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What Happens to Your Body Through Your Menstrual Cycle?

Menstrual Health

Knowledge is power when it comes to building a healthy relationship with your period. Your menstrual cycle is an important sign of your overall health, and being aware of the stages, signs, and what causes changes is key to tracking it to maintain your wellness.

For many, a healthy menstrual cycle lasts anywhere between 24-35 days with periods of 4-7 days. To help nurture a positive relationship with your body, it helps to know the basics of how your menstrual cycle works. This guide will help you become more in tune with what a healthy menstrual cycle looks like, how to track it for optimal health, and what can cause changes in your cycle.

 

Your menstrual cycle at a glance

AVERAGE LENGTH OF MENSTRUAL CYCLE
The average menstrual cycle lasts 21-28 days, with day one being the start of your period. Some have cycles that last up to 35 days. Keep in mind that every cycle is unique and tracking your period can give you a better understanding of what's normal for you.

TRACKING YOUR PERIOD
Tracking your period is an easy and helpful way to understand your menstrual cycle. You can use an app, take notes on your phone, or use a calendar. You don't have to track every detail, simply noting the first and last day of your period is enough; although it can also be helpful to note how heavy your flow is per day, especially when determining which period underwear is right for you! Tracking your period can also be useful if you're trying to conceive, as it can help you determine your normal cycle length.

IRREGULAR PERIODS
If your period is more frequent than the average 21-28 days, there could be a number of reasons for this. During puberty, your cycle may be irregular, but it should settle down after a year or two. If your period suddenly becomes more frequent, it's always a good idea to speak with a doctor. Irregular periods can be caused by factors such as pregnancy, perimenopause, excessive weight loss or gain, and medical conditions such as PCOS, thyroid problems, uterine fibroids, and endometriosis.

BLEEDING BETWEEN PERIODS
Bleeding between periods is not normal and should be evaluated by a doctor. Possible causes of this type of bleeding include hormonal contraceptives, injury or trauma, abortion, or miscarriage, STIs, hormone imbalances, stress, uterine fibroids, polyps, and in rare cases, cancer. If you experience bleeding between periods, it's important to seek medical attention.

 

menstrual cycle chart with four phases

Understanding your menstrual cycle phases

Do you ever wonder why your body feels different at certain points during your menstrual cycle? It's because there are four distinct phases that make up your menstrual cycle – follicular phase (after period), ovulatory phase (mid-cycle), luteal phase (after ovulation) & finally menstrual/periodic (3-7 days before new cycle). Each one has its own set of characteristics and understanding them helps us understand our bodies better and also how best to take care of ourselves during each stage - whether it's increasing physical activity and eating healthy fats during follicular; drinking lots of water and avoiding processed food during ovulatory; practicing self-care activities like yoga and meditation during luteal; or taking OTC medication and applying heat packs on abdomen when having periods! Understanding these phases can help us stay healthy and happy throughout our monthly cycles!

Phase 1: Follicular Phase
The first phase is called the follicular phase. This happens on the first day of your period and typically lasts about two weeks. During this phase, Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) is released from your pituitary gland, which stimulates the growth of ovarian follicles in preparation for ovulation. This hormone also increases estrogen production in preparation for ovulation.

TIP: During this time, it can be helpful to increase physical activity and eat foods high in healthy fats, such as nuts and avocados.

Phase 2: Ovulation
The second phase is called the ovulatory phase and usually occurs around mid-cycle (about 12-14 days from when your period started). During this time, an egg is released from one of your ovaries and travels down the fallopian tube where it may be fertilised by sperm if you’re trying to conceive. You may experience some cramping or light spotting during this time due to increased levels of progesterone being released into your body.

TIP: To help reduce any discomfort associated with ovulation, try drinking plenty of water, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and avoiding processed foods.

Phase 3: Luteal Phase
The third phase is called the luteal phase which happens after ovulation has occurred and typically lasts around two weeks until you get your period again. During this time, progesterone levels continue to increase while estrogen levels start decreasing as the body prepares itself for menstruation.

TIP: Many experience mood swings or premenstrual symptoms during this time due to these hormonal changes so it’s important to prioritise self-care activities such as yoga, meditation, getting plenty of restful sleep, eating nutritious meals, etc.

Phase 4: Menstruation
Finally, we have the fourth phase which is known as the menstrual phase or period which usually lasts between 3-7 days depending on your individual cycle length. This is when the uterus sheds its lining in preparation for a potential pregnancy if conception occurred during ovulation stage.

TIP: You can help alleviate any cramps or other discomforts associated with periods by taking over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or directly applying heating pads/hot water bottles over the area that hurts to provide temporary relief from pain or cramping sensations caused by menstrual cycles.

 

What can cause changes?

An understanding of your body's natural responses and hormonal changes throughout each stage can be helpful in determining whether something is “normal” for you.

Some common signs of a healthy menstrual cycle include regular periods that last 3-5 days, minimal cramps/breast tenderness during your period week, no spotting other than on your period day(s), lack of PMS symptoms such as mood swings/headaches/bloating etc., and generally feeling energised throughout all phases!

 

What can cause changes?

There are several factors that can cause disruptions in a healthy menstrual cycle. Hormonal imbalances resulting from underlying medical conditions such as PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), diabetes, thyroid problems or even stress can be culprits here.

Additionally, lifestyle choices such as excessive caffeine intake or inadequate sleep may also result in irregular cycles. It's important to consult with your doctor if you notice any drastic changes to rule out other underlying issues which may need separate treatment.

Overall, it's essential to pay attention to your body's natural rhythms so you know when something is off--it could just be part of the normal ebb and flow but understanding what a healthy menstrual cycle looks like is key! If anything seems out of sorts, then seek medical advice so you can get back on track faster.

 

Want to know what impact your menstrual cycle has on your wellbeing? Click to read more about how your body changes.

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