Looking for information about menstruation, PMS or contraception? Concerned about a late period or irregular periods? Our menstrual cycle can sometimes play tricks on us.
Find plenty of information and advice on the subject below!
Menstrual cycle: Stages
The menstrual cycle is divided into 3 principal stages.
From menstruation to ovulation: This is the period of time from the first day of menstruation until ovulation; the estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest. This is also when the thickened lining of the uterus begins to shed; this produces menstrual bleeding. For most women, menstruation lasts between 3 and 6 days. Towards the end of this stage, an egg follicle from an ovary gets ready to release an egg. The maturing follicle produces estrogen, thus increasing estrogen levels in the body. After a few days, the increase in estrogen results in the building up of the lining of the uterus to prepare to receive a fertilized egg. The growth or maturation of the egg continues until ovulation. This phase (also called Follicular phase) is the stage of the menstrual cycle that varies most in its length for each woman and cycle.
Ovulation: Ovulation occurs when the follicle reaches maturity and releases the egg. The estrogen level is then at its highest. Some women may feel a bit of lower pelvic pain. During this time, the uterine lining continues to thicken and cervical fluid becomes clear and slippery to make it easy for the spermatozoid to enter the uterus.
From ovulation to the end of the cycle: The duration of this phase (also called luteal phase), which extends from ovulation to the day before menstruation begins lasts, on average, 14 days. After ovulation, the egg starts traveling down the fallopian tube. This is when the egg can be fertilized. During this phase, the ruptured follicle transforms into the corpus luteum, which generates progesterone. Progesterone has two roles: to prepare the uterus to receive a fertilized egg and to make the cervical fluid opaque again. If a fertilized egg makes it to the uterus, an increase in estrogen and progesterone levels will trigger other changes to the uterine lining to favour the development of the fertilized egg.
If the egg does not become fertilized, the corpus luteum disintegrates which immediately stops the secretion of hormones. The uterine lining becomes fragile and starts to shed: this is the beginning of menstruation, and a new menstrual cycle starts all over again.