wellness blog
Back to all topics

What are the 4 Phases of the Menstrual Cycle?

Are you familiar with the 4 phases of the menstrual cycle? The average woman will experience about 450 menstrual cycles in her lifetime. Yet most people only think of the time you’re on your period as your menstrual cycle.

So, what exactly are the four phases of the menstrual cycle? Let’s dive into each stage and explore the signs, symptoms, strengths, and hormone levels associated with them.

two tampons are on top of a cotton plant representing the 4 menstrual phases

Key Takeaways:

  • The menstrual cycle is divided into four phases: menstrual, follicular, ovulation, and luteal.
  • Each phase is characterized by hormonal changes and physical symptoms.
  • The menstrual phase marks the start of the cycle, with vaginal bleeding and hormonal decrease.
  • The follicular phase is when the uterine lining thickens, energy levels increase, and skin may clear up.
  • Ovulation is the release of a mature egg, accompanied by changes in cervical mucus and a slight temperature rise.

Menstrual Phase

Understanding the Initial Stage of the Menstruation Cycle

The menstrual phase, also known as menstruation, is the first phase of the menstrual cycle. It marks the beginning of a new cycle and is characterized by several hormonal changes and physical symptoms.

What Happens During the Menstrual Phase?

During this phase, the levels of estrogen and progesterone in your body drop significantly. This hormonal shift signals the shedding of the uterine lining, resulting in vaginal bleeding.

We ideally like to see menstrual bleeding lasting for around 3 to 7 days, although it can vary from person to person. The released blood, mucus, and tissue make their way out of the body through the vagina.

Signs and Symptoms

Common symptoms experienced during the menstrual phase include:

  • Menstrual cramps: Mild to severe lower abdominal pain or discomfort.
  • Breast tenderness: Soreness or sensitivity in the breasts.
  • Bloating: Feeling of fullness or swelling in the abdomen.
  • Mood swings: Emotional changes and irritability.
  • Fatigue: Feeling tired or low energy.

Though these symptoms can vary in intensity and duration from person to person, if you’re experiencing severe symptoms during this time, we encourage you to reach out to us to help figure out what’s going on. It’s important to listen to your body and practice self-care during this time.

Hormonal Changes

The hormonal changes during menstruation involve a decrease in estrogen and progesterone levels. These hormonal fluctuations trigger the shedding of the uterine lining.

Estrogen: Estrogen levels decrease during menstruation.

Progesterone: Progesterone levels also drop during this phase.

Understanding the menstrual phase and its hormonal changes is essential for managing your menstrual cycle and overall reproductive health. By tracking your cycle and being aware of the signs and symptoms, you can take better care of yourself during this phase of the menstrual cycle.

Follicular Phase

The follicular phase is a crucial stage in the menstrual cycle that starts on the first day of menstruation and lasts until ovulation. During this phase, the female reproductive system undergoes significant changes to prepare for potential pregnancy. The follicular phase lasts between 12-21 days, if its significantly shorter or longer, this can be a sign of a hormonal imbalance.

One of the key players in the follicular phase is the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that signals the pituitary gland to release follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). FSH stimulates the ovaries to produce follicles, the small sacs that contain the eggs.

As the follicles develop, they release estrogen, a hormone that plays a vital role in thickening the uterine lining, known as the endometrium. The thickened lining sets the stage for the potential implantation of a fertilized egg.

During the follicular phase, estrogen levels gradually rise, contributing to various physical changes that some women may experience. Higher energy levels, clearer skin, and an increased libido are common symptoms during this phase.

Key Hormone Levels during the Follicular Phase:

HormoneFunctionLevels
Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH)Stimulates the ovaries to produce folliclesLow at the beginning, gradually increases
EstrogenThickens the uterine liningLow at the beginning, gradually increases

Ovulation Phase

The ovulation phase is a crucial stage in the menstrual cycle, occurring approximately halfway through the cycle. This is when a mature egg is released from the ovary and makes its way into the fallopian tube. It is during this phase that the chances of pregnancy are highest, as the egg is available for fertilization. Understanding the ovulation phase is important whether you’re trying to avoid pregnancy or conceive as you can time sex accordingly.

There are several signs that indicate the occurrence of ovulation:

  1. Rise in Basal Body Temperature: During ovulation, a woman’s basal body temperature (BBT) tends to increase slightly. Tracking your BBT can help you identify when you are ovulating.
  2. Changes in Cervical Mucus: The consistency and appearance of cervical mucus change during ovulation. It becomes clear, slippery, and similar to the consistency of raw egg whites. This type of mucus facilitates the journey of sperm through the cervix and into the fallopian tubes.
  3. Mild Abdominal Cramps: Some women experience mild abdominal cramps or twinges during ovulation. These cramps, known as mittelschmerz, can last for a few hours to a couple of days and are typically localized on one side of the lower abdomen.

Identifying these signs and symptoms can help individuals track their fertile window, which is the timeframe during which conception is most likely to occur. The fertile window begins about 5 days before ovulation, and lasts for 12-36 hours post-ovulation. For couples trying to conceive, having intercourse during this window increases the chances of pregnancy.

Knowing when ovulation is likely to occur can also be helpful for those who want to avoid pregnancy. By tracking the signs of ovulation, individuals can better understand their own unique menstrual cycle patterns and adjust their family planning method accordingly.

Luteal Phase

The luteal phase is the third phase of the menstrual cycle, following ovulation, and lasts until the start of the next menstrual cycle. During this phase, the corpus luteum, a structure formed after the release of the egg, produces progesterone and some estrogen hormones.

These hormones play a crucial role in maintaining the thickened uterine lining, which supports a potential pregnancy. If fertilization does not occur, the corpus luteum shrinks, hormone levels decrease, and the uterine lining is shed during menstruation.

If you’re trying to conceive, understanding your luteal phase is important as it helps determine the length of your menstrual cycle. The luteal phase typically lasts between 10 to 16 days, with the average being 12-14 days. A shorter or longer luteal phase may indicate hormonal imbalances that can impact fertility.

And if you’re able to identify your ovulation phase, then you know that you only have around 14 days left in your luteal phase when your periods starts once again.

During the luteal phase, women may experience a variety of symptoms due to hormonal fluctuations, collectively known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Common symptoms of PMS during the luteal phase include:

  • Bloating
  • Breast tenderness
  • Mood changes
  • Food cravings

These symptoms can vary in intensity and duration from person to person. The severity of PMS symptoms can also vary from cycle to cycle. If you experience severe symptoms that significantly impact your quality of life, we need to discuss WHY you’re having those symptoms. Lifestyle and nutritional choices greatly impact your menstrual cycle, and I can help you identify changes you likely need to make.

Understanding the Phases of the Menstrual Cycle

The length of the menstrual cycle can vary from person to person, with the average cycle lasting around 28 days. However, it is important to note that ideally menstrual flow occurs every 23 to 35 days, however irregularities are common.

Various factors can influence the length and regularity of the menstrual cycle, including birth control methods, pregnancy, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), stress, undereating, over-exercising, and uterine fibroids.

Tracking the phases of the menstrual cycle and keeping a journal of any changes in your routine can help you identify any irregularities and potential issues, such as skipped periods, irregular bleeding, or changes in cycle length.

Common Issues During the Phases of the Menstrual Cycle

There are several common menstrual cycle issues that women may experience:

  1. Irregular Menstrual Cycle: Some women may have irregular periods, with menstrual flow occurring at varying intervals or experiencing skipped periods.
  2. Heavy or Prolonged Bleeding: Unusually heavy or prolonged bleeding during menstruation can be a sign of an underlying issue.
  3. Lack of or Light Bleeding: While it can feel like we are blessed if we have a light menstrual flow, it can mean there is underlying stress or imbalance in the body.
  4. Spotting Between Periods: Spotting or light bleeding between periods can also occur and should be monitored.

If you are experiencing any problems with your menstrual cycle, we need to chat. There may be some important lifestyle factors that can make all the difference.

Menstruation Phase Symptoms

a women in the menstrual phase of her cycle has cramps and leans against her bed for support

If you experience the symptoms of the menstrual phase, you are not alone. Many women go through physical and emotional changes during this time. Understanding these symptoms can help you manage your menstrual cycle and alleviate any discomfort you may be feeling.

1. Menstrual Cramps

Menstrual cramps, also known as dysmenorrhea, are a common symptom during the menstrual phase. They are caused by the uterus contracting to shed its lining. Cramps can vary in intensity and may be accompanied by lower back pain.

2. Breast Tenderness

During menstruation, hormonal changes can cause breast tenderness and swelling. This is due to fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels. Wearing a supportive bra and applying a warm compress can provide relief.

3. Irritability

Changes in hormone levels can also affect your mood during the menstrual phase. Some women may experience irritability, mood swings, or feelings of sadness. Engaging in stress-relieving activities, like exercise or spending time with loved ones, can help improve your mood.

4. Bloating

Bloating is a common symptom during menstruation. It is caused by hormonal changes that can lead to water retention and abdominal discomfort. Reducing sodium intake, staying hydrated, and eating smaller, more frequent meals can help alleviate bloating.

5. Fatigue

Many women experience fatigue during the menstrual phase. The drop in estrogen levels can contribute to feelings of tiredness. Getting enough rest, eating a balanced diet, and staying active can help boost your energy levels.

6. Acne

Hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual phase can also cause breakouts and acne. These changes can stimulate the production of sebum, leading to clogged pores and inflammation. Maintaining a consistent skincare routine and avoiding harsh products can help manage acne during this time.

SymptomsCauseManagement
Menstrual CrampsUterus contracting to shed lining– Applying heat to the lower abdomen
– Over-the-counter pain relievers
Breast TendernessFluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels– Wearing a supportive bra
– Applying a warm compress
IrritabilityHormonal changes– Engaging in stress-relieving activities
– Practicing relaxation techniques
BloatingHormonal changes and water retention– Reducing sodium intake
– Staying hydrated
– Eating smaller, frequent meals
FatigueDrop in estrogen levels– Getting enough rest
– Eating a balanced diet
– Staying active
AcneHormonal fluctuations and increased sebum production– Maintaining a consistent skincare routine
– Avoiding harsh products
– Keeping the skin clean and hydrated

Follicular Phase Symptom

a woman with clear skin during her follicular phase smiles at the camera

The follicular phase is a critical stage of the menstrual cycle that prepares the body for ovulation. During this phase, which occurs after the menstrual phase, there are several symptoms that women may experience.

Increase in Energy Levels

One common symptom of the follicular phase is an increase in energy levels. As the body prepares for ovulation, the hormone levels, particularly estrogen, rise. This hormonal surge can leave you feeling more energized and motivated to take on daily activities.

Clearer Skin

Another perk of the follicular phase is that many women experience clearer skin during this time. Higher estrogen levels promote collagen production, which can help improve the overall appearance and texture of the skin. It’s not uncommon to notice fewer blemishes and a healthier complexion during this phase.

Higher Sex Drive

The follicular phase is also known for boosting libido. As estrogen levels rise, so does sexual desire. This increase in sex drive is nature’s way of preparing the body for potential reproduction.

Follicular Phase Symptoms Overview

SymptomsDescription
Increase in Energy LevelsHigher levels of estrogen can lead to increased energy and motivation.
Clearer SkinElevated estrogen promotes collagen production, resulting in clearer and healthier skin.
Higher Sex DriveRising hormone levels during this phase can lead to an increased libido.

Ovulation Phase Symptoms

a couple kisses in the street as the woman in the relationship is in her ovulatory phase

The ovulation phase is a crucial time in the menstrual cycle for those trying to conceive. Being aware of the signs and symptoms can help you identify your fertile window and increase your chances of getting pregnant. Here are some common symptoms of ovulation:

  • Changes in Cervical Mucus: As ovulation approaches, you may notice a change in the consistency and appearance of your cervical mucus. It tends to become clear, slippery, and stretchy, similar to raw egg whites. This type of cervical mucus is optimal for sperm survival and indicates that you are approaching your most fertile days.
  • Slight Increase in Basal Body Temperature: Basal body temperature (BBT) refers to your body’s lowest resting temperature. Before ovulation, your BBT may be slightly lower, but as ovulation occurs, it rises and remains elevated for the rest of the cycle. By tracking your BBT daily, you can detect a subtle temperature shift that indicates ovulation has taken place.
  • Abdominal Cramps: Some women experience mild abdominal cramps or twinges of pain during ovulation. These cramps are typically felt on one side of the lower abdomen, where the ovary is releasing the egg.
  • Breast Tenderness: Hormonal changes during ovulation can cause breast tenderness or sensitivity. Your breasts may feel fuller, heavier, or more sensitive to touch.

By paying attention to these symptoms, you can track your fertile window and optimize your chances of conceiving. If you’re actively trying to get pregnant, consider using ovulation predictor kits, which detect the surge of luteinizing hormone (LH) that occurs 24-48 hours before ovulation. These kits can provide additional confirmation of ovulation.

But for many women, the increase in libido is a sure sign that ovulation is close.

Luteal Phase Symptoms

a girl in her luteal phase lies on her bed with a sad expression on her face

The luteal phase, which follows ovulation, is characterized by various symptoms that are commonly associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS). During this phase, hormone levels shift, and many women experience physical and emotional changes. Here are some common symptoms experienced during the luteal phase:

  • Bloating: Many women experience bloating and water retention during the luteal phase. This can cause feelings of discomfort and a sensation of being swollen.
  • Breast Swelling or Tenderness: Hormonal changes can lead to breast swelling, tenderness, or sensitivity. This can make the breasts feel sore or painful to touch.
  • Mood Changes: Fluctuating hormone levels can impact mood during the luteal phase. Some women may experience irritability, mood swings, anxiety, or depression.
  • Headaches: Hormonal fluctuations may trigger headaches or migraines in some women during this phase.
  • Weight Gain: It is common for women to experience mild weight gain during the luteal phase due to water retention and changes in metabolism.
  • Changes in Sexual Desire: Some women may notice changes in their sexual desire during the luteal phase. This can range from an increase to a decrease in libido.
  • Food Cravings: Many women experience intense food cravings during the luteal phase, particularly for sweets, carbs, or salty foods.
  • Trouble Sleeping: Hormonal changes can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep during the luteal phase.

It’s important to note that not all women will experience every symptom, and the severity of symptoms can vary. If you are experiencing severe or debilitating symptoms during the luteal phase, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional for further evaluation and management.

SymptomsCommon during Luteal Phase?
BloatingYes
Breast Swelling or TendernessYes
Mood ChangesYes
HeadachesYes
Weight GainYes
Changes in Sexual DesireYes
Food CravingsYes
Trouble SleepingYes

Common Issues During the Phases of the Menstrual Cycle

Irregular menstrual cycles, changes in the menstrual cycle, and menstrual disorders are common concerns that many individuals face. It’s important to understand the various issues that can arise during your menstrual cycle and seek appropriate guidance if you experience any problems.

Irregular Periods

Irregular periods refer to changes in the regularity and timing of your menstrual cycle. Your periods may occur too frequently, too infrequently, or have inconsistent cycle lengths. This can be caused by factors such as hormonal imbalances, stress, weight fluctuations, or certain medical conditions.

Skipped Periods

Skipping a period occasionally is usually not a cause for concern. However, if you frequently skip periods or miss them entirely, it may indicate an underlying issue. Possible causes include pregnancy, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disorders, excessive exercise, or certain medications.

Unusually Heavy or Prolonged Bleeding

Experiencing abnormally heavy or prolonged bleeding during your menstrual cycle, known as menorrhagia, can be distressing and disruptive. This could be caused by hormonal imbalances, uterine fibroids, adenomyosis, or other medical conditions. It is advisable to seek medical attention if you consistently soak through pads or tampons every hour or if your period lasts for more than seven days.

Spotting Between Periods

Spotting or light bleeding between periods, also known as intermenstrual bleeding, can occur for various reasons. It may be due to hormonal fluctuations, contraceptive use, cervical infections, or cervical polyps.

While occasional spotting is common, frequent or persistent spotting should be addressed. There are many ways we can help identify the root cause of spotting. Contact me to learn more.

If you are experiencing any problems with your menstrual cycle, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. They can help identify the underlying cause of your menstrual issues and provide guidance on managing symptoms and promoting reproductive health.

Conclusion

Understanding the phases of the menstrual cycle is essential for reproductive health and overall well-being. By familiarizing yourself with the four phases – the menstrual phase, follicular phase, ovulation phase, and luteal phase – you can gain valuable insights into your body’s monthly rhythm. Tracking your menstrual cycle is a powerful tool that can help you identify any irregularities or changes that may require medical attention.

During each phase, your body undergoes hormonal changes and exhibits specific signs and symptoms. For example, the menstrual phase is characterized by vaginal bleeding, cramps, breast tenderness, bloating, mood swings, and fatigue. The follicular phase is associated with increased energy levels, clearer skin, and a higher sex drive. The ovulation phase presents signs such as changes in cervical mucus, a slight rise in basal body temperature, abdominal cramps, and breast tenderness. In the luteal phase, you may experience bloating, breast swelling or tenderness, mood changes, headaches, and food cravings.

Tracking your menstrual cycle empowers you to make informed decisions about family planning and reproductive health. It allows you to identify your fertile window and optimize your chances of conception. Furthermore, tracking can help detect any abnormalities, such as irregular cycles or excessive bleeding, that may indicate underlying medical conditions. By understanding your body’s unique patterns, you can seek appropriate medical care when needed, ensuring your reproductive health remains a priority.

FAQ

What are the 4 phases of the menstrual cycle?

The 4 phases of the menstrual cycle are the menstrual phase, follicular phase, ovulation phase, and luteal phase.

What happens during the menstrual phase?

The menstrual phase is when the uterine lining sheds, resulting in vaginal bleeding and the release of blood, mucus, and tissue. Hormone levels drop during this phase, leading to symptoms such as cramps, breast tenderness, bloating, mood swings, and fatigue.

What occurs during the follicular phase?

The follicular phase is characterized by the growth of follicles in the ovaries and the thickening of the uterine lining. Hormone levels rise, leading to an increase in energy levels, clearer skin, and a higher sex drive.

What happens during the ovulation phase?

The ovulation phase is when a mature egg is released from the ovary and can potentially be fertilized. Signs of ovulation include changes in cervical mucus, a slight increase in basal body temperature, abdominal cramps, and breast tenderness.

What occurs during the luteal phase?

The luteal phase follows ovulation and is characterized by the production of progesterone and some estrogen. Hormone levels may lead to symptoms such as bloating, breast tenderness, mood changes, headaches, weight gain, food cravings, and trouble sleeping.

Why is it important to understand the menstrual cycle?

Understanding the menstrual cycle is crucial for reproductive health and overall well-being. Tracking your cycle can help identify irregularities and changes that may require medical attention and allow you to make informed decisions about family planning.

What are common symptoms during the menstrual phase?

Common symptoms during the menstrual phase include menstrual cramps, sore and tender breasts, irritability, bloating, fatigue, and acne.

What are common symptoms during the follicular phase?

Common symptoms during the follicular phase include an increase in energy levels, clearer skin, and a higher sex drive.

What are the signs of ovulation?

Signs of ovulation include changes in cervical mucus, a slight increase in basal body temperature, abdominal cramps, and breast tenderness.

What are common symptoms during the luteal phase?

Common symptoms during the luteal phase include bloating, breast swelling or tenderness, mood changes, headaches, changes in sexual desire, food cravings, and trouble sleeping. These symptoms are often associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

What are some common menstrual cycle issues?

Common menstrual cycle issues include irregular periods, skipped periods, unusually heavy or prolonged bleeding, and spotting between periods. These issues can be caused by factors such as birth control, pregnancy, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and eating disorders. If you have period problems, book a free consultation with me.

Why is tracking the phases of the menstrual cycle important?

Tracking your menstrual cycle can help identify any irregularities or changes that may require medical attention. It allows you to understand your body’s monthly rhythm and make informed decisions about family planning.

Picture of Hormone Balancing Blueprint

Hormone Balancing Blueprint

Learn how to balance your hormones and support your fertility naturally through our self-guided course.

share post

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
WhatsApp
Email
Print

Connect

Categories

Recent posts

A shot of woman from shoulders down, applying magnesium lotion to her wrist
How Magnesium Lotion Can Improve Hormone Symptoms
Did you know over 75% of Americans don’t get enough magnesium in their diet? This is a big deal...
Read More
A variety of cut oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and limes that provide vitamin c.
How Vitamin C Helps Improve Progesterone Levels
Taking just 750 mg of vitamin C every day can boost your progesterone levels significantly. It might...
Read More

Disclaimer: Nutritional Therapy Practitioners evaluate nutritional needs and recommend dietary changes and supplements. It’s not intended to treat specific medical conditions or diagnose prescriptions. No comment from Wild Muse Wellness constitutes a medical diagnosis or prescription.

© 2024 Wild Muse Wellness. All rights reserved.