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What is the difference between menstrual period and menstrual cycle?

Updated: May 8

A giant cause of misinformation and ignorance about the menstrual cycle.

You've probably heard of your "menstrual period" or "menstrual cycle," but do you really know what each means?

If you have ever wondered what the difference is between a menstrual period and a menstrual cycle, you are in the right place. Let's break down these terms and understand them in a simple way.

diagrama del ciclo menstrual completo con ciclo ovarico hormonal y uterino

It's easy to confuse these terms, but they have different meanings:

  • Menstruation (or period): is the bleeding that occurs when the endometrium (lining of the uterus) is shed because there has not been a pregnancy.

    • How long should menstruation last? 2 to 7 days is a healthy bleeding range.

  • Menstrual Cycle: This is the complete cycle that includes all phases from the first day of your menstrual period until the day before the next period. It includes the follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase.

    • How long should my full menstrual cycle last? from 24 to 38 days.

The menstrual period is only a part of the entire menstrual cycle.

It is common to think that the menstrual cycle always lasts 28 days and that ovulation occurs on day 14, but most women do not have constant cycles of exactly 28 days, and therefore their ovulation is not on day 14. It is common for a woman to have a difference of about a week between her shortest cycles and her longest cycles.

For example: Ana, 28 years old. Her shortest cycle last semester was 27 days and her longest cycle was 34. So, if I ask her, "How long are your cycles normally?" Ana would answer: between 27 and 34 days.

What would be a healthy variation in the length of my menstrual cycles?

As we already saw, not all women's cycles last 28 days and that's okay. In adolescence and perimenopause, cycles may become a little more irregular or have more variations.

In general, it is healthy to have little variation in the length of your cycles. Age, longest and shortest cycle in the last 6 months should be considered:

  • 1-9 days, for women between 18 and 25 years old.

  • 1-7 days, for women between 26 and 41 years old.

  • 1-9 days, for women between 42 and 45 years old.

calendario de ciclo menstrual con el periodo marcado para saber la diferencia entre ciclo y periodo

💡Pro tip: To know how long your menstrual cycle lasts you have to start counting from the first day of bleeding of your current cycle to the day before the first day of bleeding of your next cycle. To be considered day 1, the blood should be bright red and have a continuous flow.

The staining or "spotting" of a slightly darker color that may occur at the beginning of the period is counted as part of the previous cycle since it is residue that could not come out at the time.

We live in a menstruo-centric society and we tend to hear a lot about the period and little about the other phases of the menstrual cycle.

Did you know that ovulation is actually the key event of your cycle?

In addition to facilitating conception, ovulation has hormonal and metabolic benefits, such as regulating the menstrual cycle and producing key hormones for bone and heart health.

Hormonal contraceptives, such as pills, patches, and rings, alter the natural process of ovulation by administering synthetic hormones that prevent the release of the egg. Although effective in preventing pregnancy, these contraceptives can have side effects, such as changes in the menstrual cycle and hormonal fluctuations.


In conclusion, the menstrual cycle is a complex process that reflects the health of your body and provides you with important information about your overall well-being. Knowing it helps you be more connected to yourself and take control of your reproductive health.

Remember, everybody is unique, so don't worry if your cycle doesn't follow exactly the same pattern as other people's. The important thing is that you know that he is healthy within the indicated parameters and that you feel good.

Some women choose to use methods such as the Symptothermal Method to track their menstrual cycle. This method involves taking note of signs such as basal body temperature, the texture of cervical mucus, and other changes in the body that can indicate where you are in your menstrual cycle. With this information, you can have a better understanding of your fertility and plan or avoid pregnancy more effectively.

Your menstrual cycle is a natural and normal part of being a woman. Don't be afraid to learn more about your body and how it works! With knowledge and understanding, you can make better decisions about your health.



This blog provides general information and discussions on health and related topics. The information shared on this website or in any linked material should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. In case of medical concern, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice.

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