Ever wondered why most people refer to menstrual bleeds as monthly period? It’s because they happen in a periodical cycle.  It is a complex cycle and stress or poor health from months ago can be the trigger for current period issues.

Your period, once you’re an adult, tends to last for 21-35 days. The 28-day period cycle is the average period length, but it can be different. Your menstrual cycle will settle into a rhythm for you.

Teenagers can have longer cycles. Their follicular phase may be 32 days, making the total possible length of their cycle to 45 days.

This is where some of the irregularity occurs for teenagers. They may have a 21-day cycle followed by a 45-day cycle, followed by a 32-day cycle. This sort of variation is natural, especially while they are still growing, and their hormones are yet to settle.

Phases & Duration of Monthly Period

Your period is broken down into three phases:

  • Menstrual Phase: 1-7 days
  • Follicular Phase: lasts from 7 to 21 days
  • Ovulation: 1 day
  • Luteal Phase: lasts from 10 to 16 days

Menstrual Phase

Your cycle starts with your period, which is marked by the few days to a week where you’re actively bleeding.

The first day of your flow is usually the sign that you’re not pregnant—in technical terms, this means that you’ve recently released egg is unfertilised.

A fertilised egg will typically implant itself into the uterine wall, but when this doesn’t happen, the uterus begins to shed the egg and the lining via musculature contractions (aka cramps) that help break down and slowly move the lining out of the uterus (your period).

 Generally, your flow should last between three and seven days, with the heaviest bleeding on the first and second days.

Follicular Phase

This occurs when some of your follicles are approaching maturity. These follicles are sacs that each contain an egg, which started maturing from a dormant state over 100 days ago. If at any point during this 100-day window these follicles were unhealthy, it could result in a period problem months later.

In the last few days, the nearly mature follicles are stimulated by follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) from the pituitary gland; this triggers the production of oestrogen from the follicles. The specific oestrogen produced is Estradiol. In turn, Estradiol stimulates the production of serotonin and dopamine, both of which improve your mood.

Estradiol also stimulates the growth of the uterine lining, preparing it for a baby, and the production of fertile mucous. You can see this mucous any time you have lots of oestrogen, which is normally before ovulation but can occur whenever oestrogen is high, including in times of stress.

Ovulation during Monthly Period

The first, dominant, follicle ruptures to release its egg after being triggered by the luteinising hormone. This release of the egg from the follicle is ovulation. Following ovulation, if you don’t become pregnant, you will have your period two weeks later. The average day that ovulation occurs is day 14 of your menstrual cycle but it can vary.

Luteal Phase

After ovulation, the empty follicle turns into the ‘corpus luteum’, a gland that secretes progesterone. The length of the luteal phase is 10-16 days. How long it lasts depends on how long the corpus luteum lasts. If you’ve had good health and nutrition for all the life cycle of the follicle and the corpus luteum is created, in return, it produces progesterone.

If you have fallen pregnant, progesterone holds and nourishes the pregnancy. It does more than this though. Progesterone is your body’s counterbalance to oestrogen. Additionally, it has other health benefits, including reducing inflammation, calming the nervous system, and promoting sleep.

Progesterone is one of the main components of this cycle that determines if your period is healthy.

Katherine Knott

Katherine is a certified naturopath and the founding director of Acorn and Oak.   She began studying Naturopathy when she was 18 years old and has practiced in both Melbourne and rural Victoria.  She has also studied 2 1/2 years of nursing and midwifery, but decided that she was happier to work with women as […]

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Kate Pool

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