View complete Your Body sectionThe Menstrual Cycle

The menstrual cycle (or ovulatory cycle) is the length of time between one period and the next, when the lining of the womb is shed as menstrual bleeding. The normal range of a menstrual cycle falls between 28 to 35 days. If you chart the cycle you can see what is normal for you. Twenty-eight days is often quoted as normal but this is not always the case and variations do occur. If so, the cycle can be anywhere between 21 to 40 days. It is important to remember that cycles are individual and can vary from month to month and also change over the years.

A cycle lasts from the beginning of menstruation until the day before bleeding starts again with the first day of bleeding being classified as day 1.

Discharge is heaviest in the first few days and then tapers off. Early discharge may be brownish and initially slow then becomes a darker red before becoming lighter in colour and flow. The amount of discharge varies as well, but up to 80mls is considered normal loss. It is interesting to note that only part of the discharge is in fact blood, the rest is made up of tissue fluids and (endometrial) cells.

The two main events of the cycle are menstruation and ovulation. Once ovulation occurs, there is approximately two weeks (between 12-16 day) until menstruation begins.