Whether your period is like clockwork or a little irregular, how heavy and how often you bleed is unique to your body. That said, your period is only one phase of your menstrual cycle.
Although your period is unique to you, there are enough commonalities between people to answer a range of questions you might have about your menstrual cycle. And while periods are where we direct most of our attention, there’s a lot more to your cycle than just menstruation. Read on for the lowdown on everything from the luteal phase (the lu-what? don’t worry, we’ll get there) to when you’re least likely to fall pregnant.
You’ll often hear that your cycle lasts 28 days. In all honesty, it varies a lot, from month to month, and person to person. Anywhere from 21 to 34 is common.
Day 1 marks the start of your period. It’s when your uterus releases a mixture of blood and nutrients out of your body. This menstrual fluid can vary in colour and texture.
Although you may feel like there’s a lot of blood, in reality you'll only lose between 10 to 80ml. A period usually lasts between two to five days but it could be up to 10.
The majority of blood loss occurs during the first two days and some people notice menstrual (abdominal) cramps, back and leg ache too. If you often have severe period pain, you may be experiencing dysmenorrhea.
More oestrogen is produced at this stage and your ovaries prepare to release an ovum. Your body also prepares for a possible pregnancy so the uterine lining starts to develop. The follicular phase is the most unpredictable part of your menstrual cycle and the reason why your cycle can be longer or shorter than the 28 days we often hear about.
About half way through your menstrual cycle, one of your ovaries releases an ovum, which journeys down your fallopian tube. This is where fertilisation would take place if the ovum were to come into contact with sperm.
Speaking of sperm, if you’d like to avoid falling pregnant or are trying to conceive, it’s good to know that sperm has a small window of around 48 hours to fertilise the ovum before it is absorbed into the body. The six days leading up to ovulation and the two days after this event are when you’re most fertile. Since this is the fertile phase of your menstrual cycle, you could become pregnant if you are having penetrative vaginal sex and don’t use birth control.
The luteal phase of your menstrual cycle is the final stage before your period starts again and lasts for 14 days while your body produces more oestrogen and progesterone, which causes the lining of your uterus to thicken with blood and nutrients.
If you're not pregnant, progesterone levels drop, which causes the lining to break-up and your cycle starts all over again.
And not-so-fertile days. Your most fertile time and the most likely time to conceive is just before you ovulate, so take that into consideration if you are trying to fall pregnant, or trying to avoid pregnancy. If you fall into the latter group, make sure you use contraception over that time (which may be between day 14 and day 21, depending on how long your cycle is).
You’ll often hear that your cycle lasts 28 days. In all honesty, it varies a lot, from month to month, and person to person. Anywhere from 21 to 34 is common
Your menstrual cycle and first period can start anytime from the age of eight to 18, and will most likely be a part of your life until you reach your 50s. As you will continue to have your periods for many years, it’s worth understanding what’s going on so you can make sure you’re the one in control of your cycle.
So, you are most likely to conceive just before you ovulate, so take that into consideration if you are trying to fall pregnant, or trying to avoid pregnancy. If you fall into the latter group, make sure you use contraception over that time (which may be between day 14 and day 21, depending on how long your cycle is).
You’ll often hear that your menstrual cycle lasts 28 days. In all honesty, the length of your menstrual cycle varies a lot, from month to month and person to person. Anywhere from 21 to 34 days is common. Your period can also differ in length each month.
Menstruation can vary from two to five days and could be up to 10.
Yes you can. Be careful though: in rare instances, you can still get pregnant. You should also bear in mind that you can still contract HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases when on your period.
Some brands of contraceptive pills can reduce your flow or shorten the length of your period. Chat to your doctor or the nurse at your clinic when you are prescribed your pill.