The menstrual cycle is the body's monthly pattern of preparing for a possible pregnancy. The lining of the uterus (endometrium) starts to thicken. One of the ovaries releases an egg. And then, if the egg isn't fertilized or a fertilized egg doesn't attach to the lining of the uterus (implant), the endometrium sheds from the uterus as a menstrual period.
- Menstrual phase (period).
The thickened lining of the uterus (endometrium) is shed, causing menstrual bleeding. Day 1 of the cycle is the first day of menstrual bleeding. Bleeding usually lasts for 4 to 6 days.
- Follicular phase.
The lining of the uterus thickens. Also, inside a sac (follicle) on the surface of an ovary, an egg becomes ready to be released.
- Luteal phase.
The egg is released (ovulation). Ovulation days can range from about day 7 to day 22 of the cycle. But for each person, the ovulation day is often on the same day each cycle.
- If the egg is fertilized by sperm, it may attach to (implant in) the lining of the uterus, and pregnancy begins.
- If the egg is not fertilized or a fertilized egg does not implant, the lining of the uterus is shed during the menstrual period. Then the cycle starts again.
Current as of: November 22, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Femi Olatunbosun MB, FRCSC - Obstetrics and Gynecology & JoLynn Montgomery PA - Family Medicine