Menstruation begins on day one of the cycle, the first day of bleeding.
When implantation of the fertilised ovum (egg) does not occur, progesterone (and oestrogen) levels drop. This causes the thickened endometrium (lining of the uterus) to break down. The menstrual bleed contains blood, cells from the uterine lining and cervical mucus. Most women wear tampons, pads, or menstrual cups during their bleed.
A real period is a finale in a series of hormonal events which includes ovulation and the making of progesterone. A real period happens approximately every 28 days because that is how long it takes your ovaries to complete the process.
I use the word ‘real’ because if you are on the pill a pill bleed does not proceed from ovulation. It is a withdrawal bleed from synthetic hormones (drugs) that stimulate your uterine lining BUT shut down your ovaries. The pill does not regulate hormones (as you may have been advised), instead it switches them off entirely.
On day one of the menstrual cycle the pituitary gland in the brain releases follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This hormone stimulates the ovaries to produce 6-12 tiny follicles, each containing an immature egg. Each cycle, one of these follicles dominates and prepares to release (ovulate) a mature egg while the others die off. Follicle development causes a rise in oestrogen levels, which causes the uterine lining to thicken in preparation for a potential pregnancy.
The length of the follicular phase can vary. But it typically should be a minimum of 11 days for that particular cycle to be considered a fertile cycle.
After menstruation (your period) ends, you will notice that your cervical fluid takes on a wetter consistency. Especially as ovulation approaches. This is considered normal and a sign of a healthy cycle.
Ovulation usually occurs between day 12 and 17 of your cycle. You should look for wetter cervical fluid as ovulation occurs. Please note: if you are on the Pill, you DO NOT ovulate, and your period is not a real period. It is a pill bleed induced by synthetic hormones.
Ovulation generally occurs around two weeks before menstruation. Rising oestrogen from follicle development cause the hypothalamus in the brain to release gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH). This stimulates further production of FSH. At a certain level, oestrogen feeds back to the hypothalamus, luteinising hormone (LH) surge occurs, and the dominant follicle ovulates. Luteinising hormone is the hormone commonly measured in urinary ovulation test kits.
Around 36-48 hours after the surge in LH levels, the egg is released into the fallopian tube and is moved toward the uterus by tiny hairlike projections. It is here in the tube that the egg is either fertilised or will die. This egg only has a 12-24-hour life span.
Ovulation usually occurs between day 12 and day 17 of the cycle. You should look for wetter quality cervical fluid as ovulation nears.
The luteal phase refers to the time between ovulation and menstruation and will usually be around 14 days. When the egg is released from its follicle during ovulation, the ruptured follicle remains on the surface of the ovary and becomes the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum releases progesterone, which, along with oestrogen, helps to keep the lining of the uterus thick in preparation for a fertilised egg to implant.
If the egg is fertilised, it may implant into the lining of the uterus and produce hormones to maintain the pregnancy and the corpus luteum, which continues to produce progesterone until the placenta is fully developed and takes over the production of progesterone at around 10 weeks gestation.
The luteal phase should ideally be 12-16 days long. When the luteal phase fits into this range it is considered to be a fertile cycle. The cervical fluid will either become sticky or dry up beginning the day after ovulation, and pretty much remain that way for the rest of the luteal phase.
Maintaining a healthy pregnancy requires adequate progesterone levels. If pregnancy has not occurred, the corpus luteum will die and progesterone levels will drop. This causes the uterine lining to stop thickening and begin to shed.
The cycle of menstruation then begins again!