Here are 7 ways to better understand your menstrual cycle
I want you to think about what you've been taught about your menstrual cycle and how?
Pour ma part, je me souviens d’une salle bondée d’élèves d’école primaire, en sueur, qui regardaient une étrange cassette VHS sur la puberté des filles. Sans la sagesse des autres femmes dans ma vie, je serais totalement perdue.
42% of women are victims of menstrual shame and 58% of women feel embarrassed simply because they have their period.
Where does that leave room for women to ask stupid, necessary and personal questions to understand their menstrual cycles?
Hint: there aren't any!
The culture surrounding menstruation needs to change. This starts with open and honest conversations. We want to help women become aware of their bodies and feel comfortable in them.
So what is the menstrual cycle?
Your menstrual cycle, also known as the ovarian cycle, begins on the day your period starts and ends the day before your period returns. This cycle is renewed approximately every 28 days, from adolescence (your first period) until the menopause.
What are the phases of my menstrual cycle?
Your menstrual cycle can be broken down into 4 distinct phases:
- Menstrual phase
- Follicular phase
- Ovulatory phase
- Luteal phase
1) First phase of your menstrual cycle: you have your period
Your menstrual cycle begins when your period arrives: These can last for a few days, or even a week. Your body "expels" the uterine lining and the unfertilised egg from your previous cycle because you didn't get pregnant.
2) Second phase of your menstrual cycle: preparing for ovulation
After your period, the pre-ovulatory phase begins, which lasts around seven days and prepares your uterus for ovulation. This phase is also known as the follicular phase.
During this phase, your brain, via the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, sends a chemical message that leads to the release of two hormones. The first is FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), which stimulates the growth of the ovarian follicle, and the second is LH (luteinising hormone), which causes the release of the egg. At the same time, the follicle, stimulated in this way, releases large quantities of oestrogen. The release of this "feminine hormone" generates a feeling of well-being. You feel good about yourself, you have energy and your libido is at its peak.
3) Third phase of your menstrual cycle: ovulation
When the oocyte contained in the follicle reaches maturity, the follicle ruptures under the action of the hormone LH and releases a fertilisable egg. You then enter the ovulation phase. During this phase, your cervical mucus, which allows sperm to pass through to the egg, becomes thinner and translucent. This is why you may notice a white discharge. Some of you may also feel pain when the follicle (which measures two centimetres!) ruptures and travels through your fallopian tubes to reach the uterus.
This ovulatory phase dure environ deux jours et c’est à ce moment-là que vous pouvez concevoir un enfant. Votre taux d’œstrogène est alors à son paroxysme et votre libido est boostée !
4) Fourth phase of your menstrual cycle: after ovulation
After the ovulatory phase, the last stage of your menstrual cycle begins, known as the luteal phase, which lasts around fourteen days.
The first part of this phase is common to all women and prepares your uterus to receive the fertilised egg. The follicle, which has released the egg, heals and transforms into a corpus luteum, which then secretes progesterone. Throughout this second part of the cycle, progesterone levels rise crescendo until they exceed those of oestrogen. Your uterine wall becomes thicker and more vascular in preparation for the eventual implantation of the fertilised egg. Progesterone, also known as the "maternity hormone", can then lead to a slightly more sombre mood and anxiety.
Your body will then adapt to two very different situations:
a) Your egg has not been fertilized.
If the egg has not been fertilised, hormone secretion drops significantly and the corpus luteum begins to degenerate. The uterine mucosa and the unfertilised egg will then detach and be evacuated through menstruation. You are now entering a new
b) Your egg has been fertilized.
If the egg has been fertilised, it will then "cling" and attach itself to your uterine wall. This is called implantation. Once implanted, the egg will begin to secrete chorionic gonadotropin hormone (HCG), also known as the "pregnancy hormone". This keeps the corpus luteum active so that it can continue to secrete oestrogen and progesterone. Your pregnancy has just begun!
The menstrual cycle and its ovulation phase: how to recognize it?
There are three physical factors that can tell you if you're entering the ovulation phase of your menstrual cycle. Other physical symptoms can occur (bloating, lower abdominal pain, high libido, etc.) but they vary so much from one woman to another that it can be more complicated to associate them with your precise day of ovulation. Here are the signs that should alert you:
First, you can spot the appearance of white discharge a few days before the start of your ovulation. They generally become increasingly fluid and transparent, until they resemble egg white. This means your sperm passage has been facilitated, and it's time to take action!
Secondly, you should know that your temperature rises slightly (by 0.3°C to 0.6°C) the day after you ovulate. This means that if you take your temperature every day for several menstrual cycles, you can determine quite precisely when your body is in this phase.
Finally, as explained above, at the moment of ovulation, your body secretes a hormone called LH, which is easily detectable in your urine. This is when the ovulation test comes into play! To determine the most favourable period for getting pregnant, you can use ovulation tests that will tell you whether you are producing this particular hormone. By doing the test over several days, you can follow the rise in your hormones until you determine the day when the line is darkest (or most apparent), which will determine your ovulation day. We advise you to do a test every day for 6 days (from your 10th day of the cycle) to accurately determine your ovulation day and therefore the period when you are most fertile.