The 4 Phases of Your Menstrual Cycle
It’s so insane to me that I went through YEARS of high school and college and NEVER learned that we had 4 phases to our Menstrual Cycle! Same for you? Or….?
(Ps. We’re going to get into phases in a second but just so you know right away, we have cycle phases because our hormones fluctuate in a predictable pattern. Just like there are 4 seasons in nature, there are 4 phases to our cycle.)
It’s literally mind blowing to me how much we’re not educated on our bodies.
With that being said, today you’re going to get a crash course into how your hormones fluctuate throughout the month & how that will affect your mental, emotional & physical health.
Some background on Cycle Phases aka Fluctuating hormones...
Spoiler Alert: Our menstrual cycle isn’t just the time we get our period and are bleeding. (WILD I know!) It’s an ongoing cycle that affects us every single day.
Because our hormones fluctuate from week to week which is why our cycle is broken up into 4 specific phases.
Important distinction before we continue: The words cycle & period are not interchangeable. Your cycle is the whole kit and kaboodle. From the day you start bleeding, to the day before you bleed again.
A normal cycle can be anywhere between 21-35 days long (although I prefer my clients to have a cycle between 25 & 35 days long). Your cycle length can fluctuate a few days or so in either direction within that 21-35 day range. For example, one month your cycle can be 30 days long, then 33, then 31, then 32, then 29. That’s not a big deal and totally fine. This happens because your date of ovulation can shift based on your internal & external environment which will shift the total length of your cycle.
What’s most important is that it’s not all over the map and it’s somewhat consistent.
A period is just the time that you’re bleeding during your menstrual phase. I just wanted to clarify between cycle & period before we get deeper into it because some people use those terms interchangeably!
The 4 Phases of Your Menstrual Cycle
This is the phase we’re all familiar with, the phase when we’re bleeding. This is considered day 1 of your cycle & can last from anywhere from 3-7 days long.
Hormonally, this is when your estrogen, testosterone & progesterone levels are at their absolute lowest levels.
Which is why it’s natural for you to feel a bit lower energy & the desire to go inward.
(NOTE* Your period should NEVER be painful or come with extreme exhaustion. That’s for sure not normal, despite what we’ve been told for years. Those are signs of imbalances that need to be addressed at the root & to be healed naturally)
If we’re comparing our cycle phases to the seasons in nature, your menstrual phase is like Winter.
Just like when it’s cold outside during the winter months (pending on where you live!) you want to snuggle up on the couch, maybe read a book, do some journaling, chill out & have some soup…the same goes for your period.
Not only is this what you’re going to desire doing, but it’s actually what’s most supportive for you to do during this phase because your hormones are at low levels.
So it’s best for you to rest as much as you can (obvi we all have responsibilities but do what you can to create more space) without overdoing it.
This can look like, not doing an intense workout & instead relaxing & reading or going for a walk or doing some light yoga.
What’s most important is that you listen to your body, you allow it to do the energy intensive process of shedding your uterine lining without overburdening it with intense exercise and a jam packed schedule.
This is for sure a mindset shift because we’ve been conditioned to think that we should over work ourselves and our bodies all the time but that simply isn’t supportive.
If you do workout during your period, because of where your hormone levels are at it will actually lead you to storing fat and wasting muscle. Plus it will lead to hormone imbalances that can look like PMS, irregular periods, acne, migraines, brain fog, allll the things.
Soooo… you may think continuing to workout during your period is going to help you stay consistent with your physical goals, but in reality it’s setting you back & going against what your body truly needs.
This is the phase right after the menstrual phase and is the most variable time, length wise, of your cycle.
Because like I mentioned before, the day you ovulate can shift based on your internal & external environment. Which will affect the length of your follicular phase since ovulation comes right after follicular.
Generally it will be anywhere between 7-15ish days long, give or take. Again this all depends on when you ovulate, which is why tracking your cycle is so crucial. We won’t know what phase we’re in if we don’t properly track it.
From a hormonal perspective, this is when your estrogen & testosterone levels are rising in preparation for ovulation. (note: Progesterone isn’t on the scene yet which is why your metabolism is naturally slower in this phase. Progesterone increases your metabolic rate).
This increase in estrogen & testosterone will cause your energy levels to increase. When you start paying attention to it, you’ll notice an awakening feeling in your body & mind once you come out of the menstrual phase cocoon & into the follicular phase.
Seasonally, the follicular phase is like Spring. Just like the flowers begin to grow in the Spring, your hormone levels begin to increase in the follicular phase.
Because your hormones are rising and you have more natural energy, you’ll want to move your body more to support those energy levels as well as your naturally slower metabolism.
This is when an egg is released & baby making can potentially happen. The actual act of ovulation & releasing an egg is a 24 hour event. But the energetic phase of ovulation can last about 3-5 days.
During ovulation your estrogen & testosterone levels are at their absolute highest levels. Why? Testosterone levels increase to get you in the mood to have sex because it knows you can potentially get pregnant (even if you don’t want to, your body doesn’t know the difference), and estrogen levels are high to increase your cervical mucus production (which is required for pregnancy to occur), your magnetism & your energy.
Going back to the seasons, ovulation is like Summer! Everything is popping off! You have tons of energy and you want to be forward facing and social.
You can withstand more energy intensive workouts if that feels good to you.
After you ovulate you produce Progesterone which is what brings us to our next phase...
This is the 10-14 days before your period & the phase that gets a bad rap! If you do experience PMS this is where you’ll experience it. BUT PMS is not a requirement of getting a period. It’s the direct result of an imbalance between your estrogen and progesterone levels.
With that being said, in the luteal phase, your estrogen and testosterone levels will slowly start to decline. They’re still high in the start of the phase coming off of ovulation, but will dip the closer you get to your period.
However, your progesterone levels will stay high until right before you bleed. When your progesterone level drops down, it stimulates your period to begin and for you to enter into the menstrual phase.
If you get pregnant, your progesterone levels will stay high and you won’t get your period.
NOTE: This is what it will look like when your progesterone levels are healthy and strong. If they’re not, they can decline before your menstrual phase which is what will trigger PMS symptoms.
Seasonally, the luteal phase is like fall due to the slowly falling estrogen & testosterone levels and the desire to start going inward again.
Beginning to Tap Into Your Cycle Phases
Since our hormones are chemical messengers that travel through our bloodstream, they have a direct effect on everything in our body (not just our fertility).
Which is why you won’t feel the same every day: your energy, mood, desires, metabolism, blood sugar levels, cortisol levels & nutrient needs fluctuate based on where your hormone levels are at...
When you start incorporating specific foods and nutrients & doing certain workouts based on where your hormone levels are, you support your fertility in a BIG way.
If you’re new to cycle phases but want to start tapping into them, start by simply tracking your cycle using an app as well as your Basal Body Temperature and Cervical Mucus. You can find more information on how to do that on my Fertile Window Blog here and my Mind Your Hormones Podcast episode here.
As you can see from how much our hormones fluctuate throughout the month, you 100% will not feel the same every day. Nor will your body need the same foods & movements each day.
Our body operates cyclically, which means if we want to achieve optimal health, we need to live in cyclical alignment.
Of course it takes time and practice & getting used to, but once you start doing it, it feels SO natural. Because it IS your natural state.
I hope this overview of cycle phases was supportive to you! Stay tuned for more blogs on how to specifically support yourself in each phase!
Mind Your Hormones
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