There's more to your menstrual cycle than just your period. It's actually a month-long roller-coaster ride with lots of ups and downs. But as the lovely Dr. Melissa Lem explains, there is a science to this seeming madness. Herein, she breaks down the good, the bad and the ugly of that time of the month.
Note: We're using a 28-day calendar, but it's completely normal for your menstrual cycle to last anywhere from 21 to 35 days.
Day 1 of your period marks the first day of your menstrual cycle. Many women believe their cycle starts at the end of their period, but this is not the case. On Day 1 of your cycle, estrogen levels are at an all-time low. Estrogen is a good thing; it's associated with increased activity of serotonin, a feel-good chemical in the brain.
The average period lasts about five days — although anywhere from two to seven days is considered normal — and yields about 35 millilitres or just over an ounce of liquid.
As your estrogen levels slowly increase, you may feel more relaxed than you have over the last few days when PMS symptoms may have been wreaking havoc with your emotions.
By Day 7, your period is probably gone, and your mood should have returned to normal. In fact, you may be feeling a surge of energy as your ovaries release more and more estrogen. Higher levels of estrogen also make you feel more sociable, optimistic and motivated.
Estrogen levels will continue to rise from Days 8-11, and by Days 12-13, they're at an all-time high. These high levels of estrogen give you more confidence, make your skin glow, and probably make you feel flirtier. It isn't a coincidence: These high estrogen levels set off a surge of hormones that result in ovulation on Day 14.
The egg's only goal is to get fertilized, so all kinds of things are happening with your mind and body around ovulation. Keep in mind that your libido is extra high, and you're more adventurous and impulsive as your hormone levels max out and you start to search for a mate.
Research actually shows that women are attracted to men with more masculine facial features at this time in their cycle as they are subconsciously seeking a virile partner. Men also find women more attractive when they are ovulating.
But unless you're trying for a baby, be sure to use contraception as you are highly susceptible to pregnancy. In fact, you're most fertile one to two days before ovulation, so be sure you're covered then as well. There's a sudden drop in estrogen immediately after ovulation, which can make you feel irritable or emotional for a couple of days until estrogen and progesterone levels start to rise again.
The main purpose of progesterone at this point in your cycle is to help make your uterus a nice, comfortable place for an egg to implant. The combination of increased estrogen and progesterone levels often leads to breast tenderness.
If the egg hasn't been fertilized, your ovaries will slowly stop producing estrogen and progesterone near the end of Week 3.
As progesterone and estrogen levels drop, some women experience symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, which can include irritability, anger or sadness. Some women experience mild PMS, others severe and some not at all.
Your body may be more susceptible to pain, so you'd be wise to avoid waxing, tweezing or getting tattooed at this time.
Hungry? At this point in your cycle, your estrogen — and therefore serotonin — levels are bottoming out. That means you're craving carbohydrates, which increase serotonin. Luckily, your metabolism is working a little faster leading up to your period, which means you may consume 100 to 200 more calories guilt-free — but don't overdo it.
Ouch! Many women experience menstrual cramps a day or two before their period begins. Your body has begun producing prostaglandins, which help your uterus contract. Over-the-counter meds like ibuprofen can really help as can heating pads and hot water bottles.