How Much Do Menstrual Cycle Phases Really Rule Our Wellbeing?

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Editor’s Note: We at POPSUGAR recognize that people of many genders and identities have menstrual cycles. This particular story includes language from experts who generally refer to people with menstrual cycles as women.

Online, anyone can sound like a professional. Of course, not everyone is – and that means a lot of bad information circulates on platforms like TikTok and Instagram. And one subject that the wellness influencer set loves to talk about is menstrual cycle phases. You may have scrolled passed videos that discuss what it feels like to be on your luteal phase, for instance, or how to optimize your follicular phase, or how to cycle-sync your workouts. But is any of that information really legit?

One thing that’s true is that the menstrual cycle is a vital sign of overall health. “Knowing where you are in the menstrual cycle can help with fertility planning, menstrual planning, and recognizing symptoms,” says Felice Gersh, MD, ob-gyn and author of “PCOS SOS: A Gynecologist’s Lifeline to Naturally Restore Your Rhythms, Hormones and Happiness.” What’s more, trouble with your menstrual cycle and menstrual cycle phases typically mean you’re dealing with an underlying health issue, and is a sign to see a doctor.

Understanding the events of the menstrual cycle – including the different menstrual cycle phases – can help you feel more prepared for it, says Chimsom “Dr. Chimmy” T. Oleka, MD, a pediatric, teen, and sports gynecologist. “The more knowledge one has about their body and the ways in which it changes, develops, and grows, the better they are at understanding, being patient with, being proud of, and appreciating their body,” she says.

And for some people, understanding the different menstrual cycle phases and the symptoms associated with them can help them feel more connected to their bodies, allowing them to better support their wellbeing.

Here, experts explain what the phases of the menstrual cycle are and how menstrual cycle phases impact health – so you can better separate fact from fiction the next time a so-called period influencer pops up on your feed.

Experts Featured in This Article

Felice Gersh, MD, ob-gyn and author of “PCOS SOS: A Gynecologist’s Lifeline to Naturally Restore Your Rhythms, Hormones and Happiness.”

Chimsom “Dr. Chimmy” T. Oleka, MD, a pediatric, teen, and sports gynecologist.

Dorette Noorhasan, MD, endocrinologist and infertility specialist.

Erin Flynn, DNP/FNP, a family nurse practitioner and the director of clinical informatics & quality at Midi Health.

What Are the Phases of the Menstrual Cycle?

According to Dr. Chimmy, there are two different cycles within the menstrual cycle that take place at the same time. The ovulatory cycle happens in the ovaries, and the endometrial cycle takes place in the lining of the uterus. These cycles have different phases that pair up with each other as well.

Within the ovaries, Dr. Chimmy says there are the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase. In the uterus, there are the proliferative phase, the secretory phase, and menstruation.

But when someone mentions menstrual cycle phases, they’re typically referring to menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase. Here, a quick guide to what each of these terms means.


The first day of full-flow period blood (not just spotting) marks the first day of your menstrual cycle, says Dorette Noorhasan, MD, endocrinologist and infertility specialist. It’s considered normal to bleed between two and seven days during menstruation, according to the Cleveland Clinic. During this time, the lining of the uterus – called the endometrium – is shed. This occurs if the implantation of a fertilized egg (a pregnancy) doesn’t occur.

Follicular Phase

The follicular phase is the first part of the menstrual cycle, Dr. Noorhasan says. It lasts from day one of your period until you ovulate (which typically occurs around day 14). “In the follicular phase, FSH [follicle stimulating hormone] is secreted by the pituitary gland, which tells the ovaries to produce a mature follicle. As the mature follicle grows in size, it will secrete estrogen, and the estrogen levels will rise,” Dr. Noorhasan says. Higher estrogen levels signal to the pituitary to secrete more luteinizing hormone (LH), which tells the follicle to rupture and release the egg, Dr. Noorhasan adds.

Dr. Chimmy explains that the follicular phase pairs with the proliferative phase (of the endometrial cycle), and during this time, “in response to the estrogen, the endometrium regrows after shedding during the previous period.”


Ovulation happens when the mature dominant egg releases from the ovarian follicle, Dr. Chimmy says. As for what day this takes place, it depends on the person and the length of their individual menstrual cycle.

“If you have a regular 28-day cycle, ovulation will often happen day 14 [of the menstrual cycle]. But many women have cycles that are shorter or longer, and the ovulation day will be different for these women. If you have other underlying conditions like PCOS, this will also change your cycle length and ovulation date,” Dr. Shirazian says.

After the egg is released, it then travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus.

Luteal Phase

The luteal phase is the last phase of the menstrual cycle. It begins after ovulation (roughly day 15 of a 28-day cycle) and ends with the start of your period. It pairs with the secretory phase in the uterus. “Once the egg is released, the follicle now shrivels up and is called a corpus luteum,” Dr. Noorhasan says. The corpus luteum then secretes a hormone called progesterone. This hormone peaks about seven days after ovulation, she adds.

If a pregnancy does not occur, the corpus luteum continues to shrivel up, so it becomes no longer functional and stops secreting progesterone. Without this progesterone, the endometrium will shed, Dr. Noorhasan explains. Once menstruation occurs, the menstrual cycle starts over again.

However, if pregnancy does occur, Dr. Noorhasan says that hormones sustain the corpus luteum, which then secretes more progesterone to support the pregnancy and prevent the endometrium from shedding.

Worth noting: hormonal birth control changes your menstrual cycle phases and suppresses ovulation. Instead of follicular and luteal phases, you’ll have an active phase (when you’re taking the hormones) and a placebo phase (when you stop, triggering a “period” or withdrawal bleeding).

Can the Phases of the Menstrual Cycle Impact How You Feel?

There are many benefits to knowing what your hormones are up to and when. “One of the main benefits is being able to predict when you are going to experience menstrual symptoms like mood swings, cramps, or headaches,” says Erin Flynn, DNP/FNP, a family nurse practitioner with Favor. “We all react differently to the hormone changes that come with our menstrual cycle, so being in tune with our bodies and understanding our cycle can help us understand whether we’re moody because of yesterday’s workday, or if it’s just our regularly scheduled hormonal shift.”

If you have ever experienced menstrual cramps, you know first-hand there is a link between your period and how you feel physically. So what are some other possible physical markers of the menstrual-cycle phases?

“During the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle, higher levels of estrogen can make you feel more energetic,” Dr. Shirazian says. Some menstrual-cycle-inspired exercise plans actually suggest more intense workouts during this time, but you should always listen to your body to ensure you don’t injure yourself.

In the luteal phase, some people who menstruate may feel bloated or lethargic, she adds. During menstruation, you may experience some period symptoms like cramps or a change in vaginal discharge. Then during ovulation, Dr. Shirazian notes that some may experience a change in vaginal discharge and spotting.

Another physical symptom that some experience during ovulation is ovulation pain, or “mittelschmerz.” According to the Cleveland Clinic, ovulation pain is typically felt in the lower abdomen and pelvis on one side or in the middle, and it may feel like mild twinges or severe discomfort.

Ultimately, though every individual is different. There’s some research around how the luteal phase and follicular phase affect people’s mood or health, but not enough to draw a ton of conclusions, as this article from open-access journal publisher MDPI states. So be wary when people online make sweeping statements about how everyone feels a certain way during a certain phase of their menstrual cycle – the reality isn’t quite so straightforward. And of course, if you have any questions or concerns about menstrual-cycle symptoms or your menstrual cycle in general, reach out to your healthcare provider for advice.

– Additional reporting by Melanie Whyte and Mirel Zaman

Victoria Moorhouse is a beauty content director for Vox Media, where she oversees content for L’Oréal’s and She was previously a senior editor for PS, where she worked with partners to cover health, fitness, and wellness. She’s also contributed many beauty articles to the site.

Melanie Whyte was a contributing staff writer for PS. Based in NYC, she writes about LGBTQ identity, sex and relationships, pop culture hot takes, mental health, and home improvement. Her work has been featured by Refinery29, Real Simple, Apartment Therapy, Southern Living, Coveteur, NPR, and more.

Mirel Zaman is the health and fitness director at PS. She has nearly 15 years of experience working in the health and wellness space, writing and editing articles about fitness, general health, mental health, relationships and sex, food and nutrition, astrology, spirituality, family and parenting, culture, and news.

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