The wonderful world of womanhood is a complex-yet-brilliant one. We, as women, are an incredibly designed organism, whose abilities and processes are both immaculate and intricate.
In addition to all of the incredible things we’ve done to better society, improve the world, and nurture those around us, we also have the miraculous ability to create life.
In fact, each month, our bodies prepare for this process with hormonal fluctuations, taking place during four, distinct phases during our menstrual cycle. If we aren’t pregnant that month, we wave goodbye to the pre-prepared egg during the menstruation phase (which you’re probably most familiar with) and then start the process all over again.
Truth be told, we don’t truly know enough about our bodies and its individual functions - especially when it comes to periods. But we’re here to help you feel a little more clued up.
What are the four phases of the menstrual cycle?
And you probably only thought you had one! Each of your four phases either prepares your body for pregnancy, or resets it when no pregnancy occurs. Basically, each serves a very different function.
Phase 1: Follicular phase
The follicular phase begins on the first day of menstruation (more on that later!) and continues on until the last day of ovulation. This particular phase triggers hormones in your pituitary gland to release the follicle stimulating hormone. These hormones go to work creating 5-20 follicles (depending on your body), which houses immature eggs.
Typically, one of these eggs will grow to full maturity, while the others die off. Once these eggs begin to develop, your body puts the uterus to work, thickening and preparing it with nutrients for a possible pregnancy. Pretty impressive, huh?
Phase 2: Ovulation phase
You may be little bit more familiar with this one because it’s the time when you’re most likely to get pregnant. The Ovulation phase typically starts around two weeks before your period, and is considered the moment the mature egg is release from your ovary.
This egg’s lifespan is typically only 24 hours - unless, of course, it’s met with some sperm in the fallopian tube.
Phase 3: Luteal phase
Are you ready for some hormones? During this particular phase, the follicle that once housed your egg has now transformed into something called corpus leteum. This structure plays an important role in early pregnancy as it begins to release uterine-strengthening progesterone and small amounts of oestrogen in preparation for a fertilized egg. Amazing!
If pregnancy doesn’t occur, this structure and the strengthened and nutrient-rich walls of your uterus will fall away, leading to the next phase of your menstrual cycle (one we all know well…)
Phase 4: Menstruation
Ok, you’re probably familiar with this part. It is the most visible phase of the menstrual cycle, after all. Each month that a pregnancy does not occur, your body begins its reset. It does this by shedding the lining it formed on the uterus. Bleeding, cramping, fatigue, and mood swings can accompany this part of your cycle - fun, huh?
What does a normal period look like?
Normal is different for all of us, but a period typically lasts around 3-7 days. You’ll experience bleeding and some minor discomfort like cramps - it should be relatively inconvenient, but nothing worse than that.
If you’re experiencing any severe PMS symptoms (lots of cramping, a heavy flow throughout, extreme fatigue, or an irregular cycle), we recommend that you consult a physician.
How should I eat during my period?
Some people say that eating well improves their period symptoms. A pretty simple switch, but it can help you more than you thought.
- Stay hydrated. You’re losing a lot of water, so make sure you’re drinking water regularly.
- Eat foods rich in iron. You lose a lot of iron as you bleed, which is probably why you feel dizzy.
- Healthy fats help repair. Try to eat a lot of omegas and plant-based fats like fish, nuts, and avocado.