Menstrual Cycle: Knowing Yourself Through Every Phase

This article is based on scientific evidence and clinical experience, written by a licensed professional and fact-checked by experts.

Knowing Yourself Through Every Phase of Your Menstrual Cycle by Ryenn Yarbrough

Posted: February 1, 2022

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Many of us in some form had a dreaded talk with a teacher or a parent about our period. This was usually in a crowded classroom with all the other girls in your grade in the late part of elementary school. There might have been a cheesy video and possibly a calendar was presented along with a gigantic maxi pad and a generic deodorant brand stick.

If you are anything like me at that moment it felt awkward and hard to process this was something that was going to happen to me one day. What really bothered me as I grew up was that this moment in 5th or 6th grade was the only time anyone explained tracking your period to me.

Most women start their periods at age 12, this crazy preteen time of life now becomes haunted by the fear of bleeding through your clothes or not being able to swim with my friends at the pool this weekend, or having a meltdown because your emotions are all “out of control”. This natural bodily process becomes this barrier that we learn to dodge and control as best we can so that it does not hinder us from our day-to-day. Some girls get on birth control to help control these raging hormones, others pop Midal and other drugs to help cramps, others stay in bed all day and eat ice cream alone in a dark room. Would it be helpful if we knew more about our menstrual cycles? Would it be helpful for our partner to understand what happens at each part of our cycle? How can we help our partners understand our bodies if we do not take the step to discover for ourselves first?

So what is the first step? Most of the time when people say menstrual cycle they mean the time in which you are bleeding when in actuality the menstrual cycle is all four phases; menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase. What? There are four phases? Did someone explain this to me in elementary school? Oh yeah maybe, but was my 10-year-old self taking notes to care for my womanly body better and prepare for healthy sex life and fertility? Yeah, definitely not!

So if you are like me and are in need of a refresher course or maybe never learned this, here it is!

Follicular phase – also known as spring or pre-ovulation:
  • hormones increase to create a follicle that can be matured to an egg
  • rise in the level of estrogen. The hypothalamus in the brain recognizes these rising levels and releases a chemical called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH)

Follicular – During this phase, your body has just cleansed itself and it is preparing for ovulation. Just like springtime, our body starts a new cycle and our brain function and emotions for the most part follow this springtime attitude. Here are some things that might feel more motivated to do when you are in spring!

  • Drive into new projects
  • Brainstorm with others
  • Tackle your to do list
  • Problem solve
  • Look for new clients
  • Research new goals and ideas
  • Let yourself dream!
Ovulation phase – also known as summer:
  • the egg bursts from its follicle
  • the ruptured follicle stays on the surface of the ovary

Ovulation – During this phase even though it only lasts for a day or two this is the summer of all summers. Our bodies are desiring activity and sex, of course, it wants to be fertilized. Here are some things that you might be more motivated to do during this time of the month.

  • Have important hard conversations
  • Ask for that raise
  • Take a job interview
  • Take on creative projects
  • Attend networking events and get social!
  • Negotiate deals
Luteal phase – also known as fall or premenstrual:
  • The sac that contains the egg produces estrogen and progesterone.
  • If there is no fertilization of the egg the body will prepare to shed the thick uterine wall.
  • For the next two weeks or so, the follicle transforms into a structure known as the corpus luteum. This structure starts releasing progesterone, along with small amounts of estrogen.

Luteal – It is fall, everyone’s favorite season, right? Well, maybe not when it comes to our menstrual cycle. As we prepare for winter our bodies and mind will begin to drift inward and so will our motivation to be social and part of strenuous activities start to drift away as well. Instead of going outward, start to prepare inward for winter.

  • Work on admin tasks
  • Organize your workspace, house, closest, pantry, etc.
  • Order supplies, grocery shop, prepare for “winter”
  • Lend a hand to a friend
Menstruation phase – Winter:
  • thickened uterine wall (endometrium) is shedding (bleeding lasts for 5-7 days)

Menstruation – During this phase, our body is letting go and cleansing itself preparing to enter into springtime again.

  • Evaluate the last month
  • Journal and notice pattern
  • Reflect on if you like the projects you are working on
  • Reflect on  your direction
  • Reflect on your relationships and your relationship with God
  • Reassess goals
  • Pay attention to you gut instincts
  • Be still and listen to God

Now if we do not know when and where we are in our cycles how can we care for our bodies and our mental health? This is so much more than mood swings and bleeding once a month, this is a whole system that helps bring life into this world and changes a lot about our hormones, mood, energy, sex drives, etc. in every “season”. Learning what your body is doing for you at each phase can be the start in helping us find compassion for ourselves.

I believe that if we can begin to love our bodies, love our cycles, and care for our mental health and body at every phase we will be one step closer to loving ourselves, our bodies, and the truly amazing miracles it performs month to month day-to-day!

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This article is based on scientific evidence and clinical experience, written by a licensed professional and fact-checked by experts.

About the Author
Ryenn Yarbrough
Ryenn Yarbrough

Ryenn Yarbrough MA, LPCA, holds a Master’s in Counseling from MidAmerica Nazarene University. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate in the state of South Carolina.

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