Have you ever found yourself googling : ‘ why do I have such sore boobs on day 18 of my cycle?’
Or wondered why your PMT just made you cry at a TV advert for McDonald’s?
Well I most certainly have.
After coming off the pill in 2016, I have learnt so much about my body and in particular my menstrual cycle. I know when I’m ovulating, I can tell my PMS symptoms a mile off, and to be honest, I just find the whole thing fascinating. I mean our bodies go through SO much month on month.
I found myself wanting to know what happened day by day but struggled to find articles or posts, so I decided to write my own.
I’ve done a lot of research ( and I really hope this is all correct) and thought I’d talk you through what happens day by day of our menstrual cycles.
I really hope you find this interesting, and please, please remember, I am not a doctor, or medical expert. But I hope this sheds some light on symptoms, or you just find it useful to know.
I feel like I’ve learnt so much from researching this post, and am in awe of what our body does.
Hormone introductory : give a big warm welcome to the stars of the show, the four hormones who have the starring roles during our menstrual cycle.
FYI : a hormone is a chemical signal sent through the blood from one body part to another.
FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) : simulates the production of eggs and the release of estrogen.
LH (luteinizing hormone) : simulates the release of the egg aka ovulation
Both LH & FSH are produced by the pituitary gland in the brain.
Estrogen : main job is to build the uterus lining.
Progesterone : main job is maintaining the lining of the uterus (making sure it doesn’t shed/ our period comes too early)
Both Progesterone and Estrogen have varying effects on the body as we will find out during this post.
The four hormones interact with each other during your cycle.
FSH causes the release and rise of estrogen (these two then help with the development of the follicles to create an egg)
Estrogen then restricts FSH (when there are enough follicles.)
However, LH stimulates progesterone and estrogen, pre ovulation.
But the high amount of Estrogen brings on LH (as this is needed to release the egg for ovulation) but after ovulation has happened both estrogen and progesterone restrict LH. And carry on themselves.
If you are on the pill, depending on what pill you’re on, but they usually have a high dose of estrogen/and or progesterone which restricts FSH and LH meaning you don’t develop any eggs/which means your body skips the whole ovulation process.
Phew okay let’s get into this.
Day by day of your menstrual cycle
(also I know that everyone’s cycle differs, and they can vary from 21 – 40 days. But I have done this using the average of 28 days, so obviously amend to your own cycle. Also each cycle can be a different length, so the exact thing might not happen on the same day but you get my drift.)
Phase 1 : Menstruation aka your period. Which is the shedding of the uterine lining. Your Estrogen and Progesterone hormone levels are low.
Day 1 : Your period has arrived, I’m sure you’re all familiar with your period, but this is when the blood and tissue lining of your uterus (otherwise knowns as the womb) breaks down and exits your body. Your hormone levels are at an all time low.
Symptoms can include;
Low moods, Anxiety, Cramping (can be very severe for some, and can leave them bed bound, some of you described it as having your stomach ripped out with a blunt knife), heavy bleeding, Nausea, Needing to Urinate more, Leg pain, Headaches, Migraines , Faint spells, Dizzy spells, One sided headaches, Lower back pain, Acne, Fatigue, Tender boobs, Insomnia, Dry skin, High sex drive, Increased body temperature, Uterine cramping, Chocolate cravings, Hunger pain, Vomiting, Pain in pelvis, Loss of appetite, Bloating, Trapped wind, Excess wind, Upset stomach, Being clumsy, Weight Gain, Conditions such as IBS flare up, Mood swings such as : feeling sensitive, emotional, fearful and excluding yourself from social occasions, and a general feeling of CBA.
Day 2 : Your period is in full swing (your uterus is officially having a tantrum and throwing it’s toys out of the pram cause the egg hasn’t been fertilised.) This is usually your heaviest day (it is for me) and you probably like me are still suffering with period side effects. I usually have lower back pain, cramps, feel sick and am very tired.
Day 3 : Is when things start to get a little lighter for me personally, but a normal period can last from 4-8 days so don’t worry if this isn’t the case for you. You may find your period is getting a little lighter, but still have symptoms due to still having low levels of progesterone and estrogen. However estrogen is slowly awaking from her slumber and rising again.
Day 4 : Again you may find your period gets lighter, It may go from red to brown, and a bit more stringy. This is just old blood and totally normal. You also may find that period symptoms to start to alleviate a little. THANK GOD.
Day 5 : For me, by day 5, I’m pretty much done with my period. She’s left the building (pretty much) and symptoms have disappeared for me changing me into a new woman. However don’t worry if you’re still battling through, everyone’s menstrual cycle varies.
Phase 2: Follicular – the days between your period and ovulation. Where estrogen starts to rise in the prep for an egg to be released.
Day 6 : As your period ends, and you put away the pads, tampons, moon-cups for the next three weeks, the follicles in your ovaries start to wake up, and grow in preparation to release an egg (hopeful bastards.) This is triggered by the release of FSH from the pituitary gland in the brain, which also increases the level of estrogen in the body. This means that the hormones start to start the progress of the growth of about 15 to 20 follicles, each in its own “shell.”. This is a process that pretty much starts on day 1 of your period, but is really amping up a gear as we get nearer to ovulation.
Day 7 : So by now, your period should be pretty much finished up. And we are in the second phase of our menstrual cycle, my favourite phase I’ll have you know. Your estrogen levels are starting to rise and rise (hallelujah) and the reason why I’m celebrating is because estrogen is associated with an increased level of serotonin – which is a feel good chemical in our brains. So you may be feeling more spritely and energised.
Day 8 : Estrogen the little babe is still rising, you may have increased confidence and positivity. The follicles are still growing, but your body is so clever, as the estrogen rises, it turns off the production of the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This means there’s a limit on the number of follicles that prepare eggs to be released.
Day 9 : You’re still feeling like glen coco, and your uterus lining is starting to thicken up thanks to your hormones. Your uterus wants to make it’s lining nice and thick so it’s a nice bed as such, for the egg (as it’s very hopeful that it get fertilised and become a baby) so it wants to make it really appealing and cosy. So it’s technically gone out to John Lewis and bought some really nice bedding, you know a really heavy tog duvet, a memory foam mattress topper and some Egyptian cotton sheets. Estrogen is necessary for building up your uterine lining (Estrogen always advises what sheets to buy – she’s won’t have anything less than a 180 thread count.)
Phase 3 : Ovulation: The release of the egg from the ovary usually during the middle of your cycle.
Day 10 : Estrogen is still rising, and your body is getting ready for ovulation. Those follicles are still growing.
Day 11 : Ovulation is around the corner, between now and ovulation (day 14) you are at your most fertile so now is the time to have a bit of ‘how’s your father’ if you are wanting to get preggo. Or y’know be careful if you do not.
Day 12 : So we’re now a couple of days away from ovulation though it can happen between days 10- 14 of your cycle (so y’know) but let’s say it’s a couple of days away- estrogen is still rising. At this point, your body knows that it only can release one egg to go down the fallopian tube in the hope of being fertilised, by a sperm cell and travelling to the uterus.
I imagine, at this point, your ovary has a bit of a Hunger Games moment in the choosing of which follicle will continue this journey. I imagine it’s like they’re all gathered round in their districts worried about who’s going to be chosen, or maybe they’re pumped that they might be the chosen one. I’d like to think that the most dominant follicle stands forward and says ‘ I volunteer as tribute’ and everyone else is like ‘yeah that makes sense.’
So, our Katniss Everdeen follicle is chosen to keep growing and to release an egg in a couple of days, the other non chosen competitors stop growing and I guess die? Which is a bit sad. Whilst your ovary is currently hosting this month’s edition of The Hunger Games, you may also find that your hormones are making you a bit of a horn dog during this time. This is because your body WANTS you to have a baby, sneaky sneaky I see what you’re doing body.
Day 13 : Your estrogen levels are rocketing sky-high, she’s like the shard of the hormones right now, you may of also seen an increase of discharge (this is always my giveaway for when I’m about to ovulate) your discharge will probably be clear and slippery, a bit sticky and stringy, like an egg white as such, and the role of this, is this is your body’s way of trying to help the sperm reach the egg. The discharge is like a little push, to help push the sperm along faster, maybe they think the sperm will be dragging its feet?
Day 14 : Ovulation time baby or should I say Hunger Games time : The chosen follicle aka our tribute releases an egg down the fallopian tube, Katniss EGGerdeen (GETTIT – it’s taken me too long to think of that joke) will live for 12 to 24 hours in the uterus hoping to be visited by a sperm.
Katniss Eggerdeen just as she’s about to be released down the fallopian tube.
Sperm can live for 3-5 days fyi. But she’s just been released down the fallopian tube, so she’s not at this point yet. The release of Katniss EGGerdeen can cause pain on whichever side it’s happening, it can be like a twinge and is called mittelschmerz (which means “middle pain” in German). A lot of women don’t feel this though.
Phase 4 : Luteal Phase : the PMS phase as I like to call it. The time between ovulation and the start of your next period. Your body is essentially getting ready for a pregnancy and then what it does if the egg isn’t fertilised.
Day 15 : Your estrogen pal has done a sky dive off the shard, and progesterone has decided to rear its head. This means you can feel a bit irritable. This is due to the follicle that has just released the egg (Katniss EGGerdeen) has now turned into something called a corpus luteum which is a hormone-secreting structure which produces progesterone as well as estrogen. The role of progesterone at this point, is to ensure your uterus lining is thick enough for the egg, so basically, progesterone has just gone back to John Lewis and returned with fluffy blankets and scatter cushions to try to make it super cosy for the egg.
The uterus is there waiting for the egg to be fertilised, like someone waiting for their parents in law to visit their house, you know when you’ve really tidied the house and waiting anxiously by the window for them to arrive.
I imagine that when the egg does get fertilised this is literally your uterus.
Day 16 : With progesterone on the rise, so does your body temperature, you may find yourself being a bit hotter- not great during a heat wave but hey don’t have to worry about that too much if you live in the UK.
Day 17 : Your egg is still chilling in the fallopian tube heading slowly towards the uterus, it’s checking it’s watch waiting for that sperm to meet it and fertilise. Katniss Eggerdeen is remaining hopeful that she’ll meet her Peeta soon. (FUN FACT : I was team Peeta in the books, but team Gale in the films.) If the egg is fertilized, progesterone from the corpus luteum supports the early pregnancy.
Day 18: Estrogen is back and is starting to rise again, I can imagine she walks back in singing ‘GUESS WHO’S BACK- BACK AGAIN’ Eminem style. But then progesterone starts to rise too..
Exclusive footage of estrogen and progesterone rising…
Day 19 : As the hormones rise (aka the Hormone Games) your boobs can feel the effects and feel more tender than usual, this is due to an increased blood flow to the boobs, it also means they may be a bit fuller too and feel heavy.
Day 20 : So this is the cut off point that Katniss Eggerdeen will wait to be fertilised. She’s had enough of waiting around and breaks down once she lands in the uterus which is quite sad when you think about our poor Katniss, she’s been on a journey our lass. This means that we also say goodbye to Katniss Estrogen as it’s not needed anymore and say hello to PMS.
DAY 21 : PMS symptoms start to say hello…
Now I asked my lovely Instagram followers for what symptoms they get and here we have a compiled list. I tell you what, having a uterus is really bloody (literally) exhausting.
Depression, Anxiety, tight chest due to anxiety, Digestion issues, Bloating, Inflammatory disease flares up, Diarrhoea, Constipated, Sore Boobs, Really sore boobs (this can happen even from two weeks before the big event) Boobs swell & can go up a cup size! Hungry all the time, Craving chocolate, Craving carbs, Craving salty food, Also others lose their appetite, Mood swings , Seeking comfort, Moodiness, Emotional, (VERY) Irritable , No patience, Cramping, Dull ache in lower stomach, headaches, lower back ache, acne, low confidence, sickness, leg pain, weight gain, Endemotris can cause pain when going to toilet during this time, Temperature changes, hip pain, lumps in underarms, vomiting, Rage (someone described themselves like Daenerys wanting to burn everyone.)
Low motivation, Feeling insecure, Hay-fever, Sensitive sense of smell, Headaches & migraines , Shooting Pains, Twinges, Water retention, Heavy limbs, Back aches especially lower back, Dull ache in lower stomach, Pain so bad needing to take time off work, Sickness, Insomnia, Temperature rise/ hot flushes, Cramping (up-to a week before), Thrush, Leg pains, Dry skin and hair, Higher sex drive, Acne, Fatigue.
Day 22 : Progesterone levels are at their peak, (they’re now on the top of the shard) which can cause symptoms like being tired. Progesterone is essential in stabilising the lining in your uterus it so it won’t just start to bleed before it should.
Day 23 : Progesterone is still rising and can also do things like increase the sebum in your skin (brilliant) which can be the reason for a PMS acne outbreak.
Day 24 : Your body is more susceptible to pain at this point in the month, so perhaps avoid anything painful during this time ; waxing, eyebrow threading, attending a family party.
Day 25 : Bloating / PMS weight gain time yay (did you know you can put on up to 10 pounds due to water retention!) You can get water retention in your boobs too (makes them feel heavy) so that’s nice. This is due to your hormonal changes, and imbalance. With the lack of estrogen, but with progesterone rising, it causes an imbalance, and this means that fluid can be retained in the feet, hands, legs, abdomen and breasts. Try to keep hydrated and drink lots of water to try to help flush it out.
Day 26 : Your mood swings are a bit all over the place during this time, for example last month, I almost punched an old lady for dithering too much in the aisles in Lidl (I know I’m a monster) cried at a very cringe proposal on Britain’s Got Talent (much to Henry’s amusement) and had a mega down few days where I proclaimed *I hate myself* – yes I love PMS so much.
Day 27 : PMT symptoms are high, you may be more hungry and have more food cravings. I call this my human dustbin day.
But I have good news, your metabolism is working a little faster at this time of the month, meaning you are probably burning between 100-200 extra calories than normal. The corpus luteum will have started to break down now ( it usually does this between 9-11 days after ovulation if the egg isn’t fertilised.) This break down causes a drop in both your estrogen and progesterone levels, which gives the green light for menstruation aka your period to start.
Day 28 : Here’s Johnny. Literally your period is smashing down the door with an axe, you know it’s coming. You may have acne, all the usual PMT signs, cramps, spotting, your hormones have both sky dove off the shard and at an all time low. Your uterus has a bit of a tantrum that she’s bought all this nice bedding and it’s not going to get used, so she starts to throw it all out and decides to try again next month, but she’s debating whether to try M&S instead though.
Day 1 : Hello period (and it starts ALL OVER AGAIN!)