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Your menstrual cycle

The chart below is based on a sample 28-day menstrual cycle. Every woman is different, though, in how long her bleeding periods lasts and how many days come between them. For example, your cycle could be as short as 23 days or as long as 35. To learn about your own pattern or schedule, it can help to keep track of your periods on a calendar. Keeping track will help you to better know when to expect your next period and let you know if you haven’t gotten it in too long. Create your own girlshealth.gov Cycle Calendar.

The menstrual cycle includes not just your period, but the rise and fall of hormones and other body changes that take place over the month. At first, your periods may not be regular; you may have two in one month, or have a month without a period at all. Periods will become more regular in time. If you’re concerned about your cycle, learn about problem periods.

Day 1 Your period begins and the flow is at its heaviest. You may have cramps or stomach pain.

Day 2 Your period still likely is heavy, and you may have cramps or stomach pain.

Days 3/4 Your body removes the rest of the tissue in the womb. This sometimes can come out as dark clumps.

Days 5/6/7 There is still some blood, but the cramps should be over.

Days 8/9The bleeding and pain usually are over.

Days 10/11/12 Your body should feel great! Even though you don’t have your period, changes are still happening in your reproductive system.

Days 13/14 Ovulation happens around this time. (Some women have cramps, but you likely won’t feel a thing when you ovulate.)

Days 15/16 Hormone levels rise, helping to keep your body strong. At the same time, your breasts may be tender.

Days 17/18/19/20 Your hormones are shifting, which can cause any or all of these symptoms:

  • Bloating
  • Tender or sore breasts
  • Moodiness
  • Cramping

You may feel very emotional during this phase, but many young women do not have pain or mood changes at all.

Days 21/22 A drop in hormone levels can cause you to feel tired, and you may feel like you need more time alone.

Days 23/24 If you have PMS (premenstrual syndrome), you may have any or all of the following symptoms:

  • Mood swings
  • Worries about things that may not be important
  • Lack of interest in usual activities
  • Tiredness
  • Breast pain
  • Bloating
  • Headaches
  • Food cravings
  • Trouble focusing

Days 25/26 Important hormones are at very low levels, so you may have even stronger PMS symptoms. Symptoms may include:

  • Mood swings
  • Worries about things that may not be important
  • Lack of interest in usual activities
  • Tiredness
  • Breast pain
  • Bloating
  • Headaches
  • Food cravings
  • Trouble focusing

Days 27/28 This is the end of the menstrual cycle, and your hormone levels have gone way down. The lining of your womb gets ready to be shed during this time, and your body prepares to start the cycle again. Most women have cramps during this time, which can let you know that your period is about to begin.

Every woman is different in:

  • The number of days in between periods
  • How long periods last

To learn about your own pattern or schedule, it can help to keep track of your periods on a calendar. Keeping track will help you to better know when to expect your next period. Learn to use the girlshealth.gov Cycle Calendar.

 

Content last reviewed October 13, 2010
Page last updated October 31, 2013

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.

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