Menstrual cycle: understanding and celebrating you!
A menstrual cycle is more than your ‘period’ or `that time of the month’. It is important that a woman is aware of the menstrual cycle phases and how it will affect her body. Being in tune with your body is important so that if things go wrong you know to seek help.
Why is the menstrual cycle important?
The menstrual cycle is important to sexual health, as tracking the menstrual cycle and being aware of fertile days can be used as a contraceptive method and to plan conception.
The human menstrual cycle involves rhythmic changes in two organs: the ovary and the uterus. There are 4 distinct phases in one menstrual cycle.
- Menstruation: The Periods
- The Follicular Phase: Before Ovulation Phase
- Ovulation: the time a woman is most likely to conceive
- The Luteal Phase: After Ovulation Phase
What does a healthy menstrual cycle look like?
When it comes to menstrual cycles there is a wide range of what is healthy. The length of the menstrual cycle is 21 to 35 days, with most averaging 26 to 28 days. The duration of the secretory phase is relatively constant, averaging 14 days.
Some people have very consistent menstrual cycles, whilst others will notice variation in the length of their cycles or periods.
Periods lasting more than 7 days or needing more than 6 tampons/pads per day can be considered heavy bleeding. It can also be normal to skip periods at times.
What is a fertile window?
Your fertile window is the time in your menstrual cycle when you can get pregnant. The day before ovulation and the day you ovulate are known as your ‘peak fertile days’, but since sperm can survive for up to 5 days inside a woman’s body, you are also fertile on the few days before ovulation. Once an egg is released it will survive for up to 24 hours, so you remain fertile for this period too.
Irregular Menstrual Cycles
Cycle length varies between women, even the same woman may have a variation from month to month. So variable cycles and irregular periods are more common than one may think and are actually perfectly normal.
In saying that, extreme irregularity in menstrual cycles could point to an underlying medical reason that could also affect fertility.
Other causes of irregular or missed periods could include:
- Underlying reproductive disorder, like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- An eating disorder
- Too much exercise
- A thyroid disorder
The menstrual cycle is an entire month-long cycle in which women experience different moods, emotions and energy levels as hormones rise and fall. Knowing where you are in your cycle on any given day helps you understand why you may act, feel and be a certain way.
You may not experience the same symptoms or a particular symptom to the same extent in every cycle.
Life doesn't have to stop for periods. But suggesting we should "keep going" regardless and pretend like our period is not happening is a linear, straight-line approach to what is a cyclic process. Understanding your body, your menstrual cycle and your hormonal changes empowers you to make decisions and lifestyle choices that are right for you.
Who can I talk to for advice?
Our Women’s Health specialists at Create Health are always available for advice and would love to listen to you and discuss how we can assist you. We are experts in this area and are here to help.
-What to know about your menstrual cycle - https://azo2018.s3.amazonaws.com/inline-images/TTC_AZO_HH%20Graphic_4_7_20.jpeg?w.UFKQaxS0hNe9xIe0h9W5fML1NF3h1S
*All of the above is true for women not using any hormonal contraception.