized by a sperm.
Phase 4 - Luteal Phase
The luteal phase is when the uterus is ready for the implant of a fertilized egg. This happens due to the release of progesterone and oestrogen that facilitate the thickening of the uterine lining.
In the case of pregnancy, the body produces a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This is the hormone that maintains the lining of the uterine and is used to detect a pregnancy.
If no pregnancy is detected, the developed corpus luteum will dissolve. This function causes a spike in the levels of progesterone and oestrogen. The luteal phase can last for anywhere from 11 days to 17 days.
A menstrual cycle and its duration can change during certain periods of your life.
It is best to keep a track your periods to stir clear of any possible issues with your menstrual cycle and overall health. Record any unusual bodily changes and consult your doctor.