The role of hormones in the menstrual cycle

Hormones control our bodily functions and the menstrual cycle is no different. They control when an ovum is released (ovulation) and when the lining of the uterus is shed (menstruation). Menstruation is necessary for reproduction and is considered the beginning of the reproductive years of women.

Many women are wondering what is normal or not in their menstrual cycles. Sometimes, when trying to get pregnant, women are not sure what is going on with their body. Indeed, what about fertility? Is there a time of the month that is more fertile than others? All women should have a basic understanding of what is going on to help their doctor diagnose possible problems.

Menstrual cycle length

Your menstrual cycles are actually counted from the start of your bleeding in one cycle until the first day of bleeding on the next. And not from the end of the period to the beginning of the next one as many women believe.

Cycles typically last between 25 and 35 days, and only 10 percent of women have the “standard” 28-day cycle. Hormones of the menstrual cycle monitor all phases of preparation for pregnancy; two are produced by the pituitary gland and two by the ovaries.

How hormones work

The pituitary gland controls the production and release of luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone. The ovaries produce estrogen and progesterone.

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During the first 13 days of the cycle, the uterus begins to build up the lining for a potential pregnancy. This is the follicular phase that lasts until a surge of luteinizing hormone that stimulates the release of an egg for ovulation. The follicular phase shortens during menopause.

The hormone of the menstrual cycle in the follicular phase, produced by the pituitary gland, is a follicle stimulating hormone that stimulates the ovaries to produce 1 to 20 eggs. As the level of the hormone decreases, a single egg continues to grow; it is the dominant egg. The dominant egg is pushed out of the ovary and leaves behind an empty shell called the corpus luteum.

The next phase is the ovulatory phase and is characterized by the release of the egg. After the release of the egg, the corprus luteum secretes estrogen and progesterone to support the lining of the uterus. If no egg is fertilized, hormone levels drop and the body loses the lining of the uterus – menstruation.

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Periods in the cycle

Blood loss during menstruation averages 130 ml per month. Hormones menstrual cycle complete the three phases with the luteal phase, after the ovulatory phase, which lasts about 14 days. These phases appear to overlap between the luteal phase and the follicular phase. However, it is difficult to predict the onset of one phase to another without the hormone levels being shot.

These hormone releases, which guide the potential for pregnancy or control menstruation, are experienced by all women. And, all women should have some understanding of what we now know that helps focus the body for pregnancy.


Women’s Health in Connecticut: Periods and Hormones
British Pharmaceutical Industry Association: Sex Hormones and the Menstrual Cycle
Couple-to-couple league: hormones affecting the female cycle
University of California at San Francisco: the menstrual cycle
Better health: menstrual cycle
Go ask Alice: Woman’s menstrual cycle
Manuel Merck: Menstrual cycle

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