What is a Normal Menstrual Cycle?
Updated: Aug 22
Mother's day kicks off this week as we continue our series on women’s health. Happy belated mother's day to you all! We are all mothers in some way or another, whether we have kids or we act as the mother figure in our group of friends.
Last week we discussed the pros and cons of birth control. This week is all about understanding the four phases of our menstrual cycle. We're going to dive into how your menstrual cycle affects your life as well the importance of understanding it.
What is a Normal Menstrual Cycle?
You may be thinking, what does it matter if I understand my cycle? Who cares, right? Wrong. Getting to to know the four phases of your menstrual cycles allows you to understand how it affects your performance in all aspects of your life. Think of it this way; your superpower is you and your feminine force. Don't you want to know everything about your superpower?
Some of you may not have heard of the four phases of your menstrual cycle or what is the longest your menstrual cycle can be. You may just know when you bleed and when you ovulate. This is a good place to start but we can expand on that knowledge. Did you know that your brain cycle can change up to 25% through the course of your menstrual cycle? In other words, who you are today is different than who you will be two weeks from now.
The Four Phases of Your Menstrual Cycle
The duration of a menstrual cycle can vary anywhere between twenty-five to forty days. Although the duration of days can fluctuate, it's important to know "your normal".
There are four phases within your cycle: the follicular phase, the ovulatory phase, the luteal phase, and the menstrual phase. Let's get to know the way each phase can affect you.
The follicular phase, the first in the cycle, starts the day after you finish bleeding and typically lasts seven to ten days. The follicles inside of your ovaries start to come to life and they pick which egg will be going through ovulation. At this point in your cycle, you may notice a shift in your moods and behavior due to your hormones rising.
Whether we are trying to optimize or avoid this stage, most of us know it well: the ovulatory phase. This phase can last three to five days. The egg itself will only live up to forty-eight hours in that ovulatory window. During this time, you may feel more assertive and confident. If you are feeling dejected, in a lot of pain, or have mid-cycle spotting then you may want to consult a doctor as this is a sign of irregularity. If your egg does not inseminate with sperm then it disintegrates, prompting the next phase of your cycle.
The luteal phase, better known as PMS, is the longest. It is the third phase in our cycle and can last anywhere from ten to fourteen days. This is where we really see and feel the physical effects of our body changing such. You may experience weight retention, breast tenderness, acne, and emotional mood swings. If you are not mindful of these shifts in your body, you may feel like you are battling against a strong current. Try not fight your body's natural responses to this phase.
The last and likely most well-known phase is the menstrual cycle. This phase prompts your body to shed your uterine wall. During the course of the whole cycle, your body essentially prepares to build a home for a baby. If you are not pregnant, your body will shed its "home" so it can to start the building process all over again. You will feel another shift in your body’s hormones as it was amped up for your ovulatory phase.
Lets Talk About Our Menstrual Cycles
There is a stigma around talking about our menstrual cycles. While it continues to feel like a taboo topic, it is important to get comfortable talking about what is healthy and what isn't. If you experience abnormal physical or emotional feelings during your cycle and refuse to talk about it, you may begin to normalize harmful symptoms. So, let's talk about it. What does a normal menstrual cycle look like?
What is the longest your menstrual cycle can be? The normal length of a cycle is five to seven days. If you experience more or less than that, it is an indication of some potential irregularities happening in your body.
Most people think of the color red when it comes to menstruation. However, you may experience a range of colors from light pink to brown. The colors give us information about our hormones. For example, brown bleeding at the beginning of your phase can indicate low progesterone. A purple hue can indicate an estrogen deficiency.
Ideally, your menstrual cycle will be a bright red and shouldn't contain a lot of clots. Is your cycle staining your clothes? In the world of Ayurveda, the idea of the blood staining your clothes is a characteristic of ama or toxins that clog your channel and create dysfunction.
I often hear from women that they do not look at their blood because they think it's weird. Yes, that may be the case but understand that everything that comes out of our bodies is going to tell us something. If you are experiencing heavy, painful and clot-filled bleeding, then you need to listen to your body. If not, you run the risk for facing a number of health problems.
I know that this is a topic that women do not like to talk about. However, it is important to know that while there is a smell associated with your menstrual cycle, it should not be foul. If you're noticing a foul odor, consider having a conversation with a medical professional.
While there is no set amount, the average woman bleeds approximately 1/2 anjalees. A single anjalee is the amount of liquid that would fit into your set of cupped hands. This can vary based on the person and their size. It is no wonder that you may feel depleted! That's a lot of blood loss.
The modern woman will push through her menstrual cycle to get through all the items on her to-do list that week. While I value drive and determination, ignoring our cycles is detrimental to our health. It is important to slow down and listen to what our bodies need us to know.
Take Action: Understanding Your Menstrual Cycle
The fours phases of your cycle allow us to access different parts of ourself. The follicular phase promotes an exchange of outward energy. You feel excited to get creative, share new insights and listen to others. During the ovulatory phase, you may feel more confident. Go ahead and ask for that raise. The luteal phase asks you to get that to-do list done and wrap up unfinished tasks. Lastly, your menstrual cycle is your time for reflection. During this time of the month, your left and right brain communicate together to ignite your creative and analytical sides. It can be a beautiful time.
My invitation to you is to track the phases of menstruation and notice what moods and impulses you experience during the month. This will help you better understand your body and help you maximize the super power that is your feminine force.
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