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Understanding The 4 Stages of the Menstrual Cycle

  • 4 min read

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Did you know your period is only one of four phases in your reproductive cycle? Hormones, mood, energy levels and sex drive fluctuate throughout each of those four phases. If you only learned this as an adult, you’re not alone. We’re here to teach you the basics, because knowing the ins and outs of your cycle can help you better understand what your body needs in each phase.

The reproductive cycle lasts roughly 28 days but this can differ person to person, or even within the same person but at different stages throughout the lifespan. Within the cycle, various events happen in the uterus and ovaries with the goal of fertilising an egg. These events impact how we feel. It can be helpful to think of this process in four phases, each phase represented by a different season of the year.

So, from winter to summer, here’s what’s going on inside your body each month.

Diagram of 4 stages of menstrual cycle

1) WINTER: Period

The cycle begins on day one of your period, when the lining of the uterus sheds, releasing menstrual blood from the vagina for roughly 3 to 7 days. Many people use products like tampons during their period, while others use menstrual blood for ancient cultural rituals. To manage your period in an environmentally friendly way, try our Menstrual Cup.

Mood. Technically, periods shouldn’t be painful, but it’s no secret that they often are. People may feel crampy, achy and fatigued during their period, wanting to crawl into bed and stay there until the discomfort passes (it’s winter, after all). Our period pain relief device, Aura, can help with this. Mood changes due to your period are totally valid (but being called “moody” is totally not).

Energy. During menstruation, energy levels are likely to be low. Your body will want rest, but if you still want to keep your body moving, leisurely exercise is recommended. This can be as simple as doing some stretches before bed, relaxing into a yin yoga session, or going for a walk.

Sex. Period sex will feel different for everyone. Increased lubrication from period blood can make sex more enjoyable, however, not everyone has the energy for sex during menstruation. The cervix is likely to be lower than usual, making deep penetration slightly more difficult, however the uterus should move upwards to lengthen the vagina with arousal.


2) SPRING: Follicular Phase

After your period ends, the lining of the uterus starts to thicken again as oestrogen levels increase. Egg follicles start to develop (hence the name, “follicular” phase) in preparation for the egg dropping during ovulation.

Mood. The follicular phase should be accompanied by increased mood. It’s spring time, baby! You may feel a newfound sense of optimism and lust for life. Set aside plenty of time for socialising, it’s time to get out and about.

Energy. Alongside the mood booster, physical energy levels should start to pick up again. The follicular phase is a good time to diversify your exercise routine and try that dance-cardio class or go for that sunrise swim.

Sex. You may have a fair bit of sexual energy, but chances are you’ll need to spend a little longer on foreplay during this phase. In the first few days following your period, little to no cervical mucus is produced, so things can feel a little dry and you may need a bit of extra lube.

Image of mindful woman with eyes closed and hand in the air


3) SUMMER: Ovulatory Phase

Ovulation happens roughly mid-cycle, 14 days before your period starts again (but this will be different every month depending on the length of the follicular phase). During ovulation, oestrogen peaks and luteinising hormone (LH) increases dramatically, causing an egg to be released from one of the ovaries.

Mood. That beautiful spring mood carries over into summer. You may be feeling confident, playful, creative, sensual, and motivated. Use that peak mood to finish your project, go on a date or ask for a raise at work.

Energy. During ovulation, energy levels peak. If you’re looking for a chance to really push yourself with strenuous exercise, this is it. However, some people do experience ovulation pain in the form of cramps or lower abdominal pain, which can be limiting.

Sex. If you associate summer with sex, you’re bang on. The ovulatory phase is the most fertile and desire-filled inner season. The cervix can rise during ovulation, allowing for deeper penetration during sex. If the type of sex you’re having sex could lead to pregnancy, the 5 or so days around ovulation is prime time for conception, but if this is something you’re trying to avoid, maybe double up on contraceptive methods.

Two women sitting next to each other on bed in strapless crop tops


4) AUTUMN: Luteal Phase

Following ovulation, the lining of the uterus continues to thicken. Progesterone appears but drops off if the egg is not fertilised. If fertilisation does occur, progesterone and oestrogen levels continue to increase until the person is no longer pregnant, when the hormones dramatically drop, explaining that common period of postpartum “baby blues”.

Mood. During the luteal phase, especially towards the end, many people experience premenstrual symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, depression, fatigue, appetite changes, insomnia, or acne. Again, Aura is a good option for pain relief.

Energy. On the back of summer, energy levels start to decrease. Low impact exercise such as yoga or strength training can be nice during this phase, because you may not have a lot of energy but aren’t quite tired enough to sit around all day.

Sex. You could still be riding the high of ovulation, but your sex drive will likely start to slow down in this final phase before your period returns. Sexual energy will probably decrease during this phase, because if you haven’t conceived, your body is preparing to repeat the cyclical process all over again. Get comfy, babe, we’re heading back into winter.

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