What are the Stages of the Menstrual Cycle?

Understanding the following four main stages can provide important information about personal health and fertility, allowing individuals to track their cycle, manage contraception effectively, and detect irregularities that may indicate underlying issues.
Monashivf blog 04

Four stages of menstrual cycle

  • Menstruation
  • The follicular phase
  • Ovulation
  • Luteal phase

This knowledge can also aid your fertility specialist in addressing concerns and developing treatment plans.

At Monash IVF, our commitment extends beyond providing cutting-edge fertility treatments; we believe that empowering people with knowledge about their menstrual cycle enhances their proactive involvement in reproductive healthcare. By fostering awareness and informed decision-making, we aim to support individuals on their unique paths to parenthood, ensuring they have the tools to navigate fertility challenges and make choices aligned with their reproductive goals. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help individuals and couples develop a deeper understanding of the menstrual cycle and gain valuable insights that can contribute to a healthier, more informed reproductive journey.

Menstrual Cycle

From the changing seasons to the lunar phases, cycles are regulated sequences of phases essential for renewal and continuity. The menstrual cycle embodies this rhythmic pattern observed in the natural world, regulating reproductive processes in the female body. Consisting of four interconnected phases, it involves an orchestration of hormonal changes that contribute to fertility and overall reproductive health.

Different Phases of the Menstrual Cycle

Each of the four menstrual cycle phases - menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase - play a crucial role in reproductive health. Characterised by distinct biological processes and hormonal changes, understanding each phase empowers people to make informed decisions about their healthcare and ensures more meaningful discussions with fertility specialists, leading to tailored treatments if necessary.

Menses Phase

Lasting around 3 to 7 days, the menses phase marks the shedding of the uterine lining. Commonly known as ‘menstruation’, this process involves the release of blood and tissue through the vagina.

During this phase, it’s common to experience fatigue, breast tenderness, changes in bowel habits, and menstrual cramps due to uterine contractions. While mild discomfort is normal, severe pain, persistent fatigue, or other irregularities may warrant medical investigation.

Consistent irregularities in menstruation can be indicative of fertility issues such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or thyroid disorders. Monitoring and addressing these irregularities enables early detection of potential fertility challenges, allowing individuals to seek timely treatment.

Follicular Phase

With a duration of 14-21 days, the follicular phase begins on the first day of menses and continues until ovulation. It involves the development of ovarian follicles, each housing an immature egg. Rising oestrogen levels stimulate the thickening of the uterine lining, preparing it for a potential pregnancy. As follicles mature, one eventually becomes dominant, leading to ovulation.

Understanding the follicular phase can help couples optimise their fertility, as it provides insights into the prime window for conception. Monitoring this phase allows individuals to enhance the timing for intercourse and increase the chances of successful conception.

Learn more about Timed Intercourse and How to Treat Your Body During Your Follicular Phase*.

Ovulation Phase

Lasting from 16 to 32 hours, the ovulation phase represents the window of peak fertility. It is marked by the release of a mature egg from the ovary. Signs of ovulation include increased cervical mucus, a slight rise in basal body temperature, mild pelvic pain, and breast tenderness. The released egg awaits fertilisation in the fallopian tube, and if not fertilised, it dissolves.

Alongside the physical changes, ovulation can also impact mood, with some individuals experiencing heightened energy levels and libido during this fertile period.

Luteal Phase

The luteal phase follows ovulation and typically lasts 14 days. After releasing the egg, the ruptured follicle transforms into the ‘ corpus luteum’, producing progesterone. This hormone readies the uterus for a potential pregnancy by thickening the uterine lining. If fertilisation occurs, the embryo implants; if not, hormone levels drop, leading to menstruation.

Understanding the luteal phase can provide insights into the post-ovulatory period, affecting fertility, potential pregnancy, and menstrual cycle regularity.

Learn more about How to Treat Your Body During Your Luteal Phase*.

What Are Symptoms of Getting Your Period?

The menstrual phase, being the most outwardly evident in the menstrual cycle, brings a number of behavioural, psychological, and physical symptoms. You may experience any or all of the following leading up to your period:

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Mood changes
  • Breast tenderness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

To alleviate symptoms, you can use heat packs, stay hydrated, engage in light exercise, maintain a balanced diet, and manage stress. While experiencing mild symptoms is normal, if they interfere significantly with your daily life and activities, or if they do not resolve by the end of menstruation, this may warrant medical investigation to rule out underlying medical issues or identify fertility challenges.

How Long Is a Regular Menstrual Cycle?

A menstrual cycle begins on the first day of menstruation and ends on the day before the next period cycle starts. It typically lasts 28 days, though variations from 21 to 35 days are considered normal. A menstrual cycle is deemed regular if its length doesn't deviate significantly from one month to the next. Tracking your menstrual cycle thus allows you to predict ovulation and menstruation, and identify irregularities. Slight variations are normal, but consistent irregularities may warrant medical attention, supporting informed decisions about contraception, family planning, and overall reproductive health.

What Is Considered an Irregular Period?

Irregular periods are those that deviate from the standard 28-day menstrual cycle with regards to frequency, duration, or flow. This includes cycles shorter than 21 days or longer than 35 days, inconsistent cycle lengths, and abnormal bleeding patterns.

If irregularities persist for several cycles, or if there are sudden changes in menstrual patterns, it's advisable to consult a healthcare provider. You may also wish to seek the advice of a fertility specialist if your irregular period poses challenges for conception or if there are concerns about underlying reproductive health issues. Timely professional guidance can help diagnose and address the root causes of irregular periods.

Monashivf blog 05

Menstrual Health Quiz

Experiencing pain during your period and/or throughout your menstrual cycle could indicate a deeper health issue. Whether experienced on a regular basis or infrequently, when coupled with other symptoms may require speaking with a fertility specialist to identify the root cause. A good starting point is understanding what symptoms you’re experiencing during your period and throughout your cycle. Our menstrual health quiz has been created by our fertility experts to help you start this process and provide you with recommendations based on what symptoms you’re experiencing.

Menstrual Health Quiz

Understand, Track, and Enhance Your Reproductive Wellbeing

To familiarise yourself with your body’s natural patterns, you should consider tracking your menstrual cycle for regularity, noting any irregularities in duration, frequency, or flow. Regular tracking not only aids in fertility planning but also provides valuable insights into overall health and facilitates informed discussions with healthcare professionals.

When tracking your cycle ensure to include information such as the length of your cycle (this is calculated from day 1 of your menses phase until the next bleed), whether you have heavy or painful periods, changes in your body throughout your menstrual cycle including mood changes. You can also use ovulation test kits to track ovulation if you’re looking to better understand your fertility.

Menstrual Cycle Insights: Empower Your Fertility Journey

For females, the menstrual cycle offers valuable insights into reproductive and general wellbeing. Understanding its nuances can help you optimise your reproductive health and assist you on your journey to parenthood when the time is right.

Monash IVF offers valuable resources to empower you with the knowledge to make informed decisions. Check out Our Blog for a range of informative articles, or explore Our Team’s insights on Preserving Fertility. Alternatively, you can Book A Chat with one of our knowledgeable nurses or schedule a Fertility Health Check.

Footer Aqua

Start your fertility journey

Wherever you are on your journey, one of our supportive nurse enquiry team can help you understand your options and take the next step. These conversations are free and informative.

Book a nurse chat Book an appointment
Free Nurse Chat