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Dealing with & understanding the phases of menstrual cycle

Dealing with & understanding the phases of menstrual cycle

The menstrual cycle makes an important part of the physical well-being of any woman. It is a natural process that takes place within the female body. However, many women lack the know-how about what’s actually going on inside their bodies and how it’s affecting them. The problem of menstruation being a taboo subject only worsens this case.

The onset of menstruation usually occurs between the age of 10 and 12, and this stage of a woman’s life is known as puberty. After the onset of puberty in women, their bodies go through a cycle of changes over the course of every 28 days. This sequence of events that takes place in four phases is known as the menstrual cycle. In this article, we discuss all these phases in detail along with how a woman can make the most of each phase.   

Phase 1 - Menstruation - Day 1 to 5

What’s happening in your body

This is the first phase of the menstrual cycle, and lasts for about 5 days. On the first day, the thick lining of the uterus (endometrial lining) begins to shed when the hormone progesterone plunges. Bleeding occurs during this stage because the endometrial lining is formed over blood vessels and once this lining sheds, it tears away from these blood vessels causing pain and bleeding. An average of 30 to 40 millimeters of blood is lost in this phase, most of which happens in the first three days.

What you experience

In these 5 days, you may experience cramping pains in your pelvis, legs and back. The cramping occurs due to the contracting of the uterus, which helps the endometrium shed. Cramping is also caused by the contraction of abdominal muscles as they try to expel the menstrual fluid. Women generally have the lowest energy during this phase of their cycle, and feel perpetually tired and low.

What you should do

Using hot water bottles and having lukewarm milk with dissolved turmeric powder helps reduce the pain. You want to take a lot of rest during this phase. Though it may not be possible to rest too much, deep breathing or a hot Epsom salt bath might do wonders. Since a lot of blood is lost in phase, it is important to stay hydrated at all times. Also, this is a great time to reflect upon your actions in the past few days, and chalk out plans for the month.

What you should eat

Since women may lose a lot of blood during this time, it’s a good idea to increase the iron intake. Foods rich in iron include egg yolk, spinach, liver, oysters, soybeans, lentils and chickpeas. Women are also advised to avoid cold and raw food during this phase.

Phase 2 - Follicular - Day 6 to 13

What’s happening in your body

This phase follows after the menstruation phase and lasts till day 13 of the cycle. It is called the follicular phase because a hormone called Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) is released by the pituitary gland which causes the follicles, containing the eggs, to mature. This also causes the endometrial lining to thicken once again. The follicular phase can be identified by thick vaginal discharge. The last 5 days of this stage are a woman’s fertile window, which means that sexual intercourse will most likely result in a pregnancy. If a woman becomes pregnant, she does not experience any of the latter phases.

What you experience

In this phase, estrogen and testosterone start rising which give the woman more energy and also improve the mood and brain function. The testosterone also increases the libido while estrogen reduces the appetite. The overall mood improves in this phase. Also, as a natural response of this phase being the fertile window, you may feel more sexually aroused.

What you should do

Since brain function improves during this stage, it is a good idea to make big decisions and start new projects. Also, going out and actively expressing your opinions, taking risks and participating in social gatherings can be particularly rewarding during this phase. A good hour of exercise every day and some strenuous physical activity may also feel great.

What you should eat

Cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli and cabbage may help you better metabolize your estrogen. Avocado, olive oil and nuts are rich in Vitamin E, which is needed for the follicle.

Phase 3 - Ovulation - Day 14

What’s happening in your body

In this phase, the egg cell is released from the ovary. It is the 14th day of the cycle and can be identified by clear and elastic vaginal discharge. This phase begins when the rise in luteinizing hormone causes the main follicle to bulge and rupture. This releases the egg. The egg stays 12 hours which is the best time for a woman to get pregnant, if she wants.

What you experience

Some women start to experience cramps during ovulation and slight bleeding can also sometimes occur during this phase. In this phase, you may feel particularly energetic and confident due to high levels of estrogen and progesterone that are needed to escalate the effects of the previous phase.

What you should do

As a natural confidence and energy booster, this phase works best for public speaking tasks as well as job interviews. Since energy and libido levels are also at their highest, lots physical activity is enjoyed by most women.

What you should eat

Women need to increase the intake of Vitamin B and zinc. Eat lots of leafy greens, meat, fish, whole grain and eggs. Increase water intake.

Phase 4 - Luteal - Day 15 to 28

What’s happening in your body

The last one is the premenstrual phase which is also known as luteal phase. It starts from day 15 and lasts till the 28th. This phase starts when the egg released during ovulation gets located in the fallopian tube. If not inseminated, the egg disintegrates after 24 hours. By the end of this phase, the hormone responsible for retaining the endometrium gets used up, thus leading to the menstruation phase of the next cycle.

What you experience

During this time, women experience most of their symptoms, which are mostly due to a decline in estrogen and testosterone levels and the rise of progesterone. Women may feel bloated, have swollen or tender breasts, have mood swings, feel more introverted, crave sweets, have trouble paying attention, have headaches and cramps.

What you should do

It’s important to eat healthy during this phase. Also, it is great to have a little me-time and try some relaxing techniques such as meditation and yoga at this time.

What you should eat

Changes in diet can help with the problems that you may experience during this phase. Salt, caffeine, chocolates and alcohol should be avoided and healthy calcium rich foods should be consumed. Beta-carotene is needed to balance the hormones. It is found in leafy greens, and yellow and orange foods such as pineapple.

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