Your monthly cycle is more than having your period every month. There are changes in your body that manifest both visibly and invisibly, affecting you more than you may realise. At the beginning of the cycle, progesterone levels drop. The uterine mucous membrane—the endometrium—gradually sheds, and is pushed from the uterus. Your period has begun.
Bleeding continues for an average of 3–5 days. Once it has come to an end, the ovaries start to produce estrogen, and the development of a new endometrial layer in the uterus begins.
Estrogen levels peak around days 12–13. As the fertile stage of your cycle approaches, your vaginal discharge becomes clearer and more sticky, resembling an egg white in consistency—this helps make sexual intercourse more pleasant and is designed to facilitate the sperms’ journey toward the egg cell.
Post-ovulation, the ovaries produce more progesterone. The endometrial lining grows into a thick, blood-rich layer. Your vaginal discharge is white or off-white and clumpier or creamier in consistency. Your breasts may become slightly swollen and more sensitive due to water retention.
If no egg is fertilized, the ovaries gradually decrease production of progesterone and estrogen. You may experience symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, such as mood swings, irritability, cravings, and fatigue.
At the end of the cycle, prostaglandin levels rise and stimulate uterine contractions that evacuate menstrual discharge. This process can be painful, and presents itself as menstrual cramps. Once your period begins again, the cycle starts anew.
At what point in your cycle are you likely to be in a good mood? How long can an unfertilized egg survive? For a day to day run-down of The Monthly Cycle, click here.