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The Menstrual Cycle

The menstrual cycle is divided into three phases, follicular, ovulatory and luteal.

The Follicular Phase

This phase begins on day 1 of the menstrual cycle, or the first day of bleeding. The phase ends just as ovulation begins. This stage of the cycle is involved in developing follicles to a mature state. Sometimes, this part of the cycle is referred to as the one involved in “ripening” the follicles.

The Ovulatory Phase

This stage is the shortest phase and occurs in the mid-part of the cycle. It starts when a large amount of luteinizing hormone is released causing the ripened follicle to ready itself to discharge an egg from the ovary. Ovulation, or release of the egg from the ovary, typically occurs within 24 hours of this rise in luteinizing hormone.

The Luteal Phase

If no pregnancy occurs, the luteal phase follows. This completes the last 2 weeks of the cycle, and ends just before the onset of menses. During this phase, the levels of progesterone and estrogen gradually decrease and this prepares the extra lining of the uterus for separation and the start of menstruation.

Learn more about how menstrual cycle relates to fertility and pregnancy.

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