Welcome to your guide on the follicular phase of your menstrual cycle, the unsung hero of your menstrual cycle. This phase kicks off right after your period and stretches until ovulation, serving as your body’s preparation time for potential pregnancy. The follicular phase typically doesn’t gather much attention due to its subtle yet positive symptoms, understanding the second phase of your cycle is crucial for optimising your well-being or planning for a baby. In this article we delve into the symptoms, hormone changes, let you know how to track this phase, and how to harness the energy boost it often brings.

 

What is the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle?

Scientists include the menstruation phase in the follicular phase. They categorise this as the early and late follicular phases. This can be confusing, so we have separated them.

 

The follicular phase is the second phase of your menstrual cycle, sitting in between your menstrual phase (period) and ovulation. 

It is called the ‘follicular’ phase because it is during this phase you are growing and developing follicles in the ovaries. Each follicle is a small sac that contains an egg.

The follicular phase involves more than just estrogen and progesterone…

 

What happens to my hormones during the follicular phase?

There are four key hormones during the follicular phase:

Estrogen

Progesterone

Lutenising Hormone (LH)

Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH)

 

The follicular phase begins when your brain sends a hormone called follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) to your ovaries. This hormone tells your ovaries to get some eggs ready in preparation for potential fertilisation and becoming pregnant during ovulation a little later during your cycle. 

Your ovaries get to work by producing eggs, each one in its own shell or sac. It is this egg, within the sac, that is called a follicle. Typically, a woman will have a number of follicles in her ovaries prepared, per cycle. 

Although your body is preparing multiple eggs, usually one egg (and therefore follicle) becomes fully mature. The rest stop growing and are absorbed back into the body.

As the follicles grow, they produce estrogen. Your estrogen levels rise helps to thicken the lining of your uterus preparing for that potential pregnancy, but also help to control the FSH levels so that the chosen egg continues to mature and the others don’t.

When the estrogen levels are high enough, it signals to the brain to release of a burst of lutenising hormone (LH), which finishes the maturing of the chosen egg, and causes it to be released by the ovary. 

The release of this mature egg is what we call ovulation. 

In simple terms, the follicular phase phase is all about growing and maturing an egg, ready for release during ovulation and setting up the uterus to potentially begin a pregnancy.

How long should the follicular phase last?

On average, the follicular phase, after your menstruation phase, should last 7 days

Your follicular phase length will depend on your cycle length, however. This can change from month to month, too.

 

How to know if you are in the follicular phase?

As the follicular phase follows the menstruation phase, when your period finishes, you will be in your follicular phase. 

 

How do you feel during the follicular phase?

Some women report:

  • Feeling energised, and energy replenished after their period
  • Increased motivation and zest for life
  • Feeling stronger, fitter and more capable during exercise
  • No mood disturbances. Feeling more ‘stable’ 
  • Increased ability to exercise at a higher intensity

Others just feel back to normal after their period, but nothing new.

The week after your next period, notice how you feel. Do you feel any of these?

 

Some studies that followed women throughout their menstrual cycle found that they are more likely to hit a personal best in the gym, or when running, during the follicular phase

How to calculate and track your follicular phase

If you are someone who has a regular menstrual cycle, you will be able to calculate when your follicular phase begins and could be ending. Lets take the example of the average cycle, 28 days.

Day one of your period, is also day one of your menstrual cycle. Make a note of when your period ends. The first day you don’t have your period, would be day one of your follicular phase.

We know that ovulation takes place around day 15 of your menstrual cycle, now you do the maths. 

The time between the first non-period day, and day 15 (roughly) is likely your follicular phase. Keep this in mind. 

Here is how to find your follicular phase:

Track your menstrual cycle and your phases

You can do this using period tracking apps like flo, Clue, and more.

A quick search and browse on the app store will help choose the best menstrual cycle tracking app for you.

*tracking apps are not completely accurate. We recommend you use them as a guide.

 

Tracking your discharge

During your period (menstruation phase) you would have needed to deploy some sort of measure to catch your period blood and prevent it from seeping into your underwear and clothes. Thankfully you are relieved from these duties during your follicular phase.

During your follicular phase, you will have little to no vaginal discharge or cervical mucus. But as you get closer to ovulation, you may experience clear, watery, and sticky discharge.

Keep an eye out and observe the pattern of your vaginal discharge throughout your cycle.

 

Ovulation Tests

Ovulation tests are not necessary for tracking your follicular phase, but they are an option. 

If you use ovulation tests, you will be able to identify when you are ovulating – signifying that you have moved from the follicular phase to the ovulation phase. 

Once you have a positive ovulation test, you can work backward to when your period ended. In-between then is your follicular phase.

 

Measuring your basal body temperature throughout your cycle

Once again, not necessary for tracking your follicular phase unless you have a reason to. 

During the follicular phase, the average basal body temperature is between 36.1°C and 36.4°C (97°F and 97.5°F). 

It is during ovulation, and the luteal phase that your basal body temperature increases.

If you regularly track this (this requires commitment!), you should be able to identify when your body has moved into the ovulation phase, and therefore the end of your follicular phase.

 

What is a long follicular phase?

A long follicular phase is anything over 7 days, and can be caused by the follicles in your ovaries taking longer to mature.

 

What is a short follicular phase?

A short follicular phase is anything under 7 days. This common for anyone over the age of 30, as your number of follicles decrease as you age. 

A short follicular phase can also mean your LH levels are staying lower than normal. If you’re worried about this, speak to your Doctor or a Gynaecologist.

 

Before you go

As we wrap up the follicular phase, remember that understanding this part of your menstrual cycle is not just about tracking dates – it’s about piecing the different parts of the puzzle together and knowing how your body works. Understanding how your body transitions from one phase to the next, and it’s purpose. 

When we understand the follicular phase, you can begin to embrace your body’s rhythm and harness the power of the follicular phase to benefit you. 

Whether you’re planning a baby or just aiming to feel as best as you can throughout your cycle, recognising and appreciating the role of the follicular phase is a game changer. 

Make the most of those follicular phase vibrant days!

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the symptoms of the follicular phase?
Often times the follicular phase goes unnoticed because you feel back to normal after your period. However, some symptoms of the follicular phase are:
Your period has stopped
Back to normal energy levels, or even a little more than usual
Feeling more physically capable for exercise
Feeling more emotionally and mentally capable
No more cycle related mood disturbances
Clearer skin
Some women report feeling more sociable
Can I get pregnant during the follicular phase?
No. It is during the follicular phase that your body and hormones are preparing the mature and release of an egg from your ovaries. Without this mature egg, you cannot get pregnant. However, if you have unprotected sex during the follicular phase but very close to the ovulation phase, the sperm may survive for the egg being released during ovulation.
What is basal body temperature?
Basal body temperature is your temperature at complete rest. This is when you are asleep, or as soon as you wake up in the morning – even before getting out of bed!
How is basal body temperature linked to the follicular phase?
Your basal body temperature will be slightly lower during the follicular phase. Your basal body temperature rises during ovulation and the luteal phase.

References

Where we get the information for this article from

References
Colenso-Semple, L. M., D’Souza, A. C., Elliott-Sale, K. J., & Phillips, S. M. (2023). Current evidence shows no influence of women’s menstrual cycle phase on acute strength performance or adaptations to resistance exercise training. Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, 5, 1054542.

Fehring, R. J., Schneider, M., & Raviele, K. (2006). Variability in the phases of the menstrual cycle. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing, 35(3), 376-384.

Hooper, A. E. C., Bryan, A. D., & Eaton, M. (2011). Menstrual cycle effects on perceived exertion and pain during exercise among sedentary women. Journal of Women’s Health, 20(3), 439-446

Jukic AM, Weinberg CR, Baird DD, Wilcox AJ. Lifestyle and reproductive factors associated with follicular phase length. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2007 Nov;16(9):1340-7. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2007.0354. PMID: 18001191; PMCID: PMC2834565.

McNulty, K. L., Elliott-Sale, K. J., Dolan, E., Swinton, P. A., Ansdell, P., Goodall, S., … & Hicks, K. M. (2020). The effects of menstrual cycle phase on exercise performance in eumenorrheic women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports medicine, 50, 1813-1827.

Monis, C. N., & Tetrokalashvili, M. (2019). Menstrual cycle proliferative and follicular phase.

Reed, B. G., & Carr, B. R. (2018). The normal menstrual cycle and the control of ovulation. In Endotext [Internet]. MDText. com, Inc..

Reis, E., Frick, U., & Schmidtbleicher, D. (1995). Frequency variations of strength training sessions triggered by the phases of the menstrual cycle. International journal of sports medicine, 16(08), 545-550.

Shoham, Z., Jacobs, H. S., & Insler, V. (1993). Luteinizing hormone: its role, mechanism of action, and detrimental effects when hypersecreted during the follicular phase. Fertility and sterility, 59(6), 1153-1161.

Souza, L. B. D., Martins, K. A., Cordeiro, M. M., Rodrigues, Y. D. S., Rafacho, B. P. M., & Bomfim, R. A. (2018). Do food intake and food cravings change during the menstrual cycle of young women?. Revista Brasileira de Ginecologia e Obstetrícia, 40(11), 686-692.

Steward, K., & Raja, A. (2019). Physiology, ovulation and basal body temperature.

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