The menstrual cycle is composed of four different phases, which vary in duration from woman to woman, and may fluctuate in length. The phases are menstrual, follicular, ovulation, and luteal. While the length of a menstrual cycle varies from woman to woman, many experience a cycle that lasts 28 days. During the fluctuations of a cycle, key hormones – testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen – increase and decrease in a pattern that influences how we feel.
Nutrition Coach Philadelphia
Sarah Tronco, CMHIMP, is a Philadelphia Nutrition Coach specializing in mental nutrition. Sarah offers individualized mental health nutrition coaching that empowers you to make sustainable changes to improve your overall well-being.
The beginning of your menstrual phase happens when your period arrives and, on average, spans five days. The uterus is shedding its lining through the vagina during this time. This marks the lowest level of estrogen during our cycle. You may be feeling more solitary at the beginning of this phase. As estrogen increases during this week, often we experience increases in energy, improved mood, and more of a desire to be around others.
Follicular Phase (aka the Proliferative Phase)
The follicular phase overlaps with the menstrual phase, since it begins at the start of your period and spans until ovulation. The purpose of this stage is to prepare an egg to be released, which it does by producing follicle stimulating hormone, or FSH. FSH sends a message to the ovaries letting them know to ready an egg to be released from the ovary, known as ovulation. Fluid filled sacs called follicles are contained in the ovaries, and the largest, dominant follicle produces estrogen during growth and is released during ovulation. The average length of the follicular phase is 10-22 days.1 This stage is also known at the proliferative phase because increasing estrogen levels result in the proliferation of the endometrial lining of the uterus.2 Your mood may feel more calm as estrogen has continued to increase during this stage of your cycle.
Beginning around two weeks into your menstrual cycle, luteinizing hormone levels increase due to high levels of estrogen and cause ovulation when the dominant follicle bursts and releases a mature egg into a fallopian tube.3 The phase generally takes place about 14 days before the beginning of the next menstrual phase. Estrogen and testosterone are highest at this point in your cycle, which cause you to feel more aroused as your body tries to get pregnant.
The fourth and final stage of your menstrual cycle is the luteal phase, which spans the latter half of your menstrual cycle and lasts approximately 14 days. During this time, the released egg is making its way through the fallopian tubes toward the uterus. You experience a spike in progesterone and estrogen during this phase. Pregnancy will occur if your egg is fertilized by a sperm. However, if this doesn’t happen, then estrogen and progesterone decrease and your body sheds the endometrial lining of your uterus during your next period. During this stage, you may feel increasingly more lethargic or have difficulty focusing. Some women experience negative mood symptoms, such as sadness or irritability. During the luteal phase, you experience a drop in serotonin, which may contribute to feeling of sadness prior to menstruation.4
Nutrition Coach Philadelphia Sarah Tronco, CMHIMP, is a Philadelphia Nutrition Coach specializing in mental nutrition. Sarah offers individualized mental health nutrition coaching that empowers you to make sustainable changes to improve your overall well-being.
- Photo by Andrés Gómez on Unsplash