What You Need to Know About the Four Menstruation Phases
menstruation phases

What You Need to Know About the 4 Menstruation Phases

It’s always surprising to me to think back on what I knew about periods in my earliest years as a menstruator. I knew enough not to be shocked when it happened for the first time. I also didn’t know enough not to be shocked the first time I saw discharge in my underwear. What in the…? Disgusted and scared, 12-year-old me thought my body was broken. Eventually I learned that discharge was normal, but I still had no concept for what it was or why it was coming out of my body during certain times of the month. I was in my late twenties before I began to understand that there are actually four menstruation phases—and that my cycle is so much more than bleeding.

In understanding these phases and harnessing the unique energy from each one (a statement I would’ve deemed ridiculous even a few years ago), I’ve learned so much about my body, my emotions, myself.

First things first. In order to understand how each phase affects you personally, I’d recommend tracking your cycle. This article provides basic information on how each phase may affect many women, but the information you’ll gain from keeping track of your own emotions, physical state, and mental wellbeing will be your most important data. It’s so comforting for me, on a day when my emotions feel particularly out of whack, to look back in my app and see that I was also {grumpy, vulnerable, angry, sad, anxious} on the same day in my last cycle, and the cycle before that. Once you begin tracking your cycle, you may find alignment with some of the characteristics of these feminine cycle archetypes:

Pre-Ovulatory

Days: 6-12

Archetype: The Maiden

Association: Renewal

Season: Spring

This phase feels like those first glorious days of spring after a long winter. Everyone’s outside, wearing sundresses even though it’s only 60 degrees, and we’re renewed by the vibrancy of the sunshine we’ve missed those previous months. Inside our bodies, both estrogen and testosterone levels are rising, boosting our energy and sharpening our cognition. I will actually (when I’m able) schedule important meetings or calls during this time of month, because I naturally feel sharper and more ambitious. This is also the phase in my cycle where I’ll sign up for power yoga or HIIT classes—workouts I definitely don’t feel up to while I’m on my period.

Ovulatory

Days: 13-17

Archetype: The Mother

Association: Growth

Season: Summer

Think of this phase as summer, but without vacation brain. You may feel confident, sexy, and energetic, and are also ready to lead meetings, close deals, and send pitches (things that, if I’m being honest, I’m not really excelling at in the middle of June, which is why this summer feeling is the best of both worlds). This phase only lasts for a couple of days—you know this phase because this is the window in which women are most likely to get pregnant—so if you plan one sexy date night or dinner party in a month, one of these nights would be a great time to do it.

Premenstrual

Days: 18-28

Archetype: The Wild Woman

Association: Disintegration

Season: Fall

Your hormones begin to drop in your premenstrual phase, which may cause your energy to drop. Just how in the fall we get excited for cozy sweaters and switch our coffee order from iced to hot, you may feel your body slowing down and wanting to feel comfortable and safe. Many women also associate the premenstrual phase with symptoms like bloating, irritability, and cramps. Try to be gentle for yourself and pay attention to which, if any, symptoms you experience. For example, I know that the day before my period, I experience significant cramping. Where I used to push through, and then feel physically miserable and emotionally depleted by the end of the day, now I know to allow myself a night of Netflix with my heating pad during this phase of my cycle.

Menstrual

Days: 1-5

Archetype: The Wise Woman

Association: Death

Season: Winter

Here is the phase many of us are taught to think of as our entire cycle—the menstrual phase, or, bleeding. Your hormones are the lowest they’ll be all cycle, so you may feel tired and want more alone time than in other phases of your cycle. While it won’t make you feel better to nap the week away and give in to all of your period cravings, allow yourself to rest and move slowly through yin yoga, take walks, and eat nourishing foods like soups. Since we may feel naturally tired or withdrawn, if you can, you may want to avoid large social gatherings or important meetings at work.

It’s important to remember that all of our bodies, environments, work loads, preferences, and social lives are different, so of course, there’s no surefire way you’ll relate to any, or even all, of this information. But hopefully, as you begin to track how each of the four menstruation phases affects your body, and as you learn more about each phase, you’ll begin to make changes that positively impact your cycle and your life.

Featured image by Claire Jantzen
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