You know that during days 1-5 is the bleeding phase of your menstrual cycle. But what happens during the other 23 days?
Your reproductive system works around the clock, 24/7, to give you some of the desirable (or not so desirable) effects that you may be wondering how it came about!
Before we get started, here are the functions of the few hormones which will be mentioned repeatedly throughout this article!
The primary female sex hormone. It is responsible for the development and regulation of the female reproductive system and secondary sex characteristics
A female sex hormone produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands. It plays an important role in maintaining a pregnancy. It also regulates the monthly menstrual cycle.
Shortly before a period begins, the endometrial cells that form the lining of the uterus make large amounts of prostaglandins. When these cells break down during menstruation, the prostaglandins are released. They constrict the blood vessels in the uterus and make its muscle layer contract, causing painful menstrual cramps.
Menstruation: Bleeding Stage
Since your ovum was unfertilised, oestrogen and progesterone levels take a dip, which causes the break down, and discharge of your uterine lining.
How It Affects You:
Your uterus contracts as it expels the unfertilised ovum, and this contraction is felt as the ever so familiar menstrual cramps. Another reason why you may be feeling less than stellar, may be the production of the hormone prostaglandin. It causes the contraction of the muscles in your bowels, and this is why you may constantly feel like passing number 2s when on your period.
Hormonal fluctuations are also the cause of the feelings of bloatedness that come along with your period. This is because when progesterone levels fall, our kidneys (which are responsible for passing our fluid) release less water it in our urine, causing more of it to be retained in our bodies.
You may start out fatigued and feeling down due to rock-bottom levels of oestrogen. However, as the days progresses oestrogen levels should pick up and you’ll feel yourself becoming more motivated – You absorb information easier! Remember to increase your iron intake as you’re rapidly losing blood during this period (which leads to fatigue!)
You may also feel your sex drive rising as your levels of progesterones increase throughout the week! Don’t worry about having sex while on your period – it actually helps with your menstrual cramps and other period woes!
Follicular Phase: Uterine Lining Thickening Stage
A hormone called Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) is released, stimulating egg cells to grow and uterine walls to thicken in preparation for a possible pregnancy.
How It Affects You:
Rising oestrogen levels means your mood, energy will all experience a boost. Oestrogen is also a natural pain-reliever and you’ll find that your pain tolerance becomes higher! Your learning skills are at its peak and you’re up for any challenge!
Also thanks to rising oestrogen levels, you are building muscles faster and easier when you workout during this period – You are able to push yourself harder!
You may start to experience some clear or white discharge during this period. No worries! It’s just your body preparing for ovulation.
Ovulation: Fertile Period
This is your fertile window! During ovulation (typically day 14, but it varies), the matured egg is finally released into the fallopian tube and travels to the uterus. During this time, if it comes in contact with sperm, it is fertilised. So keep in mind that during these days you are most likely to get pregnant! Remember to use contraception!
How It Affects You:
With oestrogen levels at its peak, you will feel a surge of energy and inspiration!
Due to increasing testosterone (yes females have them too!) in the later part of this week, your sex drive will spike!
You may experience discharge that is clear (or white) and stretchy, with consistency like mucus. This is a telltale sign that you’re probably ovulating! No worries because it is a perfectly healthy and normal discharge
End of menstrual cycle: When the egg reaches the uterus, your body starts producing a new hormone called progesterone. This helps thicken the uterine lining even further. If the egg remains unfertilised, progesterone and oestrogen levels will plummet – Uterine lining breaks down and this escapes the body in the form of your menstruation blood. This signals the start of another cycle!
How It Affects You:
Due to high levels of progesterones, you might feel moodier. Irritation, sadness, anxiousness are all common mood swing symptoms of a PMS (Pre-Menstrual Symptoms)
Your breasts might start to feel a little sore – Also another symptom of the PMS!
At the earlier part of this stage, you will crave your favourite comfort foods that are high in fat and calories, that’s all due to the increased levels of progesterone! Your appetite is also greater and you’re hungrier more often, so you tend to eat more at meals and snack more frequently.
All this is because your body thinks you might have gotten pregnant during ovulation, so progesterone wants you to eat enough for two. However, do take note of certain foods to avoid to prevent making your period pains worse, and try to opt for these foods that actually help instead!
Thankfully, you’re burning up to 30% more fat during this phase, due to the combination of oestrogen and progesterone!
You will find that your sex drive drops significantly, also due to the rise in progesterones.
And there you have it, your menstrual cycle! While there are still a ton of other things that happen in your body throughout this cycle, we hope that this article provided you with a little glimpse into what goes on inside. So you see, your menstrual cycle is actually a beautiful and highly complicated system, and shouldn’t be treated with disdain! Instead you should be thankful for your amazing body, and its amazing capabilities!