Four Phases of a Menstrual Cycle
What is a Menstrual Cycle?
We have all heard menstruation referred to as your “cycle”, but what does that actually mean?
We often think of a menstrual cycle as the week that we are menstruating, aka our period. But your menstrual cycle is actually 28 days long on average.
There are four different phases to your menstrual cycle: menstrual, follicular, ovulatory, and luteal.
First Phase: Menstrual
The first phase of your cycle is the menstrual phase. This is day 1 of your cycle and starts on the first day of your period.
This is the phase where your uterine lining is shedding your endometrium (the lining of the uterus), blood, and mucus. This will look like blood leaving your vagina, but the color and texture may be slightly different than the blood you are used to seeing from cuts or scrapes.
This phase usually lasts between 3 and 7 days. If you are younger, this part of your cycle typically lasts longer but is lighter each day. As you age, your period typically shortens but gets heavier.
Second Phase: Follicular
The second phase of your cycle is the follicular phase. This phase starts the day your period ends and lasts all the way to ovulation.
This is the phase between menstruation and before ovulation where your body prepares to release an egg.
During this part of the cycle you may notice that you will start with no vaginal discharge, and will slowly work your way to white or slightly yellow, sticky discharge right before ovulation.
Third Phase: Ovulatory
The third phase of your cycle is the ovulatory phase. This phase will happen around the middle of your cycle, and should take place about 14 days before your next period.
This is the phase when an egg is released and when you are most likely to get pregnant (though you can get pregnant up to 7 days before and 2 days after ovulation).
During this part of your cycle you may notice that your vaginal discharge starts to become clear and slippery (like raw egg whites).
Fourth Phase: Luteal
The fourth phase of your cycle is the luteal phase. This phase happens right after ovulation and should last about 14 days.
During this phase of your cycle, your body is either preparing itself for a fertilized egg to implant or preparing itself to shed the uterine lining and start your period.
During this part of your cycle you may notice that your vaginal discharge gets cloudy and sticky again until it goes away right before your period starts again.
Your entire cycle should be an average of 28 days, but anything between 21 days and 45 days is normal for a new menstruator, or 21 and 35 days for someone who has been menstruating longer.
If you want to learn more about your period, you can take our course for new menstruators here!