Menstrual Cycle Phases And The Common Problems

The Ultimate Guide to Healthy Eating in Your Fifties and Sixties
Source – MindBodyGreen

A woman’s body undergoes many changes each month between adolescence and menopause to prepare for a future pregnancy. The succession of hormone-driven occurrences is referred to as the menstrual cycle.

 Medically reviewed by Dr K on 3rd June 2022.

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  1. Menstrual Phase
  2. Follicular Phase
  3. Ovulation Phase
  4. Luteal Phase
  5. Identifying Common Problems

Menstrual Cycle Phases And The Common Problems 

A woman’s body undergoes many changes each month between adolescence and menopause to prepare for a future pregnancy. The succession of hormone-driven occurrences is referred to as the menstrual cycle.

An egg grows and is discharged from the ovaries throughout each menstrual cycle. The lining of the uterus thickens. If there is no pregnancy, the uterine lining sheds during a menstrual period. The cycle then begins anew.

The menstrual cycle of a woman is split into four stages:

  • menstrual phase
  • follicular phase
  • ovulation phase
  • luteal phase

The duration of each phase varies from woman to woman and might fluctuate over time.

The Ultimate Guide to Healthy Eating in Your Fifties and Sixties

Menstrual Phase

The menstrual cycle begins with the menstrual phase. It’s also the time when you receive your period.

When an egg from the previous cycle is not fertilised, this phase begins. Because no pregnancy has occurred, levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone fall. 

The thicker uterine lining that would normally sustain a pregnancy is no longer required, so it sheds via your vagina. During your period, your uterus excretes a mixture of blood, mucus, and tissue.

You may have the following menstrual symptoms:

  • cramps
  • tender breasts
  • bloating
  • mood swings
  • irritability
  • headaches
  • tiredness
  • low back pain

Women are in the menstrual phase of their period for 3 to 7 days on average. Some women have lengthier menstrual cycles than others.

Follicular Phase

The follicular phase begins on the first day of your period and ends when you ovulate (there is some overlap with the menstrual phase).

The process begins when the brain signals the pituitary gland to produce follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This hormone causes your ovaries to generate 5 to 20 tiny sacs known as follicles. Each follicle carries a developing egg.

Only the healthiest eggs will reach maturity. (In rare cases, two eggs may develop at the same time.) The remaining follicles will be absorbed by your body.

The mature follicle causes an increase in oestrogen, which thickens the uterine lining. This generates a nutrient-rich environment in which an embryo may develop.

The follicular phase lasts roughly 16 days on average. Depending on your cycle, it might last between 11 to 27 days.

Ovulation Phase

Rising oestrogen levels during the follicular phase cause your pituitary gland to produce luteinising hormone (LH). This is what initiates the ovulation process.

When your ovary produces a mature egg, this is called ovulation. The egg goes through the fallopian tube to the uterus, fertilised by sperm.

You can only get pregnant throughout your menstrual cycle during the ovulation period. Symptoms such as these indicate that you are ovulating:

  • a modest increase in basal body temperature
  • thicker discharge with the consistency of egg whites

If you have a 28-day cycle, ovulation occurs around day 14 — precisely during your menstrual cycle. It lasts around 24 hours. If the egg is not fertilised within a day, it will die or disintegrate.

Did you know that?

Because sperm can survive for up to five days, a woman can get pregnant if she has sex up to five days before ovulation.

Luteal Phase

The corpus luteum develops after the follicle has released its egg. This structure secretes hormones, mainly progesterone and a trace of oestrogen. The increase in hormones maintains your uterine lining thick and ready for implantation of a fertilised egg.

If you get pregnant, your body will create human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This is the hormone detected by pregnancy testing. It aids in maintaining the corpus luteum and the thickening of the uterine lining.

If you do not get pregnant, the corpus luteum shrinks and is resorbed. This causes a drop in oestrogen and progesterone levels, resulting in the commencement of your menstruation. During your menstruation, the uterine lining will shed.

If you do not get pregnant at this stage, you may encounter premenstrual syndrome symptoms (PMS). These are some examples:

  • bloating
  • breast swelling, pain, or tenderness
  • mood changes
  • headache
  • weight gain
  • changes in sexual desire
  • food cravings
  • trouble sleeping

The luteal phase lasts between 11 and 17 days. The average duration is 14 days.

Identifying Common Problems

Each woman’s menstrual cycle is distinctive. Some women get their periods at the same time every month. Others are more erratic. Some women bleed more profusely or for a longer period than others.

During some stages of your life, your menstrual cycle may also fluctuate. For example, as you approach menopause, it may become more irregular.

Tracking your periods is one approach to see whether you’re experiencing problems with your menstrual cycle. Make a note of when they begin and finish. Keep track of any changes in the quantity or number of days you bleed, as well as any spotting between periods.

The following factors might affect your menstrual cycle:

  • Birth control. Your periods may become shorter and lighter due to the birth control pill. You will not get a period if you are taking certain medications.
  • Pregnancy. During pregnancy, your periods should cease. Missed periods are one of the most prominent early indications of pregnancy.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). An egg cannot develop properly in the ovaries due to a hormonal imbalance. PCOS is characterised by irregular menstrual cycles and missing periods.
  • Uterine fibroids. These noncancerous uterine growths might cause your periods to be longer and heavier than normal.
  • Eating disorders. Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and others may interrupt your menstrual cycle and cause your periods to cease.

Here are some symptoms of a menstrual cycle problem:

  • You’ve missed a period, or your periods have stopped completely.
  • Your menstrual cycles are inconsistent.
  • You’ve been bleeding for more than seven days.
  • Your menstrual cycles are fewer than 21 days apart or more than 35 days apart.
  • You bleed in between your cycles (heavier than spotting).

Consult your health professional if you are experiencing any of these or other issues with your menstrual cycle or periods.

The takeaway

Each woman’s menstrual cycle is unique. What is normal for you may be abnormal for someone else.

It’s important to get accustomed to your cycle, including when you receive your periods and how long they last. Keep an eye out for any changes and notify your healthcare practitioner.


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