Don’t know where you are in your monthly cycle? Not to worry—figuring it out is easy.
That’s because each of the four weeks of your cycle has a distinct “personality” that’s easy to recognize.
Plus, your body gives you numerous physical clues that let you know where you are.
Don’t have a 28-day cycle or does the length of your cycle vary from month to month? These clues will help you pinpoint where you are no matter how long your cycle lasts.
Here are the clues to look for:
Week 1: Whirring to life
Day 1 (first day of your period) to Day 7
Estrogen starts out at rock-bottom and rises all week
Figuring out when you enter Week 1 of your monthly cycle is simple: It starts on the first day of your period, which is considered Day 1. This is when estrogen bottoms out, signaling your body to start shedding your uterine lining.
A few hours after your period begins, estrogen begins to slowly rise and it continues to rise throughout this week.
Depending on your sensitivity to rising estrogen, you may experience an improvement in mood, energy, memory and the desire to socialize within the first couple of days of your period starting thanks to this hormone. Or, it may take until the middle of your Week 1 for these hormone-fueled benefits to kick in.
Either way, you’ll notice that any premenstrual symptoms you may have experienced subside and you’re on the upswing mentally and physically.
Week 2: Peak of perfection
Day 8 to ovulation (which is Day 14 in a 28-day cycle)
Estrogen rises all week until it peaks; testosterone rises at the end of this week and peaks
You officially reach Week 2 of your cycle 8 days after start of your period. But, if you’ve lost track, look for these clues from your brain: You tend to have more upbeat moods, your memory is sharper, you’re thinking faster and are speaking more quickly and fluidly. You’re also more impulsive, confident and outgoing. These effects are all due to peaking estrogen and testosterone.
Your body is also making it easy to determine when you’ve reached Week 2: You have far more energy and stamina, you’re less sensitive to pain, your libido is revved and your vaginal secretions are clear and thin.
The last day of your Week 2 is the day you ovulate—and the day this occurs can vary according to the length of your cycle. Fortunately, there are a few easy tools to help you determine when you ovulate:
Basal thermometer: This special thermometer reads your “basal temperature”, which is your body temperature right after waking in the morning, but before getting out bed. On the day after you ovulate, your basal temperature rises .4 to one degree Fahrenheit due to a slight rise in progesterone. You can purchase a basal thermometer at drugstores and Amazon.com, such as the Easy@Home Digital Basal Thermometer.
Ovulation microscope: An ovulation microscope is a reusable lipstick-sized mini-microscope that determines when you’re about to ovulate by measuring the amount of salt in your saliva. You dab a little spit on the microscope lens and, once it dries, if you see distinct fern shapes through the eye-piece, it means you’re going to ovulate the next day. If you see small ferns, you’re about three days away from ovulation. If you see dots and lines, you’re not close to ovulation. You can purchase an ovulation microscope from Amazon.com, such as the Fertile Focus Ovulation Microscope.
Ovulation test strips: You know how you can pee on a stick to find out if you’re pregnant? The same easy method can also help you detect when you’re ovulating. When you dip an ovulation test strip into your urine, a chemical in the strip measures levels of a certain hormone (luteinizing hormone—LH) that spikes right before ovulation. Results come in as quickly as one minute. You can find ovulation test strips, such as MediTesti Ovulation Test Strips, at drugstores and Amazon.com.
Week 3: Slow and low
Begins day after ovulation and lasts 8 days (that’s Day 15 to Day 22 in a 28-day cycle)
Estrogen and testosterone plunge for the first half; estrogen rises during the second half; progesterone rises throughout
You officially enter Week 3 the day after you ovulate. In a 28-day cycle, that would be Day 15.
Not sure when you ovulated, but suspect it already happened? You can confirm it by looking for these clues: One to two days after you ovulate, you’ll likely feel slightly fatigued to downright lethargic, have intermittent irritability, be mental foggy or forgetful and have a significantly lower sex drive—basically the exact opposite of everything you experienced in your Week 2.
Why the many sudden changes? One reason is plunging estrogen. Very few women are aware that estrogen actually dips not once, but twice every month—and this is the first of those two plunges. As a result, you can experience a bit of “pre-PMS”, which is similar to what you experience during regular PMS, but shorter and less intense.
The other culprit triggering all these changes is progesterone. This sedating hormone rises all throughout Week 3, and as it climbs, it brings down your pep, quashes your libido and slows your brain speed.
Progesterone is also triggering a bigger appetite and cravings for sweet, salty and fat-rich comfort foods.
There’s one more clear-cut signal you can look for: Your vaginal discharge becomes thick and cloudy due to rising progesterone. So, a quick “dipstick” test can help you figure out if you’ve entered your Week 3.
Week 4: See-sawy
Final 6 days of your cycle
Estrogen and progesterone plunge
Known best for being the week you might experience symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, you may realize you’re in your Week 4 by sudden bouts of irritability and moodiness, headaches, sadness, anxiety or a mix of all the above.
The upside of your premenstrual week is that you may notice you feel more energetic and clear-headed compared to how you were in your Week 3. That’s because progesterone is plunging—and that means there’s less of this sedating hormone to weigh you down physically and mentally.
There is one more silver lining to enjoy in your Week 4: Your libido comes back to life and gets more intense the closer you get to your period. This isn’t due to hormones, however. Instead, researchers think it’s a side effect of nerve endings down below getting stimulated as your body prepares for menstruation.
IMPORTANT: Please do not use the methods described above to detect ovulation as a sole method of birth control. Semen, a surprisingly patient male bodily secretion, can live within your body for up to seven days, which means if you have sex up to a week prior to ovulation, you could possibly get pregnant even if you abstain during ovulation. To avoid pregnancy, use a form of birth control with a high efficacy rate (such as an IUD, condoms with spermicide or hormone birth control) all cycle long.