Menstrual cycle basics
Updated: Dec 8, 2022
What every woman should know about her cycles and periods.
Do you know about the phases of the menstrual cycle?
I say often: it is not enough to wait for a period bleed each month. So much more than uterine shedding happens within our bodies during our cycles.
It is not enough to wait for a period bleed each month.
What are the phases of the menstrual cycle?
In order, the phases are:
Follicular phase (with menstruation and proliferative phase of the uterus)
Luteal phase (with secretory phase of the uterus)
Follicular phase with menstruation
Day 1 of period to ovulation
It is common to see the Menstrual and Follicular phases separate; however, even during menstruation (AKA period bleed), the brain is signaling the ovaries to prepare for ovulation.
The follicular phase is the first phase of the menstrual cycle and begins on the first day of your period and lasts until the day of ovulation. The main purpose of this phase is to prepare an egg to be released. During your period, the pituitary gland of the brain releases the hormone FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) to signal the ovaries to prepare an egg follicle for ovulation.
The main purpose of the follicular phase is to prepare an egg to be released.
Estrogen is also a main hormone of this phase. Estrogen steadily rises throughout the follicular phase to thicken the endometrium, or uterine lining, for possible implantation of a fertilized egg. This is called the proliferative phase of the uterus.
Testosterone also increases before ovulation happens. Because of this, you will probably notice an increase in libido and sex drive. This is a good sign to know that ovulation is will happen soon.
Lasts 24 hours
This is the time an ovary releases an egg to await fertilization. This is happening because the pituitary gland of the brain releases the hormone LH (Luteinizing Hormone). Ovulation can occur about 24 - 36 hours after the surge of LH from the brain. Ovulation takes place for 24 hours. If the mature egg is not fertilized within 24 hours, it is reabsorbed by the body, and the ovaries and uterus prepare for the next phase called the Luteal phase. It is important ovulation occurs during your fertile years, even if you do not plan on getting pregnant because after you ovulate the corpus luteum structure is left behind and is essential for the Luteal phase.
Even if you do not plan on getting pregnant because after you ovulate the corpus luteum structure is left behind and essential for the Luteal phase.
A great way to track your cycles and to confirm ovulation is through basal body temperature (BBT). Tracking BBT requires taking your temperature with a basal thermometer every morning before getting out of bed at the same time each morning.
There are many basal thermometers on the market, but the one I use and recommend to my patients is the Tempdrop. It is a wearable thermometer that you wear overnight while sleeping. *For 10% off of your Tempdrop, click here or use code: AFDRFRANCESCA at checkout (can be stacked with other Tempdrop offers).*
From day after ovulation to period
This final phase after ovulation will last until your next menstrual period. Ovulation leaves behind a temporary structure called the corpus luteum that releases progesterone and estrogen during this phase. Progesterone peaks about 5 - 7 days after ovulation and will hold steady if fertilization and implantation occur. However, if fertilization and implantation do not happen, progesterone and estrogen levels drop to signal the start of your next menstrual period.
During this phase, the uterus secretes prostaglandins to support implantation or shedding depending on whether fertilization occurs. This is the secretory phase of the uterus.
Tracking your menstrual cycle
It is important to track your cycle and your body's signs and symptoms. You can track your cycles with digital apps like Tempdrop or Flo, or in a journal/planner.
Here are some questions to ask yourself during your cycle to help with tracking:
How do I feel before, during, and after my period?
How do I feel leading up to ovulation?
Do I experience acne breakouts before or during my period?
Has my digestion changed before or during my period?
Has my mood changed before or during my period?
How has my sleep been affected leading up to my period?
How has my cervical fluid changed throughout my cycle?
Are my cycles regular, meaning they last about the same amount of days each cycle?
On average a menstrual cycle is 28 days, but not all women have 28-day cycles. Cycle length can vary from 22 - 36 days. Cycles less than 21 days or more than 35 days, may be an indication something is off and you need proper evaluation from your primary care doctor.
Let's work together
If you’d like to work with me and get a more in depth look at your hormones, cycle and overall health, call The Adapt Lab clinic at 858.209.2400 to make an appointment. I look forward to helping you get your health back on track!
*Disclaimer: Although I am a doctor, I may not be your doctor. The information contained within the pages of this site are for educational purposes only and should not to be used to treat conditions. Please consult with your doctor before implementing any of the treatments, diets, supplements, etc. mentioned in this blog.*
*Dr. Francesca is an affiliate for Amazon and other companies. Some links contained within the blog posts may be affiliate links from which she receives a small commission.*