The Period Diaries: A Guide to Menstrual Cycles


The Period Diaries: A Guide to Menstrual Cycles

by Jalyn Hall
March 12, 2024

Dear Diary, why do I have to be in pain every single month? 

Periods or in other terms “That Time of the Month.” We as women all get them. Light or heavy we all bleed out of our vaginas every single month until we reach a certain age. It can be rough not knowing how to navigate bleeding, bloating, and mood swings throughout the various phases. Read on for answers to your questions about why exactly you bleed out of your vagina every single month and why it can hurt so much when it does in this guide to what in the world a period is!

Menstrual cycles prepare the body for pregnancy. If you are not pregnant, your body sends signals to your uterus to shed its lining, which is what your period is made of. This happens every month while tissue and blood that build up to line your womb exit the body. Periods can cause contractions or terrible cramps this is caused by the process in which the blood is expelled. Prostaglandins are hormones that trigger uterine muscle contractions, which are the pain you feel in your lower belly when bleeding. The higher the prostaglandins, the more pain you’ll feel during your cycle, which differs from woman to woman. 

During a period, many people feel crabby, irritable, bloated, and fatigued but this is all due to the different stages of a period and the diverse emotions that come with them! During my period, I am normally really irritable and fatigued. I feel tired and I tend to like being on my dealing with my cramps. The bleeding part of my period normally lasts from 5-7 days, which is so long in my eyes. To make my period easier to deal with I like to use heating pads and take the best period medication on the market; which I believe is Motrin & Tylenol (acetaminophen & ibuprofen). Kiss cramps goodbye! Remaining active during a period is the best way I’ve found to relieve pain. Going to the gym, doing a sport, Pilates, or anything that you consistently need to do to see results is vital to my peaceful and pain-free cycle.

Now to get into the stages of a period. You probably didn’t know there were four of them, but I’m here to explain them all to you so you become a period pro! 

The First Phase

The first stage of a period is the worst and most painful phase, the menses. This is the first day of your period and the first day your uterus sheds its lining, you may get contractions due to the uterus trying to get built-up tissue in the womb out by bleeding. Hormones are usually raging during this stage; bloating, crabbiness, and pain perfectly describe the menses phase (for me) but it’s all normal when first beginning your cycle.

The Second Phase

Next up is the follicular phase, which is the longest but most peaceful stage of a period. It normally lasts between 14-21 days. During the follicular phase, the ovaries hold a developing egg which will be released during ovulation (the next stage of a period). During the end of your follicular phase, you are most at risk of pregnancy if you’re sexually active since you are most fertile during this time. In other words, please use protection during sex to avoid a baby (and sexually transmitted infections!) if you’re not seeking to have one, girlie! Safe sex is the best sex!

The Third Phase

The third phase is ovulation. During this stage of a period, your sexual desires can feel heightened, and you may see more white-ish discharge in your underwear.  Both are perfectly normal. Ovulation happens when a mature egg that developed during the follicular phase is released and makes its way to your fallopian tubes. The second and third phases can overlap one another or even occur at the same time! The end of ovulation marks the end of the follicular phase and the beginning of the luteal phase which starts the period all over again!

The Fourth Phase

The fourth and final stage of a period is the luteal phase! This phase is when the body prepares the uterus for pregnancy by thickening the uterine lining. During this phase, an egg travels from your ovary to your fallopian tube. If sperm fertilizes that egg, the fertilized egg implants into your uterine lining, and boom! There’s a bun in the oven. If the egg does not become fertilized by sperm or doesn’t implant, your period will begin once again, striking the end of the luteal phase. 

Knowing when different phases of your period occur is a good skill to have and vital in understanding your body. It’s okay to not know much about periods or how to deal with them because God knows when I first got my period I felt just as lost as you all do now! The older I got, the more I dove in to understand exactly what a period is and how to deal with it. It’s worth it since I have to deal with it for half a lifetime anyway! Remember you can ease period pains with physical activity, medicine, and heating pads. To get out of a slump during your period to make yourself feel better, do an activity to make you happy; try something fun or something new to boost serotonin levels. Trust me, I know navigating periods is hard, but having fun while doing it makes it all the better!

Jalyn will graduate from Jackson Reed High School in Washington, DC. She is the DC Youth Attorney General and a member of NHS for the class of 2024 and plans to study nursing and cosmetic dermatology in college.