The Four Phases of the Menstrual Cycle

by | Apr 26, 2022 | Sexual & Reproductive Health

If you’re a woman living within puberty and menopause, you’ll be familiar with the arrival of your period each month. But did you know those five days of menstruation make up only one phase of the entire female menstrual cycle? Controlled by a female-specific biological rhythm called the infradian rhythm, the menstrual cycle runs for 28-days and features a menstrual phase, follicular phase, ovulation phase, and luteal phase. Knowing where you’re at in your cycle can be a huge help in determining what your body needs to achieve optimal health. So, let’s look at the four stages of the menstrual cycle and how you can best support yourself during each phase.

Menstrual Phase

When does it begin?

The first day of your cycle, when you menstruate.

How long does it last?

The menstrual phase lasts around five days (day 1 – 5), however length can vary from woman to woman.

What’s happening in your body?

The menstrual phase occurs when an egg from your previous cycle isn’t fertilised, and you avoid pregnancy. The hormones estrogen and progesterone drop to their lowest, and your uterus sheds its lining. In what’s commonly referred to as your period, a combination of blood, mucus and tissue exit your body from your uterus.

You may feel:

Due to the drop in estrogen and progesterone during the menstrual phase, it’s common to experience mood swings, tiredness, lethargy, irritability, cramps, breast tenderness, bloating, and headaches.

The best way to support yourself during the menstrual phase of your cycle is by:

  • Allowing yourself to rest
  • Practicing restorative workouts, like yoga or walking (although it’s fine to consider sleeping a sport)
  • Eat nutritious meals high in protein, iron, and healthy fats to replenish your hormones

Follicular Phase

When does it begin?

On the first day of menstruation, so there is some overlap with the menstruation phase.

How long does it last?

The average follicular phase is 15.5 days (day 1 – 16) however it can range from 12 – 19 days depending on circumstances related to your health.

What’s happening in your body?

At the beginning of the follicular phase, hormones are at their lowest to coincide with the menstruation phase. Later in the follicular phase the pituitary gland releases a follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) that causes the ovaries to produce egg cells. It takes 13 days for the healthiest egg to mature and prepare for release during the ovulation phase of your cycle. As the egg matures, its follicle triggers an estrogen surge that thickens the lining of your uterus, forming a nutrient-dense atmosphere for a potential embryo to grow.

You may feel:

You may feel tired during the beginning of the follicular phase. As your period ends you may find yourself with fresh and inspired energy suitable for planning and exploring new ideas.

The best way to support yourself during the follicular phase of your cycle is by:

  • Allowing yourself to rest for the days you’re menstruating
  • Burning some of that new energy with high-intensity cardio workouts, like HIIT classes or running
  • Loading up your plate with plenty of complex carbohydrates and protein to restore the body and maintain energy

Ovulation Phase

When does it begin?

Ovulation occurs at the halfway point of your cycle, so day 14 if you have a 28-day cycle.

How long does it last?

One day only (day 14). A healthy egg has precisely 24-hours to fertilise, otherwise it’ll dissolve.

What’s happening in your body?

When day 14 arrives, the pituitary gland releases luteinizing hormone (LH) to trigger the release of an egg. The egg travels through the fallopian tube and into the uterus where it is to be fertilised by sperm in a potential pregnancy. The ovulation phase is the only time during your cycle when you can get pregnant. However, because sperm have a five-day lifespan, pregnancy can be a possibility when a woman has sex in the five days prior to ovulation.

You may feel:

Due to hormone shifts during the ovulation phase, you may feel extra frisky, energetic, social, and chatty.

The best way to support yourself during the ovulation phase is by:

  • Trying high-intensity workouts, like HIIT classes and bodyweight circuits
  • Eating cruciferous vegetables to flush excess estrogen from your body
  • Prioritising fibre-rich foods to encourage excess hormone release from the body

Luteal Phase

When does it begin?

The luteal phase begins the day following ovulation.

How long does it last?

The average length of the luteal phase is 14 days; however, it can last anywhere from 11 to 17 days (day 15 – 28).

What’s happening in your body?

The released egg remains in the fallopian tube for 24-hours. If the egg isn’t fertilised by sperm, the egg will reabsorb into the body. Meanwhile, in preparation for menstruation, estrogen and progesterone levels rise to their peak before dropping off and reaching their lowest, and the lining of the uterus continues to thicken.

You may feel:

During the luteal phase it’s common to experience symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) caused by increased levels of estrogen in the body (aka estrogen dominance). PMS symptoms may include bloating, breast tenderness, mood changes, headaches, libido changes, weight gain, food cravings, sleeping disturbances, and body aches.

The best way to support yourself during the luteal phase is by:

  • Focussing on completing tasks and projects
  • Winding down and socialising less
  • Prioritising “me-time”
  • Avoiding high-intensity and strength training
  • Choosing gentle forms of movement, like yoga, walking, and Pilates
  • Resting towards the end of the phase in preparation for menstruation
  • Eating more daily calories to maintain a stable blood sugar
  • Eating nutrient-dense cruciferous vegetables and complex carbohydrates


This blog is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your medical practitioner.

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