The Power of Menstruation: Understanding the 4 Phases of the Menstrual Cycle

The Four Phases of the Menstrual Cycle and What They Mean for You

Ever wondered why women are blessed with the power to menstruate? It may not feel powerful amid those few not-at-all-fun days. Rest assured, though, menstruation is a superpower granted to a woman’s body.

Just think - menstruation is how women help to further the existence of the human race. It’s the primary mechanism for continued human existence. Thanks to you and many other menstruating women, we’re all here and sharing this world. It’s hard to call that anything except a superpower!

So, what exactly is menstruation? How does our body achieve this (at times uncomfortable) powerful occurrence? Keep reading to get a full look at menstruation and its stages.


The Phenomenal Phases


Circular image showing the 4 phases of the menstrual cycle with numbers

It takes four phases to prepare the female body for pregnancy each month. Every month pregnancy doesn’t occur, the thick uterine lining (which the body creates to prepare for pregnancy) must break down and exit the body. That process results in the menstrual bleeding that occurs each month.

Typically, the cycle takes around 28 days to complete, though everyone’s body is different. The first day you see your period is the beginning of a new cycle, and by tracking that day you’ll better understand what type of symptoms you may be experiencing and know what to expect.

This information also allows your doctors to pinpoint where you are in your cycle, so you’ll often hear them ask for the first day of your last cycle. Each new period starts things over again!

Hormonal Havoc

Before we get into the phases of menstruation, let’s touch on hormones and their vital role in this cycle.

Four major hormones are associated with menstruation, but this article focuses mainly on estrogen and progesterone. These two hormones give you something to blame for those physical and emotional changes you experience with your period each month.

  • Estrogen - Estrogen levels increase during the first half of the cycle but decrease during the second half. Decreased estrogen may cause fatigue and mood fluctuations.
  • Progesterone - As estrogen levels drop, progesterone levels increase (and vice versa). This hormone helps thicken the lining of the uterus and prepares the womb for pregnancy. Progesterone production halts if an egg isn’t fertilized and the uterine lining begins to break down. Low levels of progesterone paired with high levels of estrogen cause pain during your period.


Menstruation - Phase 1

Welcome to phase one of your cycle! We’ll start with menstruation. If your body prepares for pregnancy, yet you don’t end up pregnant, a breakdown of the egg and uterine lining occurs. This causes menstrual bleeding and kicks off a whole new cycle.

Some women have short periods of menstrual bleeding, while others go for up to a week or even more. On average, menstruation takes somewhere between one and eight days and involves a loss of 10-80 ml of menstrual fluid. Certain conditions, like endometriosis, PCOS, and others may affect this.

What to Expect

During this phase, you’ll experience low estrogen and progesterone levels and a whole host of mood fluctuations and changes in your energy. You may experience some or all of the following:

  • Tiredness
  • Discomfort 
  • Low energy 
  • Low mood 
  • Low body temperature 
  • Menstrual cramps 
  • Menstrual migraine (from low estrogen)
  • Acne may start improving 
  • Cyclical breast tenderness gets better 

How Can You Help?

To lessen the severity of your symptoms, try these suggestions.

  • Stick to a balanced diet even if your carb cravings stick around.
  • Get some exercise (even though you likely won’t want to).
  • Try painkillers, hot water bottles, or heat patches to improve cramps. The heat helps relax the muscles and increase circulation.
  • Relax and avoid stress.

The Follicular Phase - Phase 2

Now, we’re starting fresh. Although it’s the second phase, the follicular phase actually begins when menstruation starts. The follicular phase lasts for the first 14 days of your cycle and marks the development of new eggs. Only one makes the final cut to be released during ovulation (more than that results in multiple births like twins), but the menstrual cycle process begins here.

What to Expect

Not all stages of your cycle are difficult. You’ll have high estrogen levels during the follicular phase. For some, that means this is the happiest stage of your cycle.

You may experience some of the following. If so, lucky you!  

  • Better mood 
  • Low anxiety 
  • Mental sharpness 
  • High energy 
  • Increased sex drive (especially in the days closest to ovulation)

How Can You Help?

Don’t! This is the happiest part of your cycle, so go out and enjoy your life. Try out these tips to make the most of it.

  • Get your partner in the bedroom (especially if you’re trying to get pregnant)
  • Write in a journal
  • Hang out with family and friends
  • Eat great food
  • Exercise (yes, this advice will follow you the whole time)

Ovulation - Phase 3

We have a winner! Your body has selected the perfect, dominant egg. Your egg gets released somewhere between days 11 and 15 of the cycle, and the whole process is usually over within 32 hours.

What to Expect

A lot is going on during this short phase, so you may notice some or all of the following.

  • Changes in vaginal discharge 
  • Clear and stretchy cervical mucus 
  • Mild pain and tenderness 
  • Slight increase in body temperature
  • Light bleeding/spotting
  • Increased sex drive in the days closest to ovulation

How Can You Help?

Ovulation is brief, but it’s still a phase of contentment. Continue to enjoy yourself! Follow the same advice you stuck to in the follicular phase, and pay extra attention to your partner if you’re trying to get pregnant.

The Luteal Phase - Phase 4

You’ve made it to the second half of your cycle! There are about 14 days left before menstruation. The luteal phase begins once the egg moves down the fallopian tube, and it seeks to prepare your body for pregnancy.

What to Expect

In the luteal phase, you’ll experience an initial rise in both progesterone and estrogen as your body prepares for pregnancy. If you don’t get pregnant, there’s a decline in progesterone and estrogen during this phase, which may result in the following.

  • Low mood
  • Bloating especially closer to your period
  • High body temperature
  • Acne
  • Changes in appetite 
  • Breast tenderness as you approach your period
  • Thick and dry vaginal discharge 

How Can You Help?

  • Exercise
  • Avoid foods that cause bloating (beans, lentils, carbonated beverages, etc.)
  • Indulge your food cravings (within reason)
  • Stay hydrated and moisturized
  • Relax as best you can

Tying It All Together 

 Circular diagram with images and text showing what happens in each stage of the menstrual cycle

Final Thoughts  

Womanhood and the menstruation cycle are journeys you take month after month. As you navigate your menstruating years, grab some extra thin Maeves Pads to help you through your period. As you’re dealing with cramps, mood changes, cravings, and discomfort during your period, the last thing you want is a bulky, sticky and wet sanitary pad. At Maeves, we believe in easier, better period days!





Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published