Street Art by Car­leen De Sözer

What actually is all part of the menstrual cycle? 

Mens­trua­tion is dis­mis­sed by many as an incon­ve­ni­ence, alt­hough it could be read as a mon­thly health check. Would you like to learn more about the four pha­ses of your mens­trual cycle and how they can affect your mood?
Let’s start off easy with a little revi­sion les­son. We know mens­trua­tion. Check. We also know ovu­la­tion, at least as a time when pregnancy is pos­si­ble. But then it pro­bably stops already, doesn’t it? One of the most com­mon mis­con­cep­ti­ons about our period is that our cycle only takes place when we bleed. The mens­trual cycle, which lasts an average of 28 days, in fact inclu­des various pha­ses that go bey­ond the actual period and bring about hor­mo­nal chan­ges. The natu­ral cycle is often com­pa­red with the four sea­sons: win­ter, spring, sum­mer and autumn.

And how are you feeling during the different phases of the cycle?

The mens­trual cycle has a direct influ­ence on how we feel. The sub­di­vi­sion into dif­fe­rent pha­ses makes the chan­ges for energy and mood more com­pre­hen­si­ble. Nevertheless, each mens­trua­ting per­son expe­ri­en­ces their own cycle indi­vi­du­ally. Do you some­ti­mes feel really tired and lazy? And on other days you feel as if the world belongs to you and you can do anything? Wel­come to the club of mens­trua­tors!
Are you someone who loves their cycle or are you more like: ‘Who needs mens­trua­tion?’ No mat­ter how you feel about peri­ods, a little more know­ledge is always good. A deeper under­stan­ding of your indi­vi­dual cycle can help you to bet­ter under­stand your own well-being and fee­lings. Because the four pha­ses of the cycle repeat them­sel­ves month by month and thus with them pro­bably also your mood chan­ges. If pos­si­ble, it can even make sense to plan your acti­vi­ties accord­ing to the dif­fe­rent cycle pha­ses. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

Phase 1: Menstruation (winter) 

The first day of your mon­thly blee­ding is the begin­ning of your mens­trua­tion and a new cycle. The first phase is actually cal­led ‘mens­trua­tion’. If we had to describe the mens­trual phase, there would pro­bably be terms like low energy, rest or being at home. It’s like win­ter, a rather quiet, slow time to reflect. Mens­trua­tion is ideal for rela­xing, plan­ning and making decisi­ons. Howe­ver, if you suf­fer from mens­trual pain, you may want to post­pone plan­ning to the luteal phase (phase 4) and rest well now. Mens­trua­tion usually lasts bet­ween three and seven days.

Phase 2: Follicular phase (spring) 

The fol­li­cu­lar phase brings with it more energy, focus and self-con­fi­dence due to a rising est­ro­gen level. Spring fever awa­kens. You are full of energy and feel free and at ease. This phase is per­fect for being pro­duc­tive and suc­cess­fully mas­te­ring chal­len­ges. Sounds good, doesn’t it? And it gets even bet­ter: This ener­ge­tic phase is the lon­gest in your cycle! Because it over­laps with the last days of the first mens­trual phase.

Phase 3: Ovulation (summer)

When we ovu­late, more energy and crea­ti­vity is released as hor­mone levels con­ti­nue to rise. This gives you the warm and sum­mery fee­ling that you can do anything. The time of ovu­la­tion is a power phase and the best time to invest in per­so­nal rela­ti­ons­hips and to be active. Ovu­la­tion is usually right in the middle of a regu­lar cycle. Some people can feel ovu­la­tion in the form of pain. The middle pain lasts only a few hours. This is also your fer­tile cycle phase and the chan­ces of get­ting pregnant are high!

Phase 4: Luteal phase (autumn)

In the last phase, the hor­mone pro­ges­te­rone domi­na­tes the cycle. You may feel a little more sen­si­tive during this time, want to pull back and are thin­king a lot. But be com­pas­sio­nate with yourself, because self-cri­ti­cism can be on the agenda as well now. Many people asso­ciate this phase with pre­mens­trual syn­drome, also known as PMS. The sym­ptoms often start four to seven days before the start of your next mens­trua­tion. The luteal phase and thus the cycle end on the last day before the onset of your next mens­trual period. With mens­trua­tion, the cycle starts all over again.

How about cycle tracking? 

Your mood chan­ges pro­bably repeat them­sel­ves month by month, without you having noti­ced any regu­la­rity so far? Then it’s time for you to become more aware of your cycle and write down some key infor­ma­tion, such as day of your cycle, mood and energy level. You can do this the old-fashio­ned way on paper or use one of the many mens­trual tracking apps. You might won­der why you should fol­low your cycle con­ciously? Over time, you will pro­bably reco­gnize a pat­tern in your cycles and know how you will feel in the dif­fe­rent pha­ses. Then you can think about when your next lazy or pro­duc­tive phase awaits you. If you know your cycle, you can under­stand your own mood chan­ges more easily and under­stand your energy fluc­tua­tions bet­ter. Living in sync with your cycle and anti­ci­pa­ting how you will feel in the next few weeks sounds pretty temp­t­ing, doesn’t it?

Note: If you use hor­mo­nal con­tracep­tion (e.g. the pill, spi­ral or Nuva­Ring), your cycle will be inten­tio­nally chan­ged. Hor­mo­nes sup­press your ovu­la­tion to pre­vent the pos­si­bi­lity of pregnancy. Accord­in­gly, your cycle pha­ses will also feel dif­fe­rent and the descrip­ti­ons in this text pro­bably do not apply to you. 

Britta Wiebe, period education, Vulvani
Co-Foun­der Vulvani | | Web­site | + posts

Britta Wiebe is the co-foun­der of Vul­vani. She loves rese­ar­ching, wri­ting and designing new arti­cles or inno­va­tive edu­ca­tio­nal con­cepts about mens­trua­tion all day long. When she is not tra­vel­ling the world, she enjoys spen­ding time with her loved ones in the beau­ti­ful city of Ham­burg in Germany.