How the menstrual cycle impacts our daily life

In a woman's life, the menstrual cycle begins at puberty with the first menstruation and ends at menopause when menstruation stops, signifying the end of fertility. It's a significant part of life that is governed by cycle changes, which have many factors that influence it (sometimes numerous, unknown, and unexpected).

How do you better understand your cycle and the effects it has on your daily life? How do you listen to your body and its feelings to identify the way it’s influenced by your menstrual cycle? Read this article to find out.



How does the menstrual cycle work?

The menstrual cycle is controlled by female hormones produced by the ovaries: estrogen and progesterone. These two hormones work together to direct the stages of the menstrual cycle and accompany the female body from stage to stage.

What is the menstrual cycle exactly?

The menstrual cycle is not just about the period of blood loss. It is in fact the whole physiological phenomena that a woman (or any person endowed with a vagina and ovaries) knows, which prepares the body for possible fertilization.

This menstrual cycle begins during puberty and ends at menopause, which also symbolizes the effective cessation of a woman’s menstruation and fertility.

Usually, the duration of this cycle is 28 days, but this "normative" period can vary between people and can be longer or shorter and is not always regular. It can also undergo rhythm changes depending on the periods of a woman's life (moments of stress, emotional shock, etc.). The first day of menstruation marks day 1/28 of the menstrual cycle.

The menstrual cycle consists of 4 stages:

  • The menstrual phase: In the absence of fertilization, the ovarian corpus luteum deteriorates. At this time, the levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest. It is this dramatic drop in hormone levels that triggers the shedding of excess uterine lining. The lining of the uterus, called the endometrial lining – a red fluid containing blood and tissue – breaks away from the walls of the uterus, passes through the temporarily open cervix, and is then expelled through the vagina. It is this phenomenon that is called menstruation. This phase lasts an average of 3 to 7 days but can last up to 14 days depending on the person. During her period, a woman loses between 35ml and 80ml of blood.
  • The follicular phase (or pre-ovulation phase): This second stage of the menstrual cycle begins on the first day of menstruation, therefore accompanying the menstrual phase, and ends at the time of ovulation, around the 14th day. It lasts an average of 2 weeks on a theoretical cycle of 28 days. Follicles are small sac-like structures that contain cellular material. The follicles are stored and directly linked to the ovarian reserve. The oocytes are released each month from the first period up until menopause. During this follicular phase, certain follicles called "primordial" are activated and begin a process of maturation to become "secondary" and then "tertiary" follicles. At the end of this evolution, there remains only one follicle capable of continuing its growth until the stage of pre-ovulatory follicle, known as Graafian follicle. Another hormone then releases its contents: a fertilizable oocyte which makes its way down the fallopian tube towards the uterus. At the end of the menstrual phase, the uterus has just evacuated its old mucous membrane through the phenomenon of menstruation. Once this natural cleaning is completed, the endometrium thickens again under the effect of the progressive secretion of estrogen by the ovaries.
  • The ovulatory phase: This third phase begins with the rise of luteinizing hormone, which is used to trigger ovulation in women and the production of testosterone in men. In women, it occurs on average between the 14th day and the 16th day of the menstrual cycle. As the date of ovulation approaches, the ovaries secrete greater amounts of estrogen, responsible for thickening the uterine wall which makes it favourable for implantation if fertilization takes place. The cervix evolves, opens slightly, and is placed a little higher to promote fertilization. Within 12 hours following this hormonal peak, an egg is released. There are also variations in this ovulatory phase. It is possible not to ovulate every month: we speak of an anovulatory cycle which can be caused by polycystic ovary syndrome and the presence of numerous ovarian microcysts caused by hypothyroidism, or by menopause approaching. It is also possible to ovulate twice during the same cycle: in this case, 2 separate eggs are released which create fraternal twins.
  • The luteal phase: This fourth and final phase begins just after ovulation and extends, in the absence of fertilization, until the eve of menstruation- the 28th day, for a period of approximately 2 weeks. What happens if there is fertilization? The ovary gives rise to ovulation and the ruptured follicle is transformed into the yellow body or corpus luteum, which gives its name to the luteal phase. The level of estrogen is always high, and the level of progesterone increases in parallel, secreted by this corpus luteum and levels up with estrogen to share the function of preparing the uterus for implantation. Progesterone levels peak within 8 days of ovulation and then gradually decline. The embryo takes over hormonal secretions and maintains the corpus luteum and its production of progesterone while the placenta develops. What happens if there is no fertilization? The corpus luteum deteriorates. Estrogen and progesterone levels then drop sharply and trigger menstruation. It is then the beginning of the menstrual phase, so a new cycle begins, and so on!



What is estrogen?

It is a female hormone secreted by the developing ovarian follicles and by the placenta. It is responsible for pubertal development and subsequent maintenance of female physical characteristics. At first, the estrogen production begins to increase after the end of menstruation, reaches its peak at the time of ovulation, then, if the egg is not fertilized, drops sharply at the end of the cycle on the 28th day to start menstruation. Estrogens effects many tissues of the female organism: the utero-genital system, the mammary gland, the skeleton, the skin, the mucous membranes, the cardiovascular system, the brain, and the digestive system . No wonder that their variations (increase during the ovulation phase and sharp decrease just before menstruation) have an influence on the whole system of the human body and do not only impact the menstrual cycle, but also mood, appetite, desire, energy, and much more.

What is progesterone?

It is a female hormone that serves to prepare the uterus for possible pregnancy. Progesterone is produced after ovulation, a period during which its levels increase for a few days and then decrease in the absence of fertilization, to then trigger menstruation. The hormone produces a calming effect: it prevents the uterus from contracting and strengthens the cervix. It acts on the lining of the uterus (or endometrium) to maintain it and prepare it for the reception of an embryo. From the 3rd month of pregnancy, the placenta takes over to produce progesterone and ensure the protection of the embryo.



As we have seen previously, hormones have great power over the female organism, which they masterfully control. The power of influence is great, and inevitably, this also impacts the daily life of a woman who sees some variations in her body and mind depending on the periods of her cycle.

The first phase: resetting the body and mind.

Menstruation begins, triggered by the sharp drop in estrogen and progesterone levels. At this time, the mood is calmer, more stable, and there’s a stronger sense of empathy. It's a bit like a "reset" for the body and the mind with this new cycle that is beginning. Beware, however, of hormonal migraines that may be present in some people.

The second phase: the renewal of energy and self-confidence.

During the second week, during the pre-ovulation period, the production of hormones gradually rise. Energy rises and the body loses sensitivity. Around the 10th day until the 14th day, the level of testosterone in the body gives it a mental and physical boost. We feel lighter, less numb, and liberated. Emotionally, this is the best time to make a decision in your relationship, end a love affair, or be bold if your love life needs it. In one word: dare! This rise in hormones also pushes our desire for seduction. We want to please, to express ourselves, to expose ourselves, and to socialize.

The third phase: the slowing down of energy.

Around the 14th day, ovulation takes place and estrogen and testosterone levels are at their lowest, while progesterone rises. This somewhat complicated hormonal period can cause mood swings. You may feel irritable and high-tempered for a few days, before the hormone level rebalances by the middle of the third week, and your mood along with it. Overall, the energy slows down and is more easily spent, due to the high level of progesterone and its amazing calming and anaesthetic effects. The rhythm of life becomes more flexible, the need for rest is felt. During sports exercises, up to 30% more energy is spent, working the hormones promoting fat-burning actions. In the week of ovulation, the body also changes physically. For example, one side of the face may swell, depending on which side of the ovary is ovulating. If you notice swelling on the right side of your chin, your right ovary may be ovulating!

The fourth phase: great sensitivity and irresistible gluttony.

During this last phase, the body prepares for potential fertilization and hormones continue to climb. Sleep problems can be felt, as well as fatigue because the body is hard at work, perpetuated by hormones. The body is thus much more sensitive and receptive to pain. Some irresistible cravings for sugar can also be part of it, under the influence of progesterone. Pre-menstrual syndrome sets in with some of its symptoms: migraine, headaches, increased sensitivity in the chest, irritability, and fatigue...



Every month, a few days before menstruation, the female body undergoes a real hormonal upheaval. Almost 75% of women experience negative and even unpleasant symptoms during this period: this is known as "premenstrual syndrome" or PMS. This is a set of symptoms that usually occur 3 to 4 days before the arrival of menstruation. More than 150 symptoms are listed, varying according to the cycle and the person. According to the American Psychiatric Association, 3% to 5% of them even suffer from premenstrual dysphoric disorder, characterized by even more severe symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and other significant difficulties that can unfortunately disrupt daily life.

Psychologically, those affected report a state of sadness, anxiety, sensitivity, irritability, mood swings, and  lack of energy and desire.

There are also many manifestations on the physical level:

1.                  Breasts can be swollen and painful: breasts carry hormone receptors. Depending on the person, these receptors will be more or less sensitive to hormonal variations, and the tension produced by these in the mammary glands can be felt to a greater or lesser extent.

2.                  Weight gain can be observed, typically no more than 1 or 2 kilos with possible bloating. Hormones play a role in digestive mobility in the intestines and can cause slowed bowel movements and even constipation.

On a physiological level, the drop in levels of estrogen, and especially progesterone, cause the destruction of the endometrium, the uterine lining. This is the period of menstruation, which is the result of an inflammatory mechanism. Potential pain is caused by the contraction of the uterine muscles with the purpose of extracting the endometrium and blood.

We don't necessarily think about it, but pre-menstrual syndrome can be the cause of many ailments. To learn more about  gynecological diseases like dyspareunia or endometriosis, here is our blog post on them. Overall, don't hesitate to contact your doctor or gynaecologist to better understand these symptoms and their influence on your daily life.



Beyond the power of hormones on mood balance, these are also closely linked to sexual appetite and libido. So, how can hormones impact our sexuality?

It is known that women who have had their ovaries removed experience a greater drop in libido than during menopause. We also know that women who take hormonal contraception are less in tune with their cycle and their libido, which tends to be unbalanced, decrease, and even disappear completely. All of this proves that hormones influence our sex life and desire.

At what point(s) of the menstrual cycle is a woman's sexual desire strongest?

During the pre-ovulation period, the body naturally produces many more hormones to push us to procreate, making us want to have sex and reproduce. Sex is even better during this time because it becomes easier for women to reach orgasm. Hormones also help produce more natural lubrication. Hormonally Speaking, this will be the period when the woman will feel the urge to have sex the most, just before ovulation, i.e. 10 to 14 days after the first day of menstruation.

On the other hand, once ovulation is over, progesterone rises again with its calming and anesthetic effects that impact arousal: this is the drop in libido.

Also, during menstruation, the level of progesterone in the female body decreases and can lead to a rise in desire again. Many women report wanting to have sex during their period. However, this hormonal influence on libido is not nearly as strong as it is during ovulation. The psychological well-being of the individual and the couple remains essential when it comes to preserving sexual desire.

In women more than in men, hormones arbitrarily govern daily life, both physically, physiologically, and psychologically throughout the menstrual cycle. Many factors therefore impact the woman when it comes to her mood, her appetite, her energy, her energy expenditure, her intimate and sexual life, her libido, and her desire to make love.

The most important thing is to understand and listen to your body, feel its needs and desires, and give your body what it needs throughout the cycle.