What is the monthly cycle?
The name ‘cycle’ originates from the historical connection to the different stages of the moon during the month, completing a full cycle every 28 days.
Historically, it was thought that the monthly cycle has a direct correlation to the moon cycle. This belief, however, was not confirmed in research.
The ‘cycle’ is the time frame from the 1st day the bleeding starts till the next 1st day of bleeding.
Menstruation (also called menses) are terms used for the days of bleeding, they last between 3-8 days.
Is my cycle regular?
The length of a menstrual cycle differs greatly between women and throughout life.
1st menstruation may start as early as 9 years or as late as 16 years. It may take 1-2 years for the cycle to become regular. This is a normal process. During fertile years, a regular cycle lasts between 21-35 days.
Did you know?
The age of first menstruation is usually similar between mothers and daughters.
Menstrual irregularity may represent hormonal or dietary imbalance, lifestyle change or a sign of a medical issue.
Menstruation cycle becomes irregular again at the age range of 40-50 years – symbolising the beginning of menopausal transition and the end of the fertility years. This is a gradual process that may take a few years.
The menstruation cycle is responsible for female fertility through changes in hormones that enable:
1. the ovary to go through ovulation,
2. the cervix to pass the sperm,
3. the uterus to prepare for an embryo – if a fertilisation occurs.
The 1st half of the cycle is called the follicular phase, lasting about 14 days and the dominant hormone is ESTROGEN – derived from the ovaries.
The first 3-8 days are the bleeding days – the uterus contracts, shedding its inner layer – the endometrium, evacuating up to 30 – 80ml of blood through the cervix.
After the bleeding ends, the uterus begins its preparation for a new potential pregnancy, by re-building the endometrium.
The follicular phase
During these 14 days- a follicle grows and matures in one of the ovaries.
Around day 14 ovulation occurs. It is a miraculous process that occurs more than 300 times in a woman’s life!
Ovulation means an egg (the size of a seed) “breaks out” of the ovary, then it is captured by the “fimbria”- an opening in the tube and travels through it, towards the uterus.
Although the egg survives only 24 hours in the tube, male sperm may exist up to 72 hours in the female genital tract and if they happen to meet at this time – fertilisation might happen and an embryo is formed!
Sexual desire is the highest at this time of month. Some women report a better mood and higher energy levels.
The second half of the cycle is called the luteal phase (Luteus means yellow in latin).
After ovulation,a corpus luteum is formed in place of the ovulated egg inside the ovary. These are specific cells that produce the hormone – PROGESTERONE is responsible for:
Bleeding the inner layer in the uterus.
Changing cervical discharge.
Supporting a pregnancy if it occurs.
If pregnancy doesn’t occur after day 21 – the corpus luteum starts to dissolve, progesterone level drops and the uterus starts to cramp and shed its inner layer – menstruation begins again.
Menstruation can be physically painful, sometimes accompanied by changes in mood and appetite due to hormonal changes.
MOOD and the cycle
Many women feel a close correlation between stages in the menstrual cycle and their mood, sexual desire, physical changes such as migraines, vaginal thrush, changes in appetite and others.
You can explore your own rhythm through your cycle – try to follow the stages and notice when you are energetic, focused, interested in intimacy and when you feel nervous, tired or just want to take a break to recharge.
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