Just like the seasons (spring, summer, autumn, winter), the cardinal directions (north, east, south, west) and the lunar phases (new moon, waxing moon, full moon, waning moon), also the menstrual cycle can be divided into four phases. If you look at the hormonal changes during these phases, it’s perfectly understandable that we feel slightly different from time to time.
1. Menstrual phase
Day one of your menstruation is also day one of your menstrual cycle. The uterus sheds the unfertilised egg together with its lining, called endometrium. The pituitary gland in the brain releases FSH, follicle-stimulating hormone, which stimulates the ovaries to produce estrogen, so new eggs can grow and develop. From a holistic point of view, phase 1 also represents new moon and winter.
2. Pre-ovulatory phase
In the ovaries, several follicles with eggs inside start maturing. Usually, only one develops completely. Estrogen and progesterone levels rise, making you feel stronger and more energetic. A lot of women also feel like having sex during this phase. No coincidence, as chances of getting pregnant are rising as well. Phase 2 stands for waxing moon and spring.
3. Ovulation phase
Usually only one follicle develops completely. After about a week, it’s ready for ovulation. The egg leaves the ovary and travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus. During ovulation, the body temperature rises a bit and some women experience cramps. If the egg gets into contact with sperm cells in the uterus, you can get pregnant. When the egg travels through the fallopian tube, the estrogen and progesterone levels start to decrease. The ovulation phase symbolises full moon and summer.
4. Premenstrual phase
In the third week of the cycle, estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest point. This can lead to retaining fluids, sensitive breasts and irritability. In other words: PMS, which stands for premenstrual syndrome. Seeing as most complaints happen in the premenstrual phase, women aren’t usually grumpy during their periods, but in the week before the bleeding starts. Emotions rise and some women feel the need to retreat into their inner selves. Not surprisingly, this phase stands for waning moon and autumn.
4 x 7 = 28?
On average, the whole menstrual cycle is 28 days and every phase lasts a week. Mind you: that’s an average. There are hardly any women with a cycle of exact 28 days. Everything between 21 and 35 days is considered ‘normal’.
Cute booklet for mothers and daughters
Looking for a introductory book on the phases of menstruation for your daughter? The Moon’s Gift by Victoria de Aboitiz is a super cute booklet, explaining the female body (discovering yourself), the transformation during puberty, and the menstrual cycle. It has an interesting chapter about welcoming the first menstruation in different cultures and ways to celebrate the menarche. Of course it also gives practical information on menstrual management, like an overview of products and natural remedies. The original book is written in Spanish, but there’s also an English version. facebook.com/themoonsgift/