Understanding your menstrual cycle

Let’s learn about our periods!

In this section you’ll learn about the 4 phases of the menstrual cycle, the average 28 day cycle and periods shorter and longer than 28 days.

The Four Menstrual Phases

The period cycle is complex but it can be easy to understand when you break it down into its 4 phases. Each day of your menstrual cycle is part of one of these phases so we’ll take a look at how each day maps onto the phases afterwards.

Your menstrual cycle goes through 4 phases (in order): the menstrual phase, the preovulatory phase, and postovulatory phase.

Menstrual Phase

This is when you bleed and get your period. This starts at the first day of your period cycle and for most girls this lasts anywhere between 3 to 7 days.

Your endometrial lining sheds and exits your body through your vagina.

Preovulatory Phase

Now that you’ve had your period, your cycle enters the preovulatory phase. You no longer have an endometrial lining so your body prepares a new one all over again.

Your endometrial lining starts to thicken and an ovum in your ovaries starts to mature as it gets ready to be released.

Ovulation Phase

About two weeks before your period, your ovaries releases the now mature ovum and you ovulate!

In this diagram, you can see the ovum released from the right ovary where it then begins its journey down the fallopian tube towards the uterus. The ovum is actually much smaller than that. It is actually closer to the size of the tip of your pencil.

Postovulatory Phase

Your menstrual cycle then enters the postovulatory phase where your endometrial lining continues to thicken.

When you don’t become pregnant, your uterus sheds the lining, marking the start of your period and the cycle starts all over again at the Menstrual Phase.

The average 28 day cycle

Another way we can understand the menstrual cycle is by looking at how the days of our cycle map onto the menstrual phases. The average period cycle lasts 28 days so we’ll use that in our example.

Remember, 28 days is just the average and not all girls have a 28 day cycle. Some girls may have longer cycles and some girls may have shorter cycles and this is normal.

So what’s happening during your cycle?
Days 1-5
This is the menstrual phase and this maps on to the days that you have your period and bleed.
Days 6-14
The days after your period map on to the preovulatory phase. This starts from the first day after your period until the day you ovulate. On these days, your uterus is starting to build a brand new endometrial lining.
Day 14
This day maps onto the ovulation phase. Ovulation typically happens about half way through your cycle so for a 28 day cycle, this will most likely occur on day 14. During this time, an ovum is released from your ovary and into the fallopian tube.
Days 15-28
The days after you ovulate, map onto the postovulatory phase. During this time, your uterus continues to build the endometrial lining and it continues to thicken.
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