How much do you know about your menstrual cycle? A recent poll done by yours truly, indicated that many of us do not really understand what happens to our bodies every month.
I recently had a conversation with a woman in her 30’s about her fertility and menstruation. I was shocked by her lack of education about her own body. I was curious to know if this was an individual case or if other women lacked this knowledge as well. I started asking other women questions about their body’s – specifically about their periods. I was again surprised by how little women seemed to know about what was happening inside their own body.
So for this week’s blog topic, I want to discuss your menstrual cycle.
Your menstrual cycle has four distinct phases:
1. Follicular phase
The follicular phase lasts about two weeks. The last 5 days are considered your fertile window. As an aside, a woman is only able to conceive on six days out of her entire cycle. So, women can only get pregnant on the day of ovulation or during the five days before ovulation. Amazing!
Back to the follicular phase. During this phase your endocrine system specifically your pituitary gland, (a pea-sized structure located at the base of the brain), releases a hormone called follicle-stimulating hormone better known as FSH. This hormone stimulates the growth of ovarian follicles.
Ovarian follicles are cells that each contain one immature egg. Although anywhere between 10 and 20 ovarian follicles may initially develop, by the end of the follicular phase, only one will remain. This means that you will only have one mature egg which will be released during the ovulation phase.
During this time the lining of your uterus (known as the endometrium) begins to thicken so it can be ready to receive a fertilized egg.
The day before you ovulate, your estrogen levels peak, triggering the lutenizing hormone (LH). The rise in LH causes your ovarian follicle to burst and release the egg. The egg moves into the fallopian tube and towards the uterus. If the egg is not fertilized, the egg will disintegrate.
3. Luteal phase
During this phase the follicle that released the egg releases large amounts of hormone known as progesterone, this is to maintain the thick endometrium in case fertilization occurs. If fertilization does not occur, the progesterone levels will decline and the lining will disintegrate.
Menstruation occurs when the disintegrated endometrium flows out of the vagina.
There you have it, the 4 phases of your menstrual cycle.
Read more here about understanding your period.