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4 Stages of Menstrual Cycle: Why It Matters to Women with PCOS

4 stages of menstrual cycle

All of us are familiar with periods! Even if you’re a woman with PCOS who hasn’t had a period in a while, you know the signs and symptoms well. But, do you really know what’s happening through your whole menstrual cycle? Understanding menstrual cycles from week one to four can help you regulate your cycle, manage symptoms, get pregnant, or even prevent pregnancy. Whatever your goals, understanding your period is a big key to getting control over your health. 

So, let’s get technical, a menstrual cycle is the process controlled by hormones that prepare your body for pregnancy. The typical cycle length is around 28 days, but we Cysters know that that’s not always the case. In fact, 75-85% of women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) struggle with menstrual irregularity or even skipped periods. Cycle length for people with PCOS can range anywhere from 21 days to 111 days. This can make it difficult to know where you are in your cycle and what you should expect next.

Today, I am going to break down all four phases of the menstrual cycle to help you have a better understanding of your body. After all, if we want to naturally reverse our symptoms with PCOS, being informed about our health is essential. Here’s what happens: 

4 stages of menstrual cycle why it matters to women with pcos

4 Stages of the Menstrual Cycle and Why It Matters to Women with PCOS

Stage One: Menstruation (Days 1-5)

You may think of your cycle ending with your periods, but from a medical perspective, the menstrual cycle actually starts with your period. This first phase is your body’s signal that you aren’t pregnant, therefore it’s time to get rid of that thickened uterine lining your body was preparing for a potential baby. This lining sheds in the form of blood, mucus, and cells. 

On average, the typical period cycle can last anywhere from 3-7 days and comes with mild symptoms. However, many Cysters experience long, heavy, and painful periods due to high levels of androgens (AKA male sex hormones). Here’s more on what periods are like with PCOS.

Stage Two: Follicular Phase (Days 6-14)

The follicular phase is the longest phase in your menstrual cycle. It begins on the first day of your period and ends once you begin to ovulate. The follicular phase begins when your hypothalamus tells your pituitary gland that it’s time to release the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). So what does this mean? The follicular phase is when your ovaries produce follicles (AKA immature eggs). 

Your body is meant to find the healthiest egg possible, which becomes the mature egg, while the rest of them are reintegrated back into your body. However, some women with PCOS don’t move onto the next phase like they’re meant to and those follicles stay in the ovaries causing ovarian cysts.

4 Stages of Menstrual Cycle explained

Stage Three: Ovulation (Days 15-25)

Next, we move into the ovulation phase. Ovulation occurs when your pituitary gland is triggered, releasing the luteinizing hormone (LH). The LH helps ensure that ovulation and egg implantations go as smoothly as possible. This is also the phase where the egg is released from the ovary, travels down your fallopian tube, and waits to be fertilized by sperm. This usually happens on day 14 of your menstrual cycle. 

If you are wanting to get pregnant, this phase is the best time to try and make it happen. Within that 24 hours of ovulation occurring, sperm will try to fertilize the egg. Shortly after sperm fertilizes the egg, typically within 6 days, that fertilized egg will implant itself within your uterine lining. After that 24-hour window passes, those eggs will dissolve if unfertilized, moving on to the next phase of the menstrual cycle.

This is what healthy ovulation looks like! But, as I mentioned, high levels of androgens can actually disrupt this whole process and prevent follicles from developing and releasing eggs like they’re supposed to. When this happens, no ovulation occurs and cysts sometimes form. 

Stage Four: Luteal Phase (Days 25-28)

The luteal phase begins around day 15 of your cycle, and that dominant follicle that formed during ovulation will change into the corpus luteum, which is a temporary organ that forms during menstruation. What the corpus luteum does is help ensure your uterus is healthy enough to carry a fetus. When your body realizes you are not pregnant, it breaks back down until it’s needed again during your next cycle.

The luteal phase is the phase that affects your estrogen and progesterone levels the most. Both progesterone and estrogen levels should increase to prepare for implantation of the fertilized egg, and then decrease if conception occurs. However, Cysters often have low progesterone, which can affect the body’s ability to thicken the uterine lining for a baby, leading to difficulties during implantation and potential early pregnancy loss. Like imbalances of androgens affect fertility and the menstrual cycle, imbalances of progesterone do too!  

 This phase will last until you start your period, beginning the menstruation phase again. 

Why Is it Important to Track Your Cycle with PCOS?

PCOS is a hormonal condition that impacts almost every part of a Cyster’s body. Since it has to do with hormones, PCOS can contribute to a long list of chronic symptoms. Issues with periods and fertility are part of that! However, these hormonal imbalances don’t have to be permanent. There are lots of ways to naturally balance your hormones, regulate your cycle, and alleviate symptoms of PCOS! 

It’s important for a woman with PCOS to track her cycle because it can be a really good indication of where you are in your healing journey. As you balance more hormones, your menstrual cycle should become more regular and your periods should get way more manageable. This will help you prevent pregnancy, get pregnant, or just live better without crippling periods. 

For full details on how to get things back on track, listen to the episode of our A Cyster and Her Mister podcast called “Period Repair Manual.”

Best Supplements for Regulating Your Cycle with PCOS

Best Supplements for Regulating Your Cycle with PCOS

Multivitamin

A high-quality multivitamin is one of the best tools you can have to regulate periods and improve your overall symptoms! Some of the best vitamins and minerals you can have in a multivitamin for PCOS period regulation include:

  • Vitamin D: Can relieve inflammation and insulin resistance leading to hormonal imbalances
  • Zinc: Great for regulating androgen levels
  • Magnesium: Can improve insulin resistance and inflammation for overall hormone balance
  • B Vitamins: Can help with overall hormone balance and reduced inflammation 
Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties! Since inflammation can lead to all sorts of chronic hormonal imbalances, any help you can get with inflammation is welcome. Beyond that, omega-3 can also help with egg quality and ovulation! 

Four trays containing different colored pills
Curcumin

Studies have actually found that curcumin (AKA turmeric) can directly improve menstrual regularity and ovulation in women with PCOS! Plus, it’s anti-inflammatory and boosts liver health, which are both big pluses for hormone balance. 

CoQ10

CoQ10 is one of the best supplements you can take for reproductive health. It’s been shown to potentially help directly with your cycle via improvements in ovulation and pregnancy rates. And, it can indirectly help by reducing inflammation and improving liver health.   

Best CoQ10 supplement
Ovasitol Powder

Ovasitol (inositol in a 40:1 ratio) can positively impact inflammation, insulin resistance, and hormone imbalances. Studies show Ovasitol can reduce androgens to improve menstrual regularity and boost ovulation! 

Tallene drinking Ovasiol
For period-regulating supplements, get Ovafit’s Metabolism Plus bundle and Ovasitol Powder!

If you’re ready to regulate your menstrual cycle and improve your PCOS symptoms, there are lots of ways you can naturally heal and get your body back on track. One of the best first steps is to get on high-quality, PCOS-friendly supplements like Ovafit. 

Our Metabolism Plus bundle and Ovasitol Powder include all the vitamins and minerals listed above to help you improve your reproductive health! Try it out, download The Cysterhood app, and let’s start your healing journey together!

This is why our PCOS multivitamins exist! It’s everything I just listed jam packed into one multivitamin, which alleviates the stress of having to search high and low for exactly what you need. The needs of someone with PCOS can be vastly different from those without it, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. My goal is to help all my Cysters know that you aren’t alone in your PCOS journeys, and I will do all I can to help you along the way.