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What are the Stages of the Menstrual Cycle?

  • Published on June 03, 2022
  • Updated on June 03, 2022
What are the Stages of the Menstrual Cycle?

Thinking about getting periods and not getting periods on time can be stressful. The day a girl gets her first period she is expected to transform into a woman or hit puberty. Women are expected to act maturely, to always be calm, patient, and tolerant of their situation. Several cultural taboos and biological misconceptions about menstruation need to be addressed. But not every culture treats mensuration as something wrong or bad or impure. For say, in south Indian states, there is a 3-day festival to honor womanhood. During this period the women are prepared for the coming agricultural season.

The onset of menstruation is surely a big thing less for the society but more for the girl who has just explored her first periods and is given millions of suggestions from others on how and what is mensuration exactly?

Dr. Meenu Vashisht Ahuja, a leading fertility expert explains all that one needs to know about menstruation, from what is menstruation to its stages.

 

What is a menstrual cycle?

The menstrual cycle is a series of natural changes in hormone production and the structures of the uterus and ovaries of the female reproductive system that makes pregnancy possible. The ovarian cycle controls the production and release of eggs and the cyclic release of estrogen and progesterone.

 

What are the stages of the menstrual cycle?

The menstrual cycle is a cycle that a female’s body goes through every month. This menstrual cycle consists of several stages or phases each month. It eliminates the possibility of one becoming pregnant. Hormone fluctuations are in charge of the body’s shift from one stage to the next. The count of the menstruation cycle is considered from the 1st day of the menstruation i.e when the blood starts to flow from the vagina. As per an average woman, the cycle period is 28 days. The entire menstruation cycle can be divided into four distinct phases.

 

  1. Menstrual phase (From day 1 to 5)
  2. Follicular phase (From day 1 to 13)
  3. Ovulation phase (Day 14)
  4. Luteal phase (From day 15 to 28)

Stages of the menstrual cycle infographic

Menstrual phase  (From day 1 to 5)

Menstrual phase

The menstrual phase is the 1st stage of the menstrual cycle, also the day when the period starts and ends till the 5th day of the cycle. When we get our first periods, the first thing that comes to our mind is what exactly goes on in our body or reproductive system that we start releasing blood out of our vagina. In simple terms, this blood is nothing but the shedding of the thickened lining of the uterus, which when conception does not happen is not needed and so it starts to shed through the vagina.  During this period, the blood released from the body is a combination of menstruation fluid, mucus, and tissues from the uterus. 

Symptoms

Following are some of the most common signs & symptoms one might notice in the 1st phase.

  • Abdominal Cramps
  • Bloating
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Tender breasts
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue/tiredness
  • Pain in the lower back

 

Follicular phase (From day 1 to 13)

 

Follicular phase

The follicular phase, like the menstrual phase, starts with the first phase and ends on the 13th day of the cycle. The process begins when the hypothalamus, a brain area, sends a signal to the pituitary gland to release follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This hormone causes your ovaries to generate 5 to 20 follicles, which are tiny sacs. An immature egg is found in each follicle but only the healthiest egg will mature in the end. The remaining follicles will be absorbed back into your body. The follicular period lasts about 13-16 days on average. Below are some of the signs & symptoms of the follicular phase.

Symptoms

Below are some of the signs which can help determine that the second phase has begun.

  • Higher energy levels
  • Fresh and glowing skin
  • Increase in sex drive

 

Ovulation phase  (Day 14)

Ovulation phase image depiction

The ovulation phase is when you are the most fertile. Anyone who wants to get pregnant should try to do so during this ovulation period. The pituitary gland secretes a hormone on the 14th day of the cycle that induces the ovary to release the matured egg cell. Waves of small, hair-like projections sweep the liberated egg cell into the fallopian tube and towards the uterus. The average egg has a lifespan of about 24 hours. It will die unless it comes into contact with sperm during this period.

Symptoms

Below are some of the symptoms of the ovulation phase, these symptoms can help determine when you can plan your pregnancy. 

  • Cervical mucus changes
  • Heightened senses
  • Breast soreness or tenderness
  • Mild pelvic or lower abdominal pain
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Sharp or dull cramp
  • Discharge
  • Nausea
  • Light spotting
  • Cervix changes
  • Libido changes
  • Changes in basal body temperature

 

Luteal phase(From day 15 to 28)

Luteal phase image depiction

Your body begins to prepare for a new cycle during this time. As your hormone production begins, your energy levels may drop, bringing with them menstruation symptoms. The corpus luteum develops after the follicle discharges its egg. Hormones, primarily progesterone and some estrogen, are released by this structure. The corpus luteum is a perfectly natural cyst that develops on the ovary every month in women of reproductive age. This cyst is made up of cells in your ovaries that form at the end of your menstrual cycle.

Symptoms

During this phase, if you don’t get pregnant, below are some of the symptoms you may experience. These include:

  • Bloating
  • Breast swelling, pain, or tenderness
  • Mood changes
  • Headache
  • Weight gain
  • Changes in sexual desire
  • Food cravings
  • Trouble sleeping

 

Conclusion

It is very important to understand your body as it can help you to better respond and control your hormones. Not every woman is aware about her body and how her reproductive system is responding and that is why it is important to visit a healthcare specialist to get all necessary tests done to better understand the body.

 

FAQs:

How many days after your period can you get pregnant?

As per research, 6 days after the period the chances might increase of getting pregnant because in that phase you enter the ovulation period i.e the most fertile time of your cycle.

 

How many days after your period can you not get pregnant?

There is no time as the safe time when it comes to having sex without contraception pills. Your chances might be low but there isn’t any period during a month that can be declared as safe for not getting pregnant.

 

How do I know when I’m ovulating?

There are certain signs which can help determine if you are ovulating. The basal body temperature falls slightly, then rises up again, the cervix softens and opens up, the cervical mucus becomes thinner and clearer and you might feel slight discomfort or mild cramps in the lower abdomen. 

Written by:
Dr. Meenu Vashisht Ahuja

Dr. Meenu Vashisht Ahuja

Consultant
Dr Meenu Vashisht Ahuja is a prominent gynaecologist and fertility specialist with 17+ years of training and work experience across India. She has extensive experience in the field of infertility and IVF and has been associated with the best IVF centers in Delhi. Currently, she is working as a visiting consultant specialist at multiple fertility centers across Delhi.   

Over 17+ years of experience

Lajpat Nagar, New Delhi

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