Follicular phase: everything you need to know about this period of the menstrual cycle
Many women do not know their menstrual cycle and how it works. However, knowing and understanding your body, how it works and how your mood fluctuates during the month, for example, is very useful. Focus on the follicular phase!
- What is the follicular phase?
- What happens in the body during the follicular phase?
- What are the symptoms experienced during the follicular phase?
- How long does this phase of the menstrual cycle last?
- Our tips for staying in shape during the follicular phase!
- Can you get pregnant during the follicular phase?
What is the follicular phase?
The menstrual cycle is composed of four phases:
- The menstrual phase or period;
- The follicular phase;
- The luteal phase.
The average cycle length is 28 days. We are talking about an average because some women may have longer or shorter cycles.
The menstrual cycle always begins on the first day of menstruation. This is the first part, the least pleasant for many. They last between 3 to 7 days on average, again each woman is different. The blood flow is more or less important depending on the day of the period and also depending on the nature of each woman.
After the period, comes the follicular phase. During this phase, which lasts about 14 days (from the first day of the period), it is the ovarian follicle that will act. What is the ovarian follicle? It is like a small bag in which theoocyte (also called gamete) is stored since our birth.
The ovaries contain a stock of 500,000 follicles. All these follicles have one thing in common: they want to provide the next egg. During this phase, the egg is preparing to leave the ovary and become an egg. The egg travels through the fallopian tubes to the uterus where it may meet a sperm. If no fertilization occurs, then it will be expelled during the next period.
During the follicular phase, also called the pre-ovulatory phase, hormones change. Estrogen increases which will:
- Thicken the endometrium (the lining of the uterus);
- Cause the ovarian follicle to mature;
- Change the cervical mucus to make it more translucent and less thick, to facilitate the passage of spermatozoa.
After the follicular phase, comes the ovulatory phase. It marks on average half of the cycle. This is when the egg is released into one of the two fallopian tubes. This phase is very short, lasting only one day.
Finally, the last phase of the female cycle is the luteal phase. At the beginning of this phase, the uterus prepares to receive the egg if fertilization occurs. If there is no meeting between egg and sperm, the hormones will then drop and cause the menstrual flow to evacuate the uterine lining.
What happens in the body during the follicular phase?
The follicular phase is not just about the growth of the egg; there are many other changes that take place.
During this phase, or folliculogenesis stage, some gametogenic follicles are activated to grow and mature. They then evolve for 14 days and go through several stages:
- First, dozens of primordial follicles develop into primary, then secondary (also called antral) and tertiary (cavitary) follicles;
- But only one of these follicles will be able to detach from the others to continue its maturation. When this follicle detaches from the others, it reaches the stage of pre-ovulatory follicle or de Graaf follicle or mature follicle;
- It is this follicle that will release an oocyte when it matures at the time of ovulation.
This stage of the cycle is controlled by theFSH hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. While the ovarian follicles and the oocyte are working, the uterus is also getting ready: under the action of the estrogens secreted by the ovary, the endometrium (or uterine mucous membrane) thickens to be able to receive an egg.
Cervical mucus also changes during the follicular phase: after menstruation, the mucus is quite thick and opaque, with no discharge. But at the end of your follicular phase, you may notice a change in the appearance of the cervical mucus: it becomes more translucent but also more liquid to facilitate the passage of sperm.
What are the symptoms during the follicular phase?
At the beginning of the follicular phase (i.e. the menstrual flow), some people may experience symptoms, which may be more or less severe. These can be pain and menstrual crampsBut also psychological symptoms like bad mood, tiredness...
Then, at the end, when we approach the pre-ovulatory phase, theenergy tends to return. This is a period when you generally feel more motivated, in a good mood, etc. All these mood fluctuations are linked to hormonal variations.
How long is this phase of the menstrual cycle?
The menstrual cycle lasts about 28 days. Some women have a shorter cycle and others a longer one. While the luteal phase is always 14 days long, the follicular phase is not.
A longer follicular phase in most cases does not affect your chances of getting pregnant. Theoretically, a longer cycle means that there are fewer ovulations in a year than in a normal or short cycle, and therefore fewer periods of fertilization.
Beware: a very long follicular phase can be a sign of PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). Other external factors such as stress, intense physical activity or jet lag can cause a long cycle.
A follicular phase is said to be short when it lasts less than 10 days. Don't worry, there are no major health risks. However, if the duration is short, the risk is that there is an immature egg that cannot be fertilized, or with chromosomal abnormalities.
If your menstrual cycle is too short, it is quite possible to be managed by your health professional. He or she can prescribe an appropriate treatment (usually ovarian stimulation to promote follicle growth).
In any case, if your cycles tend to be irregular and you are experiencing difficulties in conceiving a child, consult a specialist!
How to calculate the arrival of the follicular phase?
There is a method to find out the length of your follicular phase: it consists of taking 14 days from the date of your first period. This will give you the length of your luteal phase, which never changes.
Then, simply subtract these 14 days from the total number of days. For a short cycle of 26 days, for example, it lasts 12 days. For a long cycle, 34 days for example, it lasts 20 days.
Otherwise, an application to calculate your menstrual calendar will help you better define when each phase of your menstrual cycle takes place.
Our tips for staying in shape during the follicular phase!
The cycle is punctuated by hormonal changes that affect our morale. There are some simple tips to help you get through this period.
For your diet, avoid refined sugars, caffeine and also alcohol which are inflammatory foods that tend to aggravate period pains. During your period, at the beginning of your follicular phase, the ideal is to favor fruits and vegetables, rich in micronutrients to give you energy. To fight against period pain and inflammation, you can rely on chia seeds, flax seeds and pumpkin seeds as well as oily fish, rich in omega 3.
At the end of your period, you can switch to:
- Whole grains, legumes and root vegetables that will give you energy;
- Vegetable and animal proteins;
- And always flax and pumpkin seeds.
Can you get pregnant during the follicular phase?
As detailed earlier in the article, this is a phase of evacuation of the endometrium, without fertilization during the previous cycle and preparation for a new ovulation and potential new fertilization. It is therefore not during this phase that the chances of getting pregnant are the highest.
However, this does not mean that it is impossible to get pregnant during this phase: there is no such thing as zero risk, so it is important to protect yourself during this phase if you do not want to get pregnant.
The follicular phase FAQ
What are the differences between the follicular phase and the luteal phase?
The follicular phase is the first phase including menstruation. It is during this phase that the body will prepare for possible fertilization. The luteal phase is the period after ovulation until the next menstrual period begins.
What are the differences between the follicular phase and ovulation?
Ovulation marks the beginning of the luteal phase, the last phase of the cycle. Ovulation occurs because of everything that happens during the follicular phase.
What impact does the luteal phase have on fertility?
The luteal phase lasts 14 days. At the beginning of the luteal phase, ovulation takes place and it is during this time that we have the "fertility window", that is to say, the theronic moment or a woman is most fertile (around the 14th day).
You will also like :
- Luteal phase: everything you need to know about this period of the menstrual cycle
- Long menstrual cycle: why does it last longer?