The Menstrual Cycle

During puberty, the female reproductive system begins a process called the menstrual cycle. Girls start to release eggs from their ovaries and begin menstruating, a process also known as having a period.

The menstrual cycle begins with the growth and thickening of the uterine lining, which creates a suitable environment for a fertilised egg to implant and grow. The cycle typically lasts 28 days, but it can vary in length from month to month and between individuals.

A two-part illustration related to the menstrual cycle. The top section showcases the progression of an egg from a small circle, maturing through various stages, and then releasing during ovulation, signified by a dashed line. The egg's development is presented in shades ranging from pink to yellow. The bottom portion depicts the endometrium's transformation over a 28-day period. On day 1, it is thick and red, indicating menstrual bleeding. By day 14, the ovulation stage, it becomes thinner and pink. By day 28, it is uniformly pink with blue veins, preparing for a new cycle.

There are four main stages of the menstrual cycle:

  • Stage 1: Menstruation (Days 1-5) – The lining of the uterus breaks down. This is expelled from the body through the vagina as blood and tissue. This process is also known as having a period.
  • Stage 2: (Days 6-13) – The lining of the uterus starts to rebuild, preparing to receive an egg. Meanwhile, an egg cell matures in one of the ovaries.
  • Stage 3: Ovulation (Day 14) – The mature egg is released from the ovary and travels through a fallopian tube, towards the uterus.
  • Stage 4: (Days 15-28) – If the egg is not fertilised by a sperm cell, the uterus lining remains thick until the end of this phase, around Day 28. The cycle then repeats, starting again with menstruation.

Fertilisation is the process of combining the male gamete (sperm) with the female gamete (egg). If fertilisation occurs, the fertilised egg implants in the uterine lining and pregnancy begins.

Monitoring the Menstrual Cycle

Tracking the menstrual cycle can be helpful for women who are trying to get pregnant through sexual intercourse. Ovulation typically occurs around Day 14 of the menstrual cycle. This is when the egg is most likely to be fertilised by a sperm cell.

If fertilisation occurs, the woman will become pregnant and her menstrual cycle will stop. The uterine lining will remain thick and she will not have a period while she is pregnant.

Monitoring the menstrual cycle can also be useful for women who are trying to avoid pregnancy. This can help them identify their most fertile days and use protection or avoid sexual intercourse during this time.