Menstrual Cycle: A Comprehensive Overview

The menstrual cycle is a complex biological process experienced by women of reproductive age. It is characterized by cyclical hormonal changes that result in the shedding of the uterine lining, or menstruation. The cycle typically lasts between 21 to 35 days, and consists of three phases: the follicular phase, the ovulatory phase, and the luteal phase (Choudhary & Kriplani, 2020). Understanding the hormones involved in the menstrual cycle, as well as the physical and psychological symptoms associated with it, is essential for informed decision-making related to reproductive health.

Hormones and the Menstrual Cycle

The menstrual cycle is regulated by two hormones, estrogen and progesterone, which are produced by the ovaries (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2020). During the follicular phase, estrogen levels increase, stimulating the growth of follicles in the ovaries, which contain the eggs. As the follicles mature, they produce increasing amounts of estrogen, which causes the uterus to thicken and prepare for a potential pregnancy. This thickened uterine lining is known as the endometrium (Choudhary & Kriplani, 2020).

At the end of the follicular phase, one of the follicles will become dominant and release an egg, a process known as ovulation. The surge of estrogen that accompanies ovulation triggers a surge of luteinizing hormone (LH), which causes the follicle to rupture and release the egg (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2020). After ovulation, the luteal phase begins. During this phase, the ruptured follicle secretes progesterone, which causes the endometrium to further thicken in preparation for implantation. If fertilization does not occur, progesterone levels will drop, resulting in the shedding of the endometrium and menstruation (Choudhary & Kriplani, 2020).

Physical and Psychological Symptoms

Women may experience both physical and psychological symptoms throughout their menstrual cycle. Common physical symptoms include abdominal cramps, bloating, breast tenderness, fatigue, and headaches (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2020). In addition, some women experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which is characterized by psychological symptoms such as mood swings, irritability, and anxiety (Choudhary & Kriplani, 2020). PMS is thought to be caused by hormonal fluctuations, and can be managed through lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2020).


The menstrual cycle is a complex and dynamic process, regulated by hormones and resulting in physical and psychological changes. Understanding the menstrual cycle is essential for informed decision-making related to reproductive health, and can help women manage and cope with the fluctuating symptoms associated with it.


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2020). Menstrual cycle: Symptoms & changes. Retrieved from

Choudhary, S., & Kriplani, A. (2020). Menstrual cycle: An overview. Indian Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1(1), 1-7. doi:10.1007/s40944-020-00205-5

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