The menstrual cycle is something experienced by 3.5 billion people in the world, and yet so many of us have no clue about the individual phases. Understanding the complexity of the menstrual cycle can help you to be more aware of the symptoms you’re experiencing and help you to look after your mental and physical health better. Express.co.uk chatted to the period experts at Yoppie to find out everything YOU need to know about the menstrual cycle.
How long does the menstrual cycle last?
The length of the menstrual cycle varies from person to person but will last around 28 days on average.
It varies based on your age, genes, health, BMI, behaviours and birth control methods, but your cycles should generally be around the same length every month.
That doesn’t mean 28 days of bleeding – it means 28 days split into four different phases (one of which is, of course, the menstruation phases).
Founder of Yoppie, Daniella Peri, commented: “Many women don’t realize that the menstrual cycle is split into such distinct phases and that each one brings its own unique symptoms.
We hope that by raising awareness on the subject, they can be better placed to manage their full menstrual health cycle and the issues that can arise.
“Understanding the cycle is also important for mental health: knowing that your mood or outlook has taken a dip because of the stage of cycle you’re in can help avoid concerns that mental health is dipping more generally, and also help avoid any kind of self-blame for feeling more negative about life than usual. “
Here’s what you need to know about each and every phase of the menstrual cycle.
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Menstruation is the first phase of the menstrual cycle and is the time when the period occurs.
This phase usually lasts three to seven days. Normally your periods will be the same length every time, but they can become shorter or longer due to lifestyle factors, birth control or medical conditions, so it’s important to get checked out if you notice a change.
The menstrual starts when an egg from the previous cycle is not fertilized and is also when the uterine wall sheds, contributing to menstrual flow.
During this phase, levels of the oestrogen and progesterone hormones drop.
Common symptoms of the menstruation phase include:
- Stomach cramps
- Breast tenderness
- Back pain
- Significant changes in mood
The experts at Yoppie advised: “To help manage these symptoms, it’s good to eat healthy fats like cheese and fish, protein, and complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains and vegetables.
“Gentle cardio exercise can also help, alongside short bursts of aerobic exercise such as yoga and swimming.”
The follicular phase actually starts on the first day of the period, so it overlaps with the menstruation phase and then continues beyond.
This phase usually lasts 10 to 22 days, with an average of 16 days.
During this time, an egg matures in the ovarian follicles – small sacs filled with fluid that are found inside a woman’s ovaries that secrete hormones that influence the various stages of the menstrual cycle.
This causes an increase in oestrogen, thickening the uterine lining to create a nutrient-rich home for an embryo to grow and develop.
The experts said: “Common symptoms of the follicular phase include a boost of energy and improved mood caused by increased levels of oestrogen and testosterone.
“Women often report feeling more confident, assertive, and willing to take risks.”
It’s good to eat probiotic-rich food like yoghurt, omega three fats often found in oily fish and nuts, and colored vegetables during this phase, apparently.
And in terms of exercise, this is a great time for strength training!
DON’T MISS …
Ovulation is a significant part of the menstrual cycle… but did you know that this phase only takes 24 hours?
The ovulation process occurs across the follicular phase and the luteal phase, not all by itself.
When you’re ovulating, an egg is released from the ovary into the fallopian tube (tubes that stretch from the ovaries to the uterus) and survives for 12 to 24 hours. If the egg is not fertilized during this time, it will die or dissolve.
The experts said: “Common symptoms of ovulation include a slight rise in body temperature and a small amount of vaginal discharge, but many women also report the highest energy levels of the entire cycle.
“As such, now is the time to engage in full-body strength training and aerobic exercise to take advantage of increased endurance levels.”
The luteal phase is when the egg, moving through the fallopian tubes, arrives at the uterus, and this lasts around 11 to 17 days (14 days on average).
If the egg has been fertilized, the embryo might attach to the uterine lining. If, however, the egg is not fertilized, the uterine lining will shed and the whole cycle will start again.
Common symptoms of the luteal phase, and more commonly the second half of the phase, symptoms can include:
- Swelling and tenderness of the breasts
- Weight gain
- Changes in sex drive and general mood
- Difficulty sleeping.
To help manage these symptoms, the experts recommend avoiding foods that are overly salty, sugary or processed.
They added: “In terms of exercise, it’s vital to stay well hydrated and cool at all times because changes in body temperature are common during the luteal phase.
“In fact, it might be best to use these days for rest and recuperation and sticking to gentle, relaxing activities like yoga or walking.”
Yoppie have developed a quiz to help you find out what phase you’re in, try it at Yoppie.com/myphase