Wondering what the menstrual cycle is, and what it means for you and your body? Understanding your menstrual cycle can improve your menstrual health, well-being, and sex life.
We’ll explain your menstrual cycle in simple steps, to give you the information you need to know, and want to find out.
Menstrual cycle simply explained
When your body hits puberty, things start to change. But the exact moment puberty starts varies from person to person. It can start as early as 10 or as late as 16 – all is normal. During puberty, your body starts to produce a new set of hormones. These hormones will send out signals to your body, and some of them will tell your body to start to prepare for pregnancy every month.
The menstrual cycle is a series of natural processes that your body goes through. During your period cycle, your hormone levels rise and fall, depending on which stage of your menstrual cycle you are in. These hormones can also affect your mood and level of energy.
The length of a menstrual cycle can vary from 23 days to 35 days. All bodies are different, so the length of your own menstrual cycle may be shorter or longer and not all menstrual cycles are regular.
What happens during the Menstrual Cycle?
In total, your menstrual cycle consists of four different stages.
1. Phase: Menstrual Phase
This is what happens in your body: The first day of your period is the start of your menstrual cycle. The reason you might experience menstrual cramps during the first days of your periods is that the uterus lining breaks down and sheds. You begin menstruation.
This is how it might affect you: During menstruation, you may feel low on energy and have aches or pains. Check out some tips on what to do against menstrual cramps.
2. Phase: Preparing for Ovulation (Follicular Phase)
This is what happens in your body: After the last day of your period, your body prepares for ovulation. Here a hormone called follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) stimulates your ovaries to produce a matured egg. This maturing process produces estrogen, which makes the lining of your uterus thicken with nutrients and blood, so it will be able to provide the egg with the support it needs in case of pregnancy.
This is how it might affect you: Your estrogen levels start to rise and you might find yourself being in a better mood and having more energy. During this phase you might also notice more discharge (clear or white sticky mucus). This is normal.
Phase 3: Ovulation
This is what happens in your body: During ovulation, the matured egg is finally released into the fallopian tube and travels to the uterus. The egg can survive for 12-24 hours. During this time, if it comes in contact with sperm, it is fertilised. So keep in mind that during these days you are most likely to get pregnant (remember to use contraception).
This is how it might affect you: During this phase you might feel a boost of energy and inspiration. You might also feel an increase in your sex drive. Your body produces high levels of estrogen, which
Phase 4: Luteal Phase – End of menstrual cycle
This is what happens in your body: After the egg has travelled down the fallopian tube it gets to the womb. Your body starts to produce a new hormone called progesterone. This hormone will make sure your uterus keeps building up it’s lining.
But If the egg is not fertilised, levels of estrogen and progesterone drop. Your uterus does not need to maintain the nutritious lining it built up so it starts to break it down.
The thick lining and blood that was built up during the menstrual cycle will leave your body. This is your menstruation and it means that a new cycle begins.
This is how it might affect you: Due to the rise in progesterone your stress levels can increase easily and you might feel moodier during this phase. You might also feel easily irritated, experience some sadness or feel anxious. Your breast might feel more sensitive or even sore. Have a look at our page on PMS for some easy feel-good tips.
During your period be sure to use a period product you feel comfortable with. If you’ve been tampons or pads but didn’t feel happy with the solution, have a look at our menstrual cup made of medical grade silicone (no bleaches, perfumes or other chemicals).
Know your menstrual cycle, change your life
Understanding your monthly cycle can improve your life. Knowing which time of the month your energy levels are highest when you are most fertile, most sensitive and have the highest libido can make some great changes to how you handle your day to day life. Here are some important look out points during your cycle:
When am I most likely to get pregnant? You are most fertile during ovulation, which is around 2 weeks after the first day of your period. So take extra care!
What is my cervical mucus telling me?
Adapting to the hormonal changes your body goes through during your menstrual cycle, your cervical mucus will also change. Due to the change in consistency and quantity. If you’re a cervical mucus expert, you will be able to tell if you’re ovulating, just by looking at your cervical fluid.
When can I have sex?
You can have sex at any time during your menstrual cycle, but keep in mind that you can also get pregnant at any time during your cycle (yes, also during your period).
How can I plan around my period?
Start tracking your menstrual cycle to get the most out of your month. That way you can plan when to book your holiday, and time any big plans according to your period.
Periods don’t have to be a pain
Menstruation doesn’t need to be a problem. Your period usually lasts between 2-7 days, and your flow may vary. If you are worried about your period flow, have a look at our sections Heavy Periods and Irregular Periods to answer your questions.