WUKA experts are here to answer all your questions regarding your period. From menstruation, ovulation to menopause, become period experts:
Your Menstrual Cycle Explained
Our experts have put together an guide on everything you need to know about periods- with a view to answering all your questions and giving you the power of knowledge, about your body and the menstrual cycle.
As women who bleed, it makes sense to understand as much as we can about menstruation and what happens to our bodies each month. We’re all about breaking down taboos, and the first step is always education. So let’s arm ourselves with the knowledge, so we can teach others and end the secrecy and silence that exists around periods once and for all.
What is Menstruation?
Menstruation refers to the blood that leaves your body during your period. But its not just blood that is released at this time. Period blood is actually made up of endometrial tissue and vaginal fluid too.
What is the menstrual cycle?
The menstrual cycle refers to the cyclical events that take place each month, once a female reaches puberty.
Each menstrual cycle follows the same pattern, although not every woman will have the same experience. We’re all different, and our cycles are different too.
The menstrual cycle is controlled by hormones, and during each cycle these hormones fluctuate, triggering specific changes in your body.
There are four stages to the menstrual cycle:
- Menstrual phase
- Follicular phase
- Ovulatory phase
- Luteal phase
Day one of your cycle takes place at the start of the menstruation phase, and is the first day of bleeding. This happens because the egg that your body released during the previous cycle wasn’t fertilised, so was reabsorbed into your body, then released along with tissues from your uterus lining - aka your period.
During the follicular phase, levels of oestrogen rise sharply, causing the ovaries to develop another egg.
When the egg is released, the cycle then moves into the ovulation phase and the lining of your uterus begins to thicken as progesterone also rises, and the uterus begins to prepare for a pregnancy.
The cycle lastly moves into the luteal phase, as the unfertilised egg is reabsorbed back into your body. The last day of the cycle takes place at the end of this phase, and is the day before the bleeding starts again (as long as no pregnancy occurs).
Then the cycle begins once more, as the unfertilised egg is released as part of your period flow.
How long is an average menstrual cycle?
Although the menstrual cycle will always follow the same pattern of events in the same order, there can be huge variations in what is ‘normal’ from woman to woman. Many of us can experience changes to our cycles from month to month too, making it hard to predict how long our cycle will be.
On average though, the NHS advises that the menstrual cycle takes around 28 days to complete. For some women it can longer, and for others shorter. Anywhere from 28-35 days is considered normal.
What is a normal amount of bleeding during my period?
We know what it’s like. Period blood flow can be heavy and it can sometimes feels like you’re losing gallons, but in reality the amount of blood you lose each month is considerably less than you might think.
So how much blood do you lose on your period? The average woman will lose around 20-90ml of blood each cycle. That’s around 1-5 tablespoons. If you lose more blood than this, speak to your GP about potential causes for heavy periods and the treatment options available to you.
Some types of hormonal birth control methods can cause lighter periods. This is normal, but speak to your GP if you’re concerned about this.
Towards the middle of your menstrual cycle, the ovulatory phase takes place. This is a crucial part of the cycle, especially if you’re trying to conceive.
What is Ovulation?
Every female is born with all of her eggs ready and waiting, but they’re not released until she starts her periods.
During ovulation, the ovaries develop and release one of these eggs, which then travels down the fallopian tubes. If fertilisation doesn’t take place during this time, the egg will be reabsorbed into the body and released along with fluids and tissues as your period.
If you don’t ovulate you can’t get pregnant, as no egg is being developed or released for fertilisation.
How Do You Know When You're Ovulating?
There are ways that you can track in order to know if you’re ovulating:
- Period tracking- if you know your cycle, you can calculate when ovulation will occur. It usually happens between 12-16 days before the start of your period.
- Cervical mucus- the consistency, texture and colour will change throughout your cycle. During ovulation, its clearer and more slippery.
- Basal body temperature- your body temperate at rest, upon waking, will be slightly higher after ovulation has taken place.
- Ovulation predictor kits- a little like a pregnancy test, these measure hormone levels in your pee to give an indicator of ovulation
Some women also experience symptoms such as bloating, breast tenderness and mild abdominal pains. If you’re trying to conceive, its recommended to have sex during the window of ovulation.
Even those of us with the most reliable of cycles can get caught out from time to time. The menstrual cycle isn’t 100% predictable, but tracking can help you to have a better idea of when you’re more likely to get your period.
Why should I keep track of my menstrual cycle?
If you’re trying to conceive, tracking is a great way to predict when you’re at your most fertile. Having sex frequently throughout ovulation offers the best chance of conceiving. And conversely, I you don’t want to get pregnant, its always a really good idea to know more about your cycle and fertility.
Aside from getting pregnant, tracking your period is really beneficial in terms of understanding your body and what is normal for you. It can help you to see patterns and changes that could indicate an issue, or help you understand certain mood changes.
Tracking your period is also very handy on a practical level too. If you know when you’re due to get your period, you can make sure you’re taking a pair of period pants out with you (or you can just wear them, ready to go!) so you’re not caught out. You can be more prepared for the hormonal changes that take place and the potential PMS symptoms you know you’ll experience.
How can I keep track of my menstrual cycle?
Apps are an easy way to track your period. You can also take notes on your phone, or just use an old-fashioned calendar if you prefer. Start by noting down the first day of you period and any significant symptoms you eserine, along with how heavy your flow is.
If you want to track every day of your cycle for a deeper understanding of your body, then go for it! After a few months you should be able to see a pattern emerging that you can use to predict future cycles.
There’s no set rule as to when a girl will get her first period. It will happen when her body is ready- but there are signs that can start to appear in the few months leading up to the big event. And it always makes sense to be prepared, so reading as much as you can and understanding your body in preparation is a great idea.
When does a girl usually get her first period?
Your period can start at any time from around the age of 9, up to around the age of 15. If you’re 16 and haven’t yet started your period, make an appointment to see your GP to find out why.
Menopause refers to the stage that signals the end of a woman’s reproductive life. Perimenopause is the journey towards that stage, and again this is controlled by hormones. During perimenopause, oestrogen production is erratic, and the ovaries begin to stop developing and releasing eggs.
Perimenopause can be begin at any time between the ages of 45 and 55 and it can take up to 10 years for oestrogen production to stop and for the ovaries to stop working completely.
How does my menstrual cycle change as I get older?
Your menstrual cycle will naturally change as you get older, and this is completely normal. At first, periods can be irregular and difficult to predict. Some teenage girls may have a gap of up to 6 months between periods at first.
By the time you reach your 20s, your cycle will usually settle into more of a pattern as ovulation starts to become more regular.
Pregnancy and childbirth can also cause changes to your cycle, with some women experiencing a temporary delay in getting their period after birth, especially if they breastfeed. Some women experience heavier bleeding too, which usually settles down within 6 months.
In your 40s, oestrogen production may begin to fluctuate, and ovulation may not occur as regularly. Your period may become less predictable and flow can be heavier or lighter than usual.
In your 50s, most women will experience menopause, as the levels of oestrogen become more erratic and start to drop, leading to the ovaries gradually stopping altogether.Your period may become a lot lighter, or a lot heavier than usual and there are other symptoms you may experience as your menstrual cycle begins to end.
How long does a woman usually have periods?
In her reproductive lifetime, the average woman will menstruate roughly once every month for around 40 years. She will bleed approximately 19,200 ml in that time (although it can definitely feel like more!) and spend up to £6,00 on menstrual products, or just under £3,000 if using WUKA period pants.
Most women bleed for around 3-5 days on average, although some will bleed for longer and some for a shorter time.
How often should I change my period pants?
We recommend wearing your period pants for up to 4 hours before changing, but you know your flow best. Our Overnight and Super Heavy period pants can be worn for longer periods without leaking, holding up to 12 tampons worth of blood.
Toxic Shock Syndrome
Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a rare but life threatening infection that can occur if a tampon is left inside the vagina for extended periods of time.
What is Toxic Shock Syndrome?
TSS happens when bacteria overgrowth release toxins into the body. Sometimes inserting a tampon (or any other ‘foreign’ object) can cause small tears to the inside of your vagina. This can lead to an infection which could become serious.
Its recommended not to sleep with a tampon in and to change them every 4 hours. Or, better yet- wear period pants instead!
How does the menstrual cycle affect other health problems?
Fluctuating hormone levels during your menstrual cycle can affect a range of other health problems, such as depression, anxiety, anaemia, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, and fertility.
If you’re concerned about any health concern related to your period, make an appointment with you GP to talk it over.
What happens during the week of your period?
The menstrual phase is the start of your period. During this week, the unfertilised egg is shed, along with vaginal fluids and endometrial tissues.
Is a week of period normal?
3-5 days of bleeding is considered to be the average for most women, but some will bleed for up to 7 days. If this is normal for you, its nothing to worry about. If this is a recent change, its a good idea to track it for a month or two and make an appointment with you GP to discuss any concerns you may have.
What is day 7 of your period like?
By day 7, bleeding will usually have stopped and your hormones will be settling down a little. Most women report a surge in energy as the ovaries start to produce more oestrogen, and you may notice your mood improve too.
What is the week before your period like?
During the week before your period, oestrogen and progesterone levels are falling drastically and this is when many women experience symptoms of PMS. You may feel more tired, anxious or depressed. You may also experience breast tenderness and bloating as your body prepares for your period