A menstrual cycle, just the words conjure up images of women, advertisements about pads, thoughts of period blood and cramps… obviously cramps (ouch :p). If you’re someone who doesn’t menstruate, you must’ve come across someone who does. We mean it’s impossible not to there are 1.8 billion menstruators on this planet!
So, this blog is just as relevant to you whether or not you have a menstrual cycle. A menstrual cycle, unlike an actual cycle, is not so easy to control or even stable, and it can definitely be a bumpy ride!
Let’s make this easier :)
First things first…
What is menstruation exactly?
Short story :
Menstruation is when the body sheds unfertilised eggs from the uterus along with some uteral lining. It typically happens every month, but the time period can vary from person to person.
Long story: Some people are born with ovaries (egg baskets of the human body ;p). These ‘ovaries’ are the organs that hold eggs (cells) that ultimately have the potential to meet with a sperm 🤝🏾 and result in a pregnancy! Interesting, right? A new house guest right in your body!
When the body is preparing for this potential new guest (the baby) into your body, it’s making the uterus line thicker and spongy to host the fertilised egg. If the egg doesn’t get fertilised by meeting a sperm, the thickened lining and the unfertilised egg sheds, causing bleeding aka menstruation or more popularly known as periods.
The whole pregnancy preparation period leading up to menstruation + menstruation is what is called the menstrual cycle. There are 4 stages in the menstrual cycle but more on that later!
So who are menstruators?
People who menstruate and undergo the menstrual cycle are menstruators. Now you may be wondering, why didn’t we just say women instead of “menstruators”, it’s a fair question! It’s because what a lot of people don’t know is that not everyone who menstruates is a woman! Sex and Gender are two different concepts and menstruation is a human and biological process that anyone with a uterus can undergo.
This can mean adolescent and adult girls and women, transgender men, non-binary people, agender people and intersex people.
Cis-gendered females are not the only ones who menstruate!
Myth = Busted
Mind = 🤯
Menstruation is not black and white(or red :p) it’s much more complicated and definitely not binary!
Menstrual Cycle is more than just a period!
Yes, the bleeding is not the ONLY part of your menstrual cycle, there’s so much happening that is part of the cycle.
An entire menstrual cycle usually lasts between 24 and 38 days on an average, but the length may vary depending on -
- Each cycle
- Each person
- Medical conditions
- May change from menarche (when periods first start during puberty) to menopause (when periods stop permanently).
A menstrual cycle starts on the first day of your period (Day 1 of bleeding) and ends when the next period begins.
Menstrual Cycle and its phases
The menstrual cycle has four main phases :
- Menstruation Phase (bleeding from the vagina) :
- Day 1 of a menstrual cycle
- Average phase : 3 days to 7 days
- Blood vessels of unfertilised eggs, cells from the lining of the uterus (endometrial cells) and mucus make an exit from the vaginal canal.
- One may experience cramps, caused by the contraction of uterine and abdominal muscles to expel the menstrual fluid, leading to an ‘ouch’ and ‘I wish this was over already’ moment for a lot of people :3
- This phase is a sign that one is not pregnant and that your uterus is not getting a 9-month-lease guest, so the uterus gets rid of the bedding it set up!
- Starts the same day as the menstruation phase but lasts longer than menstruation.
- Average phase: 7-22 days
- The brain tells the ovaries to prepare an egg that can be released and sent to the uterus in the next phase of the cycle. The egg starts growing in a sac-like structure.
- The egg that is growing in this phase, starts producing estrogen (hormone) which peaks just before ovulation. Which means? higher desire to engage in sexy times!
Simultaneously the Proliferative phase is in play!
Consider this a detour phase? We’re shifting focus from the ovaries to the uterus here.
When does it happen? It starts when the period ends (bleeding stops) and lasts till ovulation begins.
Here the Uterus is thickening its lining (endometrium lining) so that the egg has a place to stick to and grow in case a pregnancy occurs!
- starts about 13-15 days before menstruation
- The life span of the typical egg is only around 24 hours. Unless it meets a sperm during this time, it will die. These 24 hours are when the chances of pregnancy are the highest! This time period is also called the ‘fertile window’.
Ovulation is when the egg that has been growing till now is finally big enough to leave its house and move out only to live in the house next door :p
Okay but ovulation is basically the release of the matured egg from the ovary. The Luteinising Hormone (LH) spike causes ovulation to be triggered! The egg travels through the fallopian tube by waves of hair-like projections, to reach its final destination: the uterus!
- Sperm can hang out in the fallopian tubes for 5 days or so. Thus, pregnancy is most likely to occur from the penetrative sex that happens in the days leading up to ovulation and ovulation day.
The combination of birth control pills (pills containing both estrogen and progestin) has its effect by stopping the ovulation process and thickening the lining of the uterus so that an egg and sperm cannot fertilise thus preventing pregnancy! Prev provides its subscribers with both combined birth control pills and mini-pills, depending on what is the best option for you :)
- From ovulation till the start of the next period
- The sac that held the egg while it was maturing, now starts to produce progesterone and estrogen.
- Progesterone levels peak almost hallway through this phase thus making us experience irritable or gloomy symptoms which is commonly associated with PMS i.e. Pre-Menstrual Symptoms
If an egg is fertilized, progesterone supports the early stages of pregnancy.
If no fertilization occurs, the sac will starts to break down a few days after ovulation, resulting in a drop in estrogen and progesterone levels, causing menstruation (bleeding).
To sum it up! :
- The menstrual cycle is a lot of things like complicated and unique for each person but it’s not a mark of ‘womanhood’, it’s a biological process!
- A Menstrual Cycle is more than just bleeding :)
- A Menstrual Cycle has 4 phases.
- Birth Control pills help stop ovulation to prevent pregnancy or stop the meeting of the egg and the sperm!