Taking a closer look at the process and phases of the menstrual cycle
There’s a lot of talk and discussions about the menstrual cycle, but do you actually know about the whole process and phases of it? It’s more detailed and complex than you think! For instance, there are actually two cycles that come together to form the complete menstrual cycle. That’s right, the menstrual cycle is like a well-oiled machine with many different parts that work together to keep the female reproductive system going.
So, what exactly are the different phases and cycles and why are they so important? The two different cycles are the uterine and ovarian cycles, they consist of various phases: menstruation, the follicular phase, luteal phase, proliferative phase, secretory phase and ovulation.
Let’s start with the basics, the menstrual cycle, by definition, is the time between the first day of one period to the first day of the next period. Now, what does that look like broken down into the different cycles and phases? The uterine cycle comes first and it’s a sequence of changes in the uterine lining in response to ovarian hormones. After the uterine cycle is the ovarian cycle which is the events in the ovary that produce an egg each month.
Here’s where things start to get more complex, as the uterine and ovarian cycles are broken down into the different phases. In the uterine cycle, menstruation, the proliferative and secretory phase take place. Menstruation and the proliferative phase are pre-ovulation, while the secretory phase is post ovulation!
During the menstrual phase, the lining of the uterus sheds through the vagina when an egg from the last cycle isn’t fertilized. The proliferative phase takes place from the end of the period until ovulation; the uterine lining thickens and begins to build back up again. Now, let’s jump to the pre-ovulation phases of the ovarian cycle! The follicular phase starts on the first day of the period until ovulation; the brain sends a signal to the ovaries to let them know that it's time to prepare for the release of an egg.
What separates the phases of the uterine and ovarian cycles? Ovulation, of course! This is when your ovary releases a mature egg and is the only time when you can’t get pregnant.
Now back to the post ovulation phases of the uterine and ovarian cycle, the luteal and secretory phase! The luteal phase takes place in the ovarian cycle and is from ovulation until the next period; after the follicle releases its eggs estrogen and progesterone are produced. Finally, the secretory phase takes place in the uterine cycle and is also from the start of ovulation until the next period; the “uterine lining produces chemicals that will either help support an early pregnancy or prepare the lining to break down and shed if pregnancy doesn’t occur.”
All of these phases and cycles work together perfectly to keep the menstrual cycle going! It’s truly amazing what our bodies can do.
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