What is the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle?
Throughout your cycle, your hormones rise and fall with every phase, and this has very real effects on your body and mental health. Despite how central the phases of our cycle are to our whole wellbeing, most of us have been taught very little about them and how to manage our wellbeing in line with their shifting pattern.
We want to change that. We're unfabling the phases of your cycle, making it easier than ever for you to adapt your habits phase by phase and get the most out of your natural cyclical rhythm.
Welcome to Cycle Care 101.
Allow us to introduce to you: the follicular phase.
We'll give you a hint - it's the phase you're in when you say, "omg, my period is finally over!". And that tends to be all we know.
So today, we're unfabling the follicular phase in our quest to get better connected to our cycle.
1. Your follicular phase often hangs around the longest
Your follicular phase is the longest part of your cycle, and it can also be the most inconsistent. It begins on the first day of your cycle - when your period ends - and ends with ovulation.
The average length of the follicular phase is 16 days, but it can last anywhere from 11 to 27 days, depending on your cycle and how long it takes one dominant follicle to appear. When the follicle is slow to mature, this phase will last longer, and your whole menstrual cycle will also be longer as a result.
A long follicular phase could be triggered by the contraceptive pill or low vitamin d levels, while a shorter follicular phase may be a sign that menopause is on the horizon.
2. FHS rules the follicular phase
On the first day of your cycle, the follicular phase begins when your body starts releasing the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH).
FSH stimulates your ovaries to produce5 to 20 tiny pods called follicles. Inside each follicle sits an immature egg which grows during the follicular phase. Eventually, one of these follicles becomes dominant, and the others start to wither away until they are reabsorbed back into your body.
The winning follicle with the ripening egg increases your body's estrogen production, which in turn makes your uterine lining grow and thicken with nutrients to prepare for a possible pregnancy. While FSH slows down, estrogen and the luteinizing hormone (LH) levels rise and start the process of ovulation - the next phase in your cycle.
3. The follicular phase is as cool as a cucumber
Your menstrual cycle affects your body temperature and tracking it can help you keep in touch with your cycle.
Your basal body temperature is at its lowest when you're at rest, so the best time to measure it is as soon as you wake up in the morning - yes, even before you get out of bed.
For best results, do this at the same time each morning. In the follicular phase of your cycle, your temperature should be 36ºC. When you ovulate, your temperature will rise and remain higher during the luteal phase, confirming that the follicular phase is over.
How can I make the most of my follicular phase?
Refreshed and renewed, during your follicular phase, you’ve got your post period glow on, your estrogen levels are rising and you're filled with energy. We like to think of ourselves during this phase as being steered by BFE - Big Follicular Energy.
Your follicular phase is a great moment in your cycle to start building new habits and push yourself to do things you might not feel up to towards the end of your cycle.
If there's a gym class you've been thinking of joining, chances are you're more likely to stick with it if you start going in your follicular phase.
The spike in estrogen levels also leads to increased positivity and zest for life. This makes your follicular phase a great phase for trying out new things, socialising and being active.
Our Unfabled advice: factor your follicular phase into your plans when you can. Thinking of organising a hike with your friends? You'll probably enjoy it most if you schedule this to sync up with your follicular phase.
Have a deadline coming up? Structuring your productivity to sync in with this phase of your cycle - when you have the most energy - could be a quick hack to get the most out of your time.