The menstrual cycle is so powerful and if you have a cycle, you go through it monthly and it can be really helpful to understand what’s going on in your body. The menstrual cycle lasts on average 28 days, but a cycle anywhere between 25 to 35 days is completely normal. It consists of 4 phases: the menstrual phase, the follicular phase, the ovulatory phase and the luteal phase. You can compare each phase of the menstrual cycle to each season.
The cycle starts in the menstrual phase on the first day of bleeding, when the lining of the uterus is shed. This phase lasts as long as you’re bleeding which on average is 3 to 7 days. This phase is your inner winter. During the menstrual phase, hormones are at its lowest and so can be your energy levels. Women often feel tired during these days and tend to turn more inwards. This is also the phase where many women experience cramps, heavy bleeding, lower back pain, headaches, bloating & fatigue. These symptoms are so common that they’ve been normalized, but they definitely are not normal and a sign of a hormonal imbalance.
The communication between the right and left sides of the brain is stronger during your period which make intuition and gut feelings much stronger and they’re actually the strongest during this phase.
After menstruation comes the follicular phase, which is your inner spring. The ovaries are preparing and ripening an egg during this phase. The pituitary gland, which is a small endocrine gland located at the base of your brain, releases a hormone called follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), and FSH stimulates follicles on the ovary to grow and usually only one follicle will mature into an egg.
The dominant hormone during the follicular phase is estrogen and as estrogen is rising, you can feel more energized, confident, creative and stronger. Estrogen is also the hormone that can make you feel more extroverted which pushes you to be more social and wanting to connect with other people. It can even clear up your skin and make your features more symmetrical. Estrogen really is the hormone that can make you feel on top of the world.
This is your inner summer and it is where the big event of the whole cycle is happening, you’re ovulating. Estrogen and testosterone reach their peak levels, and this is why you should feel really energized during this phase. The pituitary gland sends out Luteinizing Hormone (LH), and this tells the ovaries to release a mature egg. Once the egg is released, it survives for 12 to 24 hours. This is when you can get pregnant, but keep in mind that sperm can survive for up to five days in the female reproductive tract, so your fertile window is 6 days. You can only get pregnant on these days which means you can only get pregnant 6 days out of every cycle.
The closer estrogen gets to its peak as ovulation is nearing, the more cervical mucus you produce and the more wet, stretchy and slippery it becomes. A common analogy used for super fertile cervical mucus is looking and feeling like raw egg whites. Your cervical mucus goes back to thick and dry after ovulation.
A lot of women report looking and feeling more attractive during this time and their sex drive tends to be the highest, which totally makes sense because of those high levels of estrogen and testosterone and also because this is the phase where you are fertile so everything in the body is centered around conceiving during ovulation.
The last phase of your cycle is the luteal phase, which is your inner fall. This is when a temporary endocrine gland called the corpus luteum develops from a ruptured follicle. The corpus luteum produces progesterone, which is the dominant hormone during the luteal phase which, if in balance, makes you feel cozy, chilled out and at ease. Progesterone causes the lining of the uterus to get thicker and ready for a fertilized egg to implant in the lining. If the egg is not fertilized, the corpus luteum will eventually shrink and die and progesterone levels drop, which causes the lining of the uterus to shed, leading to a period and the start of a new cycle.
The luteal phase is the longest phase out of the whole cycle, and it lasts around 2 weeks. It’s helpful to think of this phase broken down into two halves. During the first half of the luteal phase you could still be running off the effects of ovulation but as progesterone production increases, you might notice that you are starting to want to wind down more. It is a perfect phase to finish your to do list. Self-care is a non-negotiable during your inner fall since the body is more prone to stress.
The second half of the luteal phase is where PMS could kick in and make life a bit more difficult. Common PMS symptoms are mood swings, bloating, breast tenderness, irritability and anxiety. You might notice that you have less energy compared to the follicular phase and ovulation.
Progesterone lowers insulin sensitivity which means that you are more prone to low blood sugar and insulin fluctuations during the second half of your cycle. Along with a decrease in estrogen, your serotonin goes down, which causes a dip in your mood and increased appetite. During the luteal phase, your metabolism also speeds up by about 10-20%, which means that you need also need to consume more healthy calories to meet your body’s needs. This is where those pre period cravings could come from, it’s just your body’s way of telling you that you need to increase your food intake a bit.
Want to get even more in tune and start tracking your cycle and syncing with it? Use my FREE Cycle Syncing Guide to get started.