How your menstrual cycle works

Your menstrual cycle works in fabulous and amazing ways and it is so much more than having your period.

It took us ages to realise how my menstrual cycle works, it was never explained to us growing up and we think its essential knowledge for any menstruating human. 

Growing up we were taught how to manage our periods, we heard a little bit about ovulation, usually in the context of not getting pregnant, and then there was little else. Sometimes we would hear words like progesterone, estrogen and testosterone and kind of understand that these hormones were important but not really understand how they worked or interacted. 

We want to shed light on this and give you more knowledge about your cycle. No menstruating human should be in the dark about the amazing superpower they possess, the menstrual cycle.

We are cyclical beings, often expected to function in a very linear way. Our cycles mean we vary every day, so its time to let go of expectations that we will be the same every day. This is hard when society expects the same type of “productivity” from us every day but believe it or not there is true power in each phase of your cycle. We have learnt great power form embracing when its time to slow down; when its time to do, be social and get out there; when we should take a step back and plan and dream; and when our creativity is most vibrant. 

By tracking your period you can also unlock these amazing powers and reimagine your relationship with your period and menstrual cycle. 

This is a short overview of how your menstrual cycle works, it’s not just being on or off your period. Essentially there are four phases of your menstrual cycle, which is a biofeedback system, each structure and gland is affected by the activity of the others. And altogether the average cycle lasts from 21-35 weeks.

This is an overview of your hormones during your cycle (it'll come in handy to reference as you read).

 

Menstrual Phase

This is your period and when the lining of your uterus sheds through your cervix and vagina. It usually lasts from 3 to 7 days and the average fluid loss is anything from 10ml - 35ml. If you are tracking your menstrual cycle, the first day of your period is counted as day 1 of your cycle. 

At this stage your hormone levels are low. You might feel tired and withdrawn, it is a good time for resting, dreaming, journaling, reflecting and giving yourself permission to slow down. 


Follicular Phase

After your period your body begins to get ready for ovulation, usually lasting from between 7 to 10 days. It slowly gears up to release an egg from one of your ovaries (typically your ovaries take turns doing this) to do this your pituitary gland releases follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which stimulates your ovary to produce around 5 to 20 follicles, each housing an immature egg. Usually, one follicle will mature and the egg released, this is ovulation (coming up next) and the other follicles will die. At this time you get a burst of testosterone which boosts your libido and estrogen that can make you feel more extroverted.

You might feel a boost of energy during this phase, be more assertive and be willing to take risks. Its a great time for taking bold action, doing and trying new things.


Ovulation Phase

When your body is ready to ovulate, one ovarian follicle will release an egg that is channelled down the fallopian tube toward the uterus, this typically happens 14 days before your next period. During the whole ovulation phase, that usually lasts from about 3 to 5 days, your estrogen levels are peaking and you might feel sensual and confident. It is a great time for spending time with friends, family and intimate partner as well as doing things that make you tick.

 

Luteal Phase

So now you have ovulated, the ovarian follicle that produced the egg goes on to do something amazing. This follicle turns into a hormone-releasing structure called a corpus luteum that produces high levels of progesterone. This is awesome timing, as the progesterone slowly builds into the next phase, it's kind of like our natural remedy to PMS. Progesterone helps chill us out and deal with stress, so often we get bad PMS symptoms when our progesterone levels are not high enough. It's also worth considering that without ovulation, this boost in progesterone doesn't occur. This progesterone and a small kick in estrogen maintain the thickened uterus lining. Ready for a fertilised egg to implant. With these hormones doing their thing you might feel calm and decrease in energy. Some menstruators feel PMS symptoms which can be a sign of an imbalance and might be a sign you need to see a health professional specialising in hormones to restore balance. It is a great time for detail-oriented tasks, getting organised and being creative. 

 

So where are you in your cycle? How are you feeling today?