We often spend time in many of our articles discussing specific topics in depth. But today we're going back to the basics. We've put together a few things we believe everyone should know about their menstrual cycle. So let's start!
There are four phases of the menstrual cycle:
- Menstruation (period: This is a full bleed that follows about 2 weeks after ovulation. This phase usually lasts 3-7 days.
- Follicular phase: This is the time period where a follicle develops in the ovary. This is the time before ovulation.
- Ovulatory phase: Ovulation is the release of the egg from the ovary. Ovulation itself is instantaneous, but we generally consider this phase to last 24 hours, since that's how long the released egg is potentially fertile. Ovulation only happens once per cycle.
- Luteal phase: This phase is characterized by the forming the corpus luteum and preparing the uterine lining for implantation. This phase is the time from ovulation to your next period, usually around 2 weeks long.
There are key hormonal changes during each of these phases.
During the first part of your cycle estrogen hormones are dominant. (Estrogen is actually a group of hormones.) After ovulation, progesterone is produced. Ovulation is the only way your body can make this vital hormone naturally. These hormonal changes impact your energy levels, moods, and even the calorie intake that your body requires.
How do I know which phase of my cycle I'm in?
Whilst the majority of the population is generally only able to identify their period, you can easily track every one of these phases using the signs your body provides to you.
Here are the signs and basic tools:
Your base body temperature is impacted by the key hormones and the changes. Progesterone raises your body temperature. When you track your waking temperature every day, you can determine when ovulation is confirmed and that progesterone is present. You can easily do this during sleep using Tempdrop.
This important bodily fluid helps you to know when ovulation is approaching. Its consistency is affected by estrogen and changes the closer you are near to the time of ovulation. Tracking this every day can help you identify when it’s likely you can conceive.
The height and positioning of your cervix is altered by hormones too, though this is generally considered less reliable because of the variability between individuals. The closer to ovulation the higher and more open your cervix will become. Tracking this additional sign can help you identify when ovulation is approaching and then also confirm along with other signs that ovulation is confirmed when it becomes harder and lower.
As ovulation approaches, Luteinizing hormone surges. By using an at-home test that measures luteinizing hormone (LH) present in your urine you can identify if and when this surge happens and know that ovulation will likely* occur within the next 24-48 hours. It’s important to confirm this with BBT and/or cervical mucus.
* If you have a condition such as PCOS, using LH tests will likely prove to be a difficult sign to track as usually, you will experience multiple surges in LH as your body prepares for ovulation.
After ovulation, the corpus luteum (see above) produces progesterone. You can use at-home progesterone tests (similar to LH tests) to confirm ovulation has had by having sufficiently high progesterone.
Read on in Part 2 of this series!
And that's it! The bare basics of your cycle. Have any questions? Reach out on Instagram!