Understanding Your Menstrual Cycle
Understanding your menstrual cycle is important, not only is it useful to know when your next period is due but it’s also helpful to understand the stages that happen during the month. It’s common for people to experience a regular 28-day cycle, although anything between 21- 40 days is also considered normal.
However, not everyone experiences a regular monthly cycle and this can be distressing and upsetting for many people with periods, especially those trying to conceive. If you are finding that your cycles are irregular it’s important to speak to your doctor to determine the cause.
People will experience not only different cycle lengths, but also various amounts of blood throughout their cycle. It may be that your first day is light and days 2-4 are heavier, and the remaining 2-3 days are lighter again. If you have any concerns about spotting or heavy bleeding then take time to visit your doctor to talk it through with them.
Periods start around the age of 10 and stop around the age of 50-55, which is known as menopause. Between the ages of 12 to 52, a menstruating person will have around 480 periods.
When your period starts is considered Day 1 of your cycle and the day before your next period marks the end of your cycle. So, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about menstruation based on a 28-day cycle.
For 4-8 days you will have your period which is the process of the lining of the uterus coming away as pregnancy didn’t occur. Menstrual fluid contains blood, mucus, and cells from the lining of the uterus. During your period you will lose about 3-5 tablespoons of blood - I know, it seems a lot more, right?
This stage begins on the first day of your period and ends when ovulation takes place. Around day 10, hormones stimulate the ovary and will produce around 5-20 follicles which sit on the surface of the ovary.
The developing follicle causes a rise in the hormone estrogen. Inside each follicle is an immature egg and usually only one egg will mature and be released, whilst the other eggs die.
Sometimes more than one egg can mature and this may lead to a multiple pregnancy, such as twins. While this is happening, the lining of the uterus begins to thicken, ready for conception to take place.
Ovulation is when the mature egg is released from the ovary due to changes in hormones, this happens around day 14 of your period. The egg travels down the fallopian tube and towards the uterus. An egg only lives for around 24 hours, and if conception doesn’t take place, the egg will die.
Around days 16-28 is the last stage of your menstrual cycle. During the luteal phase, the hormone progesterone rises and a small amount of estrogen remains. As a result, the lining of the uterus remains thickened waiting for a fertilised egg to embed itself in the wall of the uterus.
If pregnancy hasn’t occurred then levels of the hormone progesterone drop and this makes the lining of the uterus come away. This leads to a period and the menstrual cycle begins again.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
You may feel moody, irritable, anxious, teary, and tired a week or two before your period. We have found this amazing chart showing the crossover of menstrual cycle-related symptoms with those of anxiety and depression.
You may also experience bloating in your tummy and spots appearing on your face. This is perfectly normal and can last throughout your period.
It is thought that PMS happens due to a rise and fall in hormone levels.
Below is a list of things you can do to help stabilise your emotional health at this time
- Eat small and frequent meals
- Take calcium tablets & other supplements
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and sweets
- Relaxation techniques
- Medication e.g. antidepressants & contraceptives
Having a period and experiencing changes in your hormones is not easy and at times can be very frustrating.
Take time to understand what’s normal for you in relation to your period and emotions, and if you have any concerns or your periods are affecting your day to day life, then seek medical advice.