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How Well Do You Know Your Menstrual Cycle? Understanding Your Body


How much do you know about your menstrual cycle?


Our menstrual cycle affects almost all aspects of our daily lives as women. That is why it is so important to know what is happening in your body. If you understand your menstrual cycle, you will know better about your health. In this blog, we will tell you all about the female reproductive system and the menstrual cycle. Because the more you know about your menstrual cycle, you will recognise when things are not going well and you can get in touch so we can help you with tips on how to improve your hormonal balance.


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The menstrual cycle


The menstrual cycle is a series of successive events in the female reproductive system. Your cycle should have a regular pattern that repeats itself monthly. In adults, a healthy menstrual cycle lasts between 21 and 35 days. Adolescents/teenagers may have longer cycles for the first 3 years after their first period.


Your menstrual cycle is not just your period, actually it is about the course between periods. If you are healthy, you have a regularity where in 1 year you are allowed to have quite varying lengths of your cycles with a difference of 6 days. In principle, a healthy cycle is one without complaints. If there are health problems, you will notice them in your cycle. So think of your menstrual cycle as a monthly health report that you can use to improve your overall health.


The female reproductive system


The female reproductive system includes internal organs, glands and the vulva [1]:


Ovaries - These are the primary reproductive organs in women. They produce eggs and the cycle hormones oestrogen and progesterone. The eggs lie in a protective sac (follicle) where they grow and mature. At birth, you already have all the supply of eggs needed until menopause in their ovaries, but they only start growing at puberty.


Uterus - This pear-shaped organ, about the size of a fist, houses the growing foetus during pregnancy. Before puberty, the uterus is much smaller, then it grows to 5-10 cm. Hence, before the first menstruation (menarche), you may experience pain in the lower abdomen! The uterus continues to grow during pregnancy, expanding to the sides and above the navel, of course, well protected in the pelvis. The uterus has a mucous membrane, the endometrium, which varies in thickness during the menstrual cycle. It contains blood cells, nutrients and tissues. Without pregnancy, the endometrium breaks down and is shed as menstruation, about 500 times in a woman's lifetime.


Although the jaw muscle holds the Guinness world record for the strongest muscle, the uterus is the strongest by weight. It generates enough force to push a baby through the birth canal despite being thin.


Interestingly, the uterus is more than just a home for babies. New research shows that it is connected to your brain and can affect your memory [2].


Fun fact! The uterus makes a new organ, the placenta, during pregnancy. This feeds the baby, provides oxygen and removes waste before the kidneys, lungs, skin and liver are fully functional at birth.


Cervix - This is the narrow part of the uterus. It has a central opening that lets menstruation through and widens during birth to let the baby out. During pregnancy, the cervix forms a mucous plug that protects the baby until he or she is born.


Due to hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle, the cervix undergoes various changes, changes in shape and secretions. Cervical secretion is essential because it protects the uterus from bacteria and contributes to a woman's fertility, male sperm motility and survival.


Vagina - The wider flexible part from uterine entrance above to the vulva below. It thus connects the external and internal parts of the female reproductive system. The vagina is 8 to 12 cm long.


Fallopian tubes - These are tubular offshoots of the uterus. They end at the ovary and carry eggs to the uterus. After conception (fertilisation between egg and sperm), it takes 5 - 7 days for the egg to settle in the uterine wall.


Assistant glands - Bartholin's gland, breasts and Skene's gland are also part of the female reproductive system. Bartholin's glands are located around the vaginal opening, while Skene's glands are located next to the urethra. Both secrete lubricating fluid during sexual stimulation. Breast glands produce milk for babies, but are also involved in sexual activity.


Vulva - The vulva is everything on the outside of the female genitalia. Parts of the vulva include the labia minora, labia majora, the Venus mound, the clitoral glans and clitoral prepuce, as well as the urethral outlet and the vaginal entrance. The Venus mound is the fat pad over the pubic bone, which serves as a cushion during sexual activity. Labia majora and minora are fleshy folds of tissue that surround and protect the vaginal and urethral openings.


Just as our faces are different, so are our vulvas. A large study examined 657 vulvas under a microscope and found that the main common feature was their uniqueness [3]. So you don't have to worry if yours doesn't look like the pictures in a book or on the internet.


The clitoris - Many scientific and medical textbooks do not describe the anatomy of the clitoris in detail, partly because it was not fully discovered until 1998. This also explains why the clitoris is still relatively unknown in all its glory today. This organ is 8 to 13 cm long and grows throughout your life.


Although in the upper part of your vulva you only see a small lump, covered by a foreskin, there is much more underneath the clitoris. Its job is to make you feel good: it has more than 800 nerve endings, more than anywhere else in the body, and can generate powerful sensations.


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What happens during the menstrual cycle?


During your menstrual cycle, there are two main phases. The phase before ovulation (the follicular phase) and the phase after ovulation (luteal phase). Menstruation and ovulation are important events that fall under the follicular phase.


Follicular phase


The follicular phase of the menstrual cycle starts on the first day of menstruation. The name actually says it all: it is the phase when the egg is ripened in the follicle. Multiple follicles in the ovary start developing simultaneously, but normally only one (or in rare cases two) reach the finish line. The winning follicle swells and under the influence of luteinising hormone (LH), it tears open and releases its egg. The release of the egg is called ovulation or ovulation. The mature egg released at ovulation is viable for only 24 hours. Ovulation usually occurs 12 to 14 days before menstruation and ends the follicular phase.



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Supplement vitamins and minerals and support your cycle with the Cyclus+ Package.











In the days after ovulation, the endometrium continues to thicken and prepare for pregnancy. Without pregnancy, the corpus luteum survives for 10 to 16 days. After that, hormones decrease, the endometrium breaks down and is shed as menstruation. Once again, a new menstrual cycle begins. If pregnancy does occur, the corpus luteum continues to function for three months, just until the foetus placenta takes over and starts producing its own progesterone.

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How does your body regulate the menstrual cycle?


Your menstrual cycle is kept in motion by the refined balance of hormones (produced in the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and ovaries) [4].


Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) from the hypothalamus triggers the entire process of the cycle. It stimulates the pituitary gland to produce follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH).


Pituitary hormones act on the ovaries. FSH stimulates the growth and maturation of follicles, while the LH peak causes ovulation. The ovaries also produce the cycle hormones, oestrogen and progesterone.


Hormone levels vary during the menstrual cycle hence you may experience different feelings at different phases. For example, oestrogen controls the follicular phase, while progesterone accounts for the luteal phase.



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Track your ovulation


On average, ovulation occurs about two weeks before your period. But this is not the same for everyone, as it depends on the length of your menstrual cycle.


By keeping track of your ovulations, you can increase your chances of getting pregnant. If you notice that you have many red days because ovulation occurs late in the cycle or ovulation fails to occur (anovulatory cycle), it is wise to use professional support. In doing so, choose an orthomolecular therapist specialising in fertility who will work with you on the cause and support your body to regain its natural balance. Book an appointment


Detect changes in your body early


Your menstrual cycle can change slightly from period to period. This can be a normal variation (e.g. in case of illness, stress or travel) but it can also indicate an underlying health problem.


Conditions such as thyroid disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, hormonal imbalance and other menstrual and reproductive disorders can affect your menstrual cycle.


If you notice that your cycle deviates for several months in a row (e.g. more red days than normal), contact a professional. Already when you have more than 8 to 9 red days for 3 cycles in a row, there is a good reason to get started and improve your cycle. READ MORE


Build a good relationship with your body


The better you know your body, the better you can build a healthy relationship with it. This is why it is so important to keep track of your menstrual cycle. You experience what is happening in your body and why it is happening. This opens your eyes to the wonders of the female anatomy and helps you appreciate all that your body does for you.


By tracking your cycle, you start to see connections with your diet, lifestyle, sleep quality, mood and stress. With this information, you can make changes and thus improve your hormone balance and overall health.



Fertility awareness and basal body temperature (BBT)


There are many misconceptions about when you can get pregnant. For example, that you can get pregnant throughout your cycle, including during your period (read HERE why this is not possible). In reality, you can get pregnant for only six days per cycle. Healthy sperm can survive internally for up to five days and the lifespan of the egg is 24 hours, makes a total of 6 days. By measuring your basal body temperature (BBT) with the Daysy, you will know when the fertile and infertile days are.


Basal body temperature is your body temperature when you wake up. You measure this temperature in the morning right after waking up under your tongue, even before you get out of bed. Your BBT is an important clue to know at what time you ovulate [5].


Your basal body temperature varies throughout your menstrual cycle. For instance, before ovulation, your BBT is between 36.1 °C and 36.5 °C. After ovulation, progesterone increases your BBT by about 0.3 °C and ensures that it stays that way until your period. If you measure a small but significant rise in your BBT for a few days in a row, you know that ovulation has occurred and that you cannot get pregnant again during the rest of that cycle.


More than 35 years of cycle research and analysis of more than 10 million cycles are behind the development of the cycle tracker Daysy. With Daysy, you measure your basal body temperature to track your ovulation i.e. your fertile and infertile days.


Daysy takes less than 90 seconds to take the most accurate temperature reading under the tongue. Since you don't use a separate thermometer and then manually enter the data into the app, this means you have no chance of user error.


Daysy is not just a fancy thermometer. The ultra-sensitive sensor records an accurate result where it waits until the temperature reading is stable to complete the measurement. If the temperature drops during the measurement (for example, because cold air enters via breathing), the sensor waits for the temperature to rise again and stabilise. In this way, you exclude erroneous readings that can occur with ordinary thermometers because they often have a fixed measurement time of 30 seconds.



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The innovative technology integrates the collected data and distinguishes your infertile and fertile days with 99.4% accuracy [6]. The internal algorithm analyses your basal body temperature, correcting occasional outliers (in case of illness, fever).


Daysy gives you fully personalised information about your cycle. With the DaysyDay app, you get to know the course of your cycle, your measurements, colours in the graph and calendar give insight about your hormonal health.


In conclusion


As you now know, your basal body temperature changes throughout the phases of your menstrual cycle. It tells you if and when ovulation occurs. The Daysy cycle tracker has a sensitive sensor to detect these slight variations in your basal body temperature. But it doesn't stop there. Daysy analyses this data and indicates the fertile and infertile days of your menstrual cycle with 99.4% accuracy.


The average length of time women are fertile in their lifetime is about 37 years. How nice it is that you have insight from your first period to menopause. Keeping track of your menstrual cycle is crucial for overall health [7]. It helps you understand your body and notice unusual changes. Your body is strong, vital and wise and if you support it in the right way, you will know exactly how to pursue good health and a healthy menstrual cycle.


For the young ladies (not yet sexually active), there is the Teena menstrual tracker for teenagers. If you are already further along and want to know when the fertile and infertile days are then the Daysy will be of great help.



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Sources

[1] Female Reproductive System: Structure & Function | Cleveland Clinic

[2] Hysterectomy Uniquely Impacts Spatial Memory in a Rat Model: A Role for the Nonpregnant Uterus in Cognitive Processes

[3] Measurements of a “normal vulva” in women aged 15-84: A cross-sectional prospective single centre study | Request PDF

[4] The Hypothalamic-Hypophyseal-Ovarian Axis and the Menstrual Cycle | GLOWM

[5] Basal body temperature for natural family planning - Mayo Clinic

[7] Trends in Age at Natural Menopause and Reproductive Life Span Among US Women, 1959-2018 | Adolescent Medicine | JAMA


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