Aside from being a bit of an inconvenience from a hygiene perspective, menstruation is actually a handy visible indicator of where in your reproductive cycle you are.

Unless you have an ultrasound machine to hand you cant actually 'see' ovulation occurring, you would have no way of knowing where you stand in your reproductive life. But a menstrual bleed is a no brainier. Today is the first day of my reproductive cycle. From there the ability to understand and chart your cycle becomes easier, giving you a better idea of when you are fertile and when there is the risk or hope, depending on you circumstances, of pregnancy

Lets take a look at the three phases of the menstrual cycle: the follicle phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase. Understanding the science behind these three distinct phases will give you an opportunity to deeply connect with the cycle that takes place within your body each and every month.

The Three Phases Of The Menstrual Cycle -

1.Follicle phase

The pituitary gland releases the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and the luteinizing hormone or lutropin (LH) They reach the ovaries through the bloodstream and stimulate the development of 10 to 100 follicles,The ovaries then start to produce estrogen, which effects various parts of the female body.Normally, only one of the ovaries is stimulated during the menstrual cycle and they end up alternating between cycles.

The pituitary gland then releases another hormone called prolactin. A small amount of prolactin is essential for ovulating; it is produced throughout the menstrual cycle. However, while breastfeeding, high amounts of prolactin prevents ovulation and hinders fertility Estrogen, produced in the ovaries affect the hypothalamus, where the production of hormones, affecting the pituitary gland, is stimulated. This is a so-called stimulus-response system, as on their part the hormones produced by the pituitary gland stimulate the development of follicles in the ovary. The follicles produce estrogen, which affects the hypothalamus and furthermore causes the production of more hormones in the pituitary gland.

Around half way through the cycle, once the estrogen levels in the blood have reached their limit, the pituitary gland releases a dose of luteinizing and follicle-stimulating hormones. As a result, one ovum (and sometimes more) is released by a follicle.The other developed follicles gradually disappear during the 14 remaining days of the menstrual cycle.

Due to the level of estrogen in the bloodstream, the endometrium (the inner membrane of the uterus) will have grown in size in order to accommodate the fertilized ovum. Furthermore, the hormone stimulates the cells in the uterus to release a more diluted mucus, which is conducive to sperm. This mucus indicates fertility, and can be felt by the woman at the entrance of the vagina.

This phase is when women experience bleeding. There are many products available to control the menstrual bleeding such as tampons, sanitary pads, and more recently the FemmyCycle. Unlike sanitary pads and tampons, the FemmyCycle is reusable and lasts an entire year, making it an excellent value.

2. Ovulation

Around 32 hours after the luteinizing and follicle-stimulating hormones have been released, the follicle releases an ovum, which then moves towards the Fallopian tubes. In the Fallopian tubes, the ovum is nourished and stays available for 12 to 36 hours, in order to be fertilized by sperm.

3. Luteal Phase

As the ovum absorbs lipids or fats, it starts to turn yellow.  It continues to produce estrogen and starts to produce progesterone. Progesterone changes the structure of the cervical mucus, which turns thick in order to block sperms from entering, the glands found in the Fallopian tubes and the womb produce a liquid to nourish the ovum and to prepare it for fertilization in the Fallopian tubes, and its implantation in the womb lining. At this point the woman's body temperature will rise by some degrees and will remain high until her cycle ends.

If the ovum was not fertilized, the corpus luteum disintegrates, because of the declining levels of progesterone and estrogen in the bloodstream, during the following 10 days. As the stimulation of the womb lining has ceased, it is shed and the woman's period will start.

As the menstrual cycle is coming to an end, the body temperature will return to normal. If the ovum has been fertilized, some of its cells will start to produce human chronic gonadotropin (HCG). HCG, is the hormone that is detected by pregnancy tests. Human chronic gonadotropin keeps the corpus luteum stable, and because of that it can continue to produce progesterone, which keeps the womb lining rich in nutrients. This is vital during the first ten weeks of pregnancy, until the placenta takes over the nourishment of the fertilized ovum.

The Cessation Of The Menstrual Cycle: Menopause

Towards the end of a women's reproductive life, she might notice a change in pattern or a diminishing or regularity in her menstrual period. This is one of the most common symptoms of the onset of menopause, although some women do experience a sudden cessation of their period. Other common symptoms include hot flashes, mood changes, and uncomfortable vaginal dryness.

For many women, the lack of clarity as to what stage their body is in can be stressful, but home testing kits can give you the closure you need. If you would like to confirm the onset of menopause, simple testing for the presence of FSH with a home testing kit can help put your mind at ease and confirm whats going on inside your body.