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Menstrual Cycle 101 with an OB/GYN

by Dr. Staci Tanouye

OB/GYN Dr. Staci Tanouye explains each phase of the menstrual cycle.

Did you know your menstrual cycle could tell you a lot about your overall health? While I always suggest
patients track their periods, keeping a tab on how you feel the rest of the month can be just as
important. If it’s been some time since your last Sex Ed class or you just want to start paying more
attention to your cycle, here is what you need to know:


What is the Menstrual Cycle?

If you get a period, every month your body goes through what is called the “menstrual cycle,” a process
during which the body prepares for the possibility of pregnancy. The menstrual cycle can seem complex,
but U by Kotex® partnered with Simone Giertz to create a hands-on video to help demystify the amazing
process – watch it here! The cycle begins on the first day of regular flow of your period (does not include
spotting) and is counted up to the first day of your next period. The menstrual cycle includes two main
phases:

  • Follicular Phase – this phase starts on the first day of your period and ends with ovulation; the
    development of the egg takes place during this time

    • Includes the Menstrual Phase (days 1-5) – this begins when an egg from your previous
      cycle does not get fertilized, resulting in the shedding of thickened lining of the uterus
      (your period)

  • Luteal Phase – a decrease in hormones takes place if an egg has not been implanted; you may
    experience PMS symptoms in this phase

    • Ovulation Phase (day 14) – usually occurring around two weeks before menstruation, a
      mature egg is released from the surface of the ovary


Cycle Length

While the typical cycle is 28 days, length may vary for different people and can also change month-to
-month. Typically, a period is considered “regular” if it comes every 24 to 38 days. Both knowing the
exact time and day that your period will come, as well as not being able to pinpoint a specific date, is
considered normal.


How to Track

While there is a broad range of “normal,” tracking your period can help alert you of any abnormalities:

  • Cycle length – how long is typical for you and was it shorter or longer than usual?
  • Period flow – is your period normally heavy or light? Are you having to change your menstrual products more frequently? Was the consistency different (blood clots)?
  • Cramps – did you experience any pain and did it vary from your last period? Severe pain that prevents you from regular activities such as work and school is considered abnormal and can be treated. Cramps are caused by the powerful muscles of the uterus. To better understand the power of cramps, check out another hands-on video here.
  • Mood – how were your emotions during your period?

There are a variety of causes for irregularities in your cycle, including pregnancy, breast-feeding,
polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and uterine fibroids. To learn how to regulate your cycle, contact your
health care provider. In addition, see a medical professional if you experience any of these issues:


  • Not pregnant and you do not get a period for 90 days
  • Bleeding for over seven days
  • Periods are less than 21 days or more than 35 days apart
  • Flow is so heavy you bleed through more than one menstrual product every hour
  • Severe pain during a period
  • Sudden fever or sick feeling after wearing a tampon



Author Summary Staci Tanouye, MD, OB-GYN is a physician in a private practice and an expert in
adolescent health, sexual health, reproductive health, and menopausal health. She has become one of
the leading gynecologists on social media with the mission to educate women and all people with vulvas
to love their bodies through knowledge and empowerment.

Sources Referenced :

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This is not intended to be medical advice. Everybody is different so please make sure to consult your physician if you're having issues. Do not delay or refrain from seeking professional medical advice from your physician because of something you have read on this site.