5 Things You Might Not Know About Your Period

A guest post by Jordan D’Nelle

Do you remember what your menstrual cycle “talk” looked like? Maybe you were sat down on the bed and given a book called The Care and Keeping of You, like I was. Or maybe all you heard about the menstrual cycle was what they quickly taught you in school (newsflash: not much!). Or maybe you were one of the fortunate ones where your mom actually sat you down to give you information, reassurance, and period supplies. Lucky you!

No matter where you got your information from, many of us grew up dreading our cycles, and totally confused about what was actually happening in our bodies. Worse, sometimes we even started to resent our bodies, or started to feel uncertain in our own skin at a very early age. 

In fact, for many of us, the menstrual cycle is still a mystery. And there is actually much more to the menstrual cycle than just the 5-ish days you bleed.

Here are some of the common things I find people do not know about their menstrual cycle. 

It’s a 28 day-ish cycle, not just when you bleed. 

Period products around a calendar
…And not every woman’s cycle is 28 days, either. Some people have irregular periods, or different cycle lengths entirely.

There are 4 parts to the menstrual cycle; follicular, ovulatory, luteal, and menses. There are hormones secreted from the hypothalamus, pituitary, and ovaries that signal to the body what to do during each phase. These hormones impact the follicle growth, ovulation, thickening of the uterine lining, and then shedding of the uterine lining when pregnancy hasn’t occurred. This shedding of the uterine lining is what we see as our menstrual flow. Pretty incredible, right?

Hormones fluctuate throughout the cycle.

Hormones fluctuating can really have a huge effect on our moods, and our physical bodies.
Boy, can those hormones fluctuate…

There are 5 primary hormones that are involved with the menstrual cycle; Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), estrogen, Luteinizing Hormone (LH), progesterone, and testosterone.

FSH is produced by the pituitary that signals to the ovaries to produce a follicle. A follicle is a fluid-filled sac that has the egg inside of it. As the follicle grows it produces estrogen which signals back to the hypothalamus and pituitary. As the estrogen rises indicating a follicle is growing, it triggers the body to release luteinizing hormone (LH) from the pituitary. LH causes final maturation of the egg and release of the egg, leading to ovulation. The LH surge is about 40 hours before the egg is released. Right around ovulation, testosterone peaks as well, which plays a huge role in arousal and desire (which ForPlay Films knows a LOT about! 😉 ).

When the egg is released, the follicle that was in the ovary turns into the corpus luteum which produces progesterone to support a pregnancy. When a pregnancy doesn’t occur the corpus luteum is absorbed and the progesterone drops causing the uterine lining to shed, aka the menses. Which is what we experience as our period!

All of these hormones have an effect on our day to day life, specifically affecting our energy levels and mood. 

You can’t get pregnant all month.

Methods of birth control
There are so many ways to reduce your chances of getting pregnant – as long as you use them correctly!

You might have heard the term fertile window before. The fertile window is a 5-6 day window where you can get pregnant. Once the egg is released it only is viable for about 24 hours, while sperm is viable within the body for 5-6 days. You can only get pregnant when ovulation occurs, however, monitoring ovulation can be difficult especially if you have irregular cycles.

If you have regular cycles, tracking them is important to help you know where you are in your menstrual cycle. One word of advice is not to depend solely on your mobile apps for tracking your ovulation. I would recommend tracking ovulation with LH strips, basal body temperature, cervical mucus or other natural family planning methods to closely monitor your body’s cues of ovulation.

When attempting to avoid pregnancy, you will want to avoid intercourse for 5-6 days before ovulation, or use a dependable form of birth control (or even two). Believe it or not, sperm can live in your body during that time frame. So even if you aren’t fertile during the act of intercourse, those little swimmers can wait around until an egg is released a few days later – so be careful!

Women have testosterone.

An Asian woman with a boxing glove
Don’t mess with a woman… OR her hormones!

Testosterone is not a male-only hormone! Women (and assigned-female-at-birth NB folks, of course) have some testosterone circulating in their bodies, too. It actually peaks right around ovulation, which biologically makes sense, in that, increased testosterone is often  associated with increased arousal and desire. That is why during ovulation you are sometimes more interested in getting frisky! Fun!

And of course, if you have a particular sexual itch to scratch, ForPlay Films has an incredible library of erotic films to help get you off… hint hint 😉

The period you have on hormonal birth control isn’t a real period. 

Flowery period pad
(Pssssst… This isn’t a real period either.)

That’s right – when you are on hormonal birth control the bleeding that you have is called a “withdrawal bleed” and it isn’t a true period. It is not caused by the same biological process as a true menses with the fluctuation of hormones. Who knew?

In conclusion…

When you understand your menstrual cycle it builds confidence and leaves you feeling empowered. I want to help women and other menstruators to understand their menstrual cycle in even greater detail, learn how it impacts their day to day life, and then help them optimize their habits to live in harmony with their hormones. 

By understanding your own body, you can ultimately live a more aligned, easeful, more energized, and all-around happier life.

To learn more about Period Power, and how to harness it, go to jordandnelle.com/periodpower!


Jordan D’Nelle is a Physician Associate, Women’s Sexual Health Educator, Intimacy Coach, and speaker. She is the founder of the Vaginas, Vulvas, and Vibrators Podcast, and creator of the “Period Power” program. Her goal is to raise awareness about conditions, sexuality, sexual intimacy and relationships that specifically affect women. She wants to help normalize women’s health and create a safe space for women to feel validated. Jordan has been featured in Cosmopolitan magazine, Women’s Health Magazine, and many other podcasts. She has helped many women overcome shame and have better intimacy with themselves and their partners. Available for coaching, now! 


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