Every woman experiences the stages of the menstrual cycle from puberty to menopause each month. Unless you are pregnant, a woman’s body goes through a series of hormone-driven events a.k.a menstrual cycle.
In a nutshell, an egg is released from the ovaries for possible pregnancy, in case pregnancy doesn’t happen, the uterine lining sheds during a menstrual period, and the cycle starts again.
A woman’s menstrual cycle has four phases:
- menstrual phase
- follicular phase
- ovulation phase
- luteal phase
1. Menstrual Phase
The Menstrual phase begins with the onset of your period. When an egg from the previous cycle isn’t fertilized, levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone drop. When you are not pregnant, the thickened lining of your uterus is no longer needed, so it sheds through your vagina. You might experience period symptoms like:
- low back pain
On average, a healthy woman will have the menstrual phase for 3 to 7 days.
2. Follicular Phase
The follicular phase starts on the first day when you get your period and ends when you start ovulating. The Follicle Stimulating hormone stimulates your ovaries to produce around 5 to 20 follicles which contains immature egg. However, only the healthiest egg matures. The rest of the follicles gets reabsorbed into your body. This increases estrogen and causes the thickening of your uterus lining. The follicular phase lasts for an average of 16 days.
3. Ovulation Phase
The high estrogen levels trigger your pituitary gland to release luteinizing hormone (LH), which starts the process of ovulation. Ovulation is when your ovary releases a mature egg through the fallopian tube toward the uterus to be fertilized by sperm. The ovulation phase is the only time when you can get pregnant. Here are some symptoms that you are ovulating:
- a slight rise in basal body temperature
- thicker discharge
Ovulation happens at around day 14 if you have a 28-day menstrual cycle. It typically lasts for 24 hours and the egg will die or dissolve if not fertilized.
4. Luteal Phase
After the follicle releases its egg, your body releases progesterone and estrogen to keep your uterine lining thick. If you do not get pregnant, the corpus luteum will shrink away and be resorbed into the body. This decreases estrogen and progesterone, which causes the onset of your menstrual phase.
During this phase, you may experience symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) like:
- breast tenderness
- mood changes
- weight gain
- food cravings
The luteal phase lasts for 11 to 17 days which varies from woman to woman. These are the four stages of your menstrual cycle that every woman should know!