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You are here: Home > Fertility & Trying to Conceive > Fertility Charting

Your Menstrual Period Explained

by Katlyn Joy | May 9, 2011 12:00 AM
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You've probably been having periods since middle school but do you really understand what happens during each monthly menstrual cycle and how it affects you?

Quick Glance at Your Period

The Menstrual Cycle

Cycle Day 1 through 5

Day 1 is the first day of your period and therefore the first day of your cycle. This is the beginning of the follicular phase of your cycle. The lining of the uterus is thick, and if no egg has been fertilized both progesterone and estrogen levels are low. Then the lining of the uterus, or endometrium is shed and the period starts. Cramping is due to prostaglandins which produce contractions in order to shed the uterine lining. Prostaglandins may also contribute to diarrhea, vomiting or flu-like symptoms in some women. While on your period it has been discovered in studies that a woman's reaction time may be slowed. However, other studies have found that people tend to have more creative thoughts during their visit from Aunt Flo.

Cycle Day 6 -13

Estrogen levels are on the rise in order to prepare the egg for ovulation. As a result chemicals in the brain, (dopamine and serotonin) increase and help you feel good. Physical and mental performance is enhanced.

Cycle Day 14 - 15

Ovulation typically occurs around this point. Sex drive is higher. About 20 percent of women can feel when ovulation happens, feeling a pain called mittelschmerz, from the German for "middle pain." Something you may not realize, women's joints are looser during ovulation making them more vulnerable to certain injuries. Basal body temperature will generally rise once ovulation takes place and stay elevated until the period starts.

Cycle Day 16 - 28

Progesterone levels will rise and this can create break-outs with your skin due to increased oil production. Progesterone and estrogen increase will cause mood changes and other symptoms such as cravings, bloating, breast tenderness, and water retention which can pad on up to five pounds. Breast tenderness happens due to the rise in hormones making the milk ducts widen and dilate causing pain. These hormones will drop off with the start of the new cycle, signaled by the next period.

If a woman becomes pregnant, the next period will not arrive and a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin or HCG. This is the hormone that pregnancy tests detect.

A woman will not have periods during pregnancy but may experience some light bleeding or spotting early in pregnancy. Her periods may not resume for at least a couple months following childbirth, or if she breastfeeds exclusively periods may not return until she weans the baby.

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