Nobody thought us much about our cycle, other than the negative connotation about our periods. Most of us know two things, our period is supposed to come every month, and right before your period, you get cranky, moody, and crave lots of food.
But what if I tell you that your cycle is much more than an uncomfortable and sometimes painful time of the month?
Let's start with the basics. What is a menstrual cycle?
A menstrual cycle is all that happens with your body and hormones between the first day of a period and the start of the next period. Cycles are usually 28 days long, but they are considered regular if they happen every 22 to 38, so don't worry if your cycle is a bit shorter or longer... like mine (33-35 days).
Your menstrual cycle has four phases: Menstrual, Follicular, Ovulatory, and Luteal. If you go into more in-depth definitions, you might find other phases. Still, these are the main four phases every woman experiences every single month.
Menstrual Phase Days 1-7
Of course, the one that we know the most is our menstrual phase. This is when our period starts and ends. Your menstrual phase begins when your period starts (regular bleeding, not when you are spotting) and ends, of course, when your period ends. Sometimes your period might be a bit longer than other times; factors like exercise, diet, and stress can all affect your period's length. They don't have to come on the same calendar day.
Follicular Phase Day 8-13
The follicular phase starts on the first day of your period until ovulation. This is when your body prepares for getting pregnant (even if you are not planning to). This is usually when you feel energized and renewed.
Ovulatory Phase Day 14-21
This is when a mature egg gets released from the surface of the ovary. If you are trying to get pregnant, this is your most fertile phase. You can improve your chances if you know about your 'fertile window' in the menstrual cycle. Your libido increases!
Luteal Phase Day 22-28
This is when your body understands if you are pregnant or not. If you are, it will make the hormones that you need to create a safe environment for your fertilized egg to grow.
If you are not pregnant, your uterus lining will fall, producing your next period. This is usually the time when we feel hungrier than ever, we crave sweets and carbs and we get those PMS symptoms.
Ok, so how do I know in which phase am I?
The easiest way is to get a free period tracker on your phone. I like to use Flo or Clue. With time, they will automatically learn about your cycle and get more accurate with the period predictions. After you download it, you can add the dates of your menstrual phase (when you were bleeding), and the app will help you understand where you are on your cycle. You can also do this manually by counting each phase's days based on the only thing you can see happening: your period. (Each cycle lasts between 28-35 days)
What If I don't have a period?
A lot of women under birth control report the absence of a period. Your hormones and body still have four phases (although you don't bleed). So you can find your phase by counting your cycle from the last time you got your period. for example, If my last period started on July 1, I would go until today in segments of 28. Until today (September 14), I would be around day 24 of my cycle = Luteal phase.
Why does it matter?
Getting to know your body and the different changes it goes through the month can help you understand why you feel the way you feel sometimes. It can help you tell you if your hormones are out of balance, and it can also help you become your best friend. Because we live in a society where women are expected to "not be so emotional" and "always have the same energy level as men," we are often forced to be harsh with ourselves.
Ever felt like not working out or taking a nap but instead pushed yourself to finish a spinning class? While sometimes this push can be a positive thing, not listening to your internal signals can cause you and your hormones a lot of problems!
If you would like to learn more about your cycle and how and why your energy changes each week, sign up for my Women's Only Membership. It's free and I provide facts about your hormonal health and overall wellbeing.
Let's be well together!