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What is the menstrual cycle?
The menstrual cycle is the process of ovulation and menstruation in women, so when you are the most fertile and likely to get pregnant and when you will be on your period.
How long is a menstrual cycle?
The average menstrual cycle is 28 days in length however this can vary from 21 to 40 days. You may find that you have a longer or shorter menstrual cycle than the average woman. It’s a good idea to create a menstrual cycle calendar or mark down when you get your period. This way you can track your cycle and find out when you are most fertile and when your period is due. This will also help you determine whether your period is ever late or if you have missed one.
How do you count your menstrual cycle?
Your menstrual cycle begins on the first day that you have regular bleeding, spotting or breakthrough bleeding does not indicate the first day of your menstrual cycle. Marking the days of your period on a calendar is a great way to track the cycle of your period and then from this you can work out your ovulation cycle.
For example cycle day 1 is the first day of your period and cycle day 2 is the second day of your period and so on. You’ll need to count the days all the way up until your next period, as your period is only a part of your menstrual cycle and not the cycle itself.
What are the stages of the menstrual cycle?
Day 1 – First day of your period. The blood and tissue lining the womb (uterus) breaks down and leaves the body. For many women bleeding lasts for five days, however it can last from 2 -7 days. Levels of the hormone oestrogen in your body are low, this can make you feel irritable or depressed.
Day 1 through 5- fluid filled pockets called follicles develops in your ovaries. Each follicle contains an egg.
Between days 5 and 7 – A number of follicles can develop and grow while others are absorbed back into the ovary. The levels of oestrogen in your body continue to rise.
Day 8 - Increasing levels of oestrogen in your body, this makes the lining of your uterus grow and thicken. Usually by day 8 your period bleeding has stopped.
Day 14 or a few days before - Your oestrogen levels peak around this time, and the now mature follicle will release an egg from the ovary. This is known as ovulation.
Day 15 through 24 – The fallopian tubes help the released eggs travel towards the uterus. The follicle makes more of the hormone progesterone which helps the uterus lining thicken even more. If a sperm joins the egg in a fallopian tube and it becomes fertilized, the egg will usually continue down the fallopian tube and attach to the lining of the womb (uterus). This is when pregnancy begins.
Day 24- if the egg is not fertilised and you are not pregnant your oestrogen and progesterone levels drop. This may cause your moods to change. In the final step of your menstrual cycle the unfertilized egg leaves the body with the uterine lining and this begins day 1 of your period.
The length of an average menstrual cycle is 28 days this is the same number of days as the moon’s cycles. If you are synced up with the moon then you will menstruate around the new moon and ovulate around a full moon, however many women do not have a cycle of 28 days and so will not follow the moon’s cycle.
If you have a regular menstrual cycle, ovulation will take place around 10-16 days before your period starts. There are a few indications that your body produces which you can use to tell if you are ovulation, find out more in our ovulation article.
Tracking your menstrual cycle will allow you to work out when your period is due, to do this you will need to know:
- when your last period started
- how many days your periods last for
- how long your menstrual cycle normally is
Read our article to find out when your period is due.