Growing up most of us learn that we will one day get this “mysterious” period thing, and if we pay enough attention in class we may learn that it has to do with some sort of cycle and that it means we are now “women” and therefore can get pregnant, something that carries over into health classes further on in school.
Unfortunately, the important details aren’t covered in those classes for many, and we’re taught to be too shy to go and ask an older female about it, somewhat hoping to catch someone a few grades ahead of you gossiping about it one day.
It has been my goal all along to be there for those moments of embarrassment and confusion.
Today, I want to talk about how your period extends to so much more than just those few days of bleeding once a month. Today is going to be a bit more technical, “textbook” type information, but I think it is important to learn exactly what happens each month. So, let’s break it down.
Your cycle begins with your period (menstrual phase). This means you’ll experience a number of days (it might be two days, it might be 9) of bleeding (it might be light pink, brown, purple, or a deep red or purple) which will range in it’s consistency (light, watery bleeding to heavy, goopy bleeding). If you’ve been lead to believe your period will be exactly like the blood from a cut finger, you’re in for a surprise.
Next, comes the follicular phase. Your body starts releasing the the hormones (LH + FSH) needed for 15-20 eggs to start their journey of maturation in each ovary. It is a race for these little eggs to become the dominate egg, (by day 7 or 8). Estrogen is then introduced to start building up the lining of your uterus (which is what sheds during your period). By day 8 or 9 the estrogen also causes your fertility signs to start changing (fluid, cervix, temperature). 12-16 hours before ovulation your LH surges, followed by a smaller surge of FSH which causes estrogen to stop in the dominate follicle.
The ovulatory phase is next. That dominate egg is ready to be released by a signal from your pituitary gland. Some, like myself (but not every month), can feel a small pain when the egg is released, called Mittelschmerz. Ovulation can be delayed by stress and other factors, but your period/luteal phase cannot be delayed.
The luteal phase is the final phase. After the egg is released, the follicle collapses in onto itself, releasing progesterone, which keeps any other eggs from releasing that cycle, thickens the uterine lining (5-6 millimeters thick), and causes the fertility sign to change. The egg travels down the fallopian tube where it can either join with a sperm, divide and multiply into about 100 cells, and move into the uterus to embed its fertilized self into the lining to grow into a baby, or if it is not fertilized within a 24 hour period, the egg disintegrates, either being absorbed back into the body or collecting with the uterine lining to be released during the period.
And then your period will come, starting the cycle all over once again.
Ok, I hope that wasn’t too much of a snooze fest, but I want to share some facts as well as personal stories. The more information the better I say!