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Your ovarian cycle and menstrual cycle phases explained

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Your ovarian cycle and menstrual cycle phases explained

If an egg from your previous cycle hasn’t been fertilised, your body will shed the thickened lining of your uterus, which was there to nurture the egg. This shedding is what many of us know as our period.

The arrival of your period (made up of blood along with some mucus and tissue) through your vagina marks the start of the menstrual
cycle

The follicular phase starts in tandem with the menstrual phase, meaning it overlaps with the early stages of your period. During this
phase, your brain releases follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which prompts your ovaries to produce a batch of tiny sacs known as follicles. Inside each follicle is an immature egg.

Typically, only the strongest, healthiest egg will have the chance to grow (though sometimes two make the cut). As the egg matures,
your estrogen levels rise, and your uterus lining thickens.

Surging estrogen levels now stimulate your brain to release luteinising hormone (LH), and ovulation begins. The matured egg leaves the ovary and travels along a fallopian tube, headed for your uterus in the hopes of hitting it off with a sperm.

Ovulation tends to happen in the middle of your cycle, a couple of weeks before your next period. Some telltale signs you’re ovulating include:

  • A minor increase in basal body temperature (your at-rest temperature).
  • Thicker discharge in your underwear (think egg-white texture).
  • Not one to wait around, the egg will disintegrate if not fertilised after one day.

The luteal phase is when your body does a hormonal pregnancy test of sorts. After ovulation, the follicle that released the egg transforms into a structure called the corpus luteum. This temporary gland
secretes a hormone called progesterone, plus some estrogen, to keep your uterus lining thick and egg-ready.

If you get pregnant, your body will start making human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which helps keep your uterus lining thick. It’s
also the hormone pregnancy tests look for.

If you don’t conceive, the corpus luteum vanishes back into the body, and your estrogen and progesterone levels drop, triggering the arrival of your period. If you get premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms, this is when they generally show up.

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