Symptoms of Each Phase of the Menstrual Cycle

Nicole Day
By Nicole Day
Joel Taylor
Edited by Joel Taylor

Published July 3, 2022.

Calendar with hearts marking the days surrounded by tampons and sanitary pads

Being a woman is hard work. Between battling hormones, breakouts, bloating, cravings, and unexplained emotional breakdowns, we are also expected to carry on with everyday life as normal, even though we're actively bleeding for an entire week every month! Periods are, however, a natural way of life and something that all women experience. Without it, we would not be able to perform the miracle of childbirth and continue to produce future generations.

Each month, woman experience their menstrual cycle which usually extends over a 28-day period of time. Your menstrual cycle can begin around the ages of 11/12, known as menarche, and is experienced monthly from then on until the ages of 45-50.

During each period, a mature egg is released from the ovary (the ovaries alternate each month), travels along the fallopian tube, and enters the uterus. Inside the uterus is a soft lining called the endometrium, and this acts as a snuggly, warm blanket eagerly waiting for the egg to be fertilized by sperm and embed itself within it and begin the pregnancy cycle. When fertilization does not happen, a large part of the endometrium, along with blood and mucus, is then released by the body through the vagina, known as menstruation.

Menstruation can last between 3 and 7 days typically. The uterus is completely cleaned out during these days and is then ready to repeat the cycle again next month, and so it continues. It almost seems as though a woman's body is throwing a temper tantrum for not falling pregnant.

During each menstruation cycle, a period can be broken down into 4 specific stages:

  1. Menstrual Phase (Day 1-5)
  2. Follicular Phase (Day 1-13)
  3. Ovulation Phase (Day 14)
  4. Luteal Phase (Day 15-28)

During each phase, the body will experience changes and symptoms that can often be annoying, but also easily managed!

How Being Familiar With Each Menstrual Phase Can Help You

Being familiar with each of the above-mentioned menstrual cycle phases will help you to understand your body and the weekly changes that it is going through, as well as the symptoms you may be experiencing each week. This will also allow you to find ways to relieve those symptoms or be prepared for them!

Symptoms of the Menstrual Phase

This phase begins on day 1 of your cycle when blood is first released from the vagina and ends on day 5. During the menstrual phase, the hormone progesterone plunges, which causes the endometrium to shed.

About 10ml-80ml of blood can be lost during a period. When the endometrium is shed, the uterus contracts, which causes the lower abdominal or back pain known as period cramps. This first phase of menstruation will leave you feeling tired and withdrawn.

To ease the discomfort often experienced, it would be best to take time for yourself: rest, keep strenuous exercise to a low, have a hot bath, and consider avoiding major social events.

Symptoms of the Follicular Phase

This phase also begins on day 1 of bleeding; however, it continues way past the end of one's period. Once bleeding has stopped, the pituitary gland in the brain releases a hormone called follicle-stimulating hormone (FSI) which basically causes the follicles in your ovaries to mature—follicles are like little houses for the eggs that are released into the ovary once they mature, known as ovulation.

During this phase of the menstrual cycle, your estrogen and testosterone hormone levels are elevated, raising your energy and potentially improving your mood. This is a great time to solve problems, take on big ideas, or perform that strenuous exercise you put off during the menstruation phase!

Symptoms of the Ovulation Phase

This phase begins around day 14 of the cycle and is the exact moment when a mature egg is released from the follicle within the ovary. This mature egg is ready for fertilization. During this phase, you may feel even more energy and confidence than in the follicular phase. This is a great time for job interviews, date nights, or intense physical workouts.

Symptoms of the Luteal Phase

This is the last phase in the cycle and occurs from after ovulation (day 15) through to day 28. The mature egg is awaiting fertilization and due to the cycle coming to an end, the dreaded PMS symptoms will be experienced. These symptoms include cravings, moodiness, anxiety, breast tenderness, and bloating. It is a good idea to practice good self-care habits, such as eating healthy pain-relieving foods, spending time alone, or going for a relaxing massage. If the mature egg is not fertilized, it begins to break down which causes the endometrium to shed and this starts the cycle all over again.

Periods can be frustrating and a nuisance but they can be managed especially if we listen to our bodies and provide them with all the necessary tools to feel empowered and continue on with our superhero ways.

Suffering from intense period cramps? Consider taking birth control to treat PMS symptoms.