What Your Genetics Say About Your Menstrual Cycle Length

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What Your Genetics Say About Your Menstrual Cycle Length

Date of Content: February 3, 2024
Written by: Jess Gayo
Reviewed by: Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD


Overview of Menstruation

What is Menstruation?

Ever wondered about the intricacies of menstruation? This natural but complex phenomenon may have been deemed as a taboo topic a century ago but it is a vital part of every woman’s life. Learning all about menstruation and menstrual cycle length is also learning more about human physiology and the way nature has shaped our evolution.

Menstruation, commonly known as a woman’s “period,” is a natural biological process that occurs in females of reproductive age. It involves the shedding of the uterine lining, known as the endometrium, through vaginal bleeding. 

This process typically recurs monthly, though individual cycles can vary in length and intensity. On average, menstruation lasts about 3 to 7 days, with an average menstrual cycle spanning around 28 days. 

During menstruation, hormonal fluctuations, primarily involving estrogen and progesterone, orchestrate the shedding of the endometrium. The menstrual cycle consists of distinct phases, including menstruation, follicular phase, ovulation, and luteal phase, each regulated by a complex interplay between hormones and reproductive organs.

Menstrual Cycle Length

Why Does the Human Female Body Menstruate?

The phenomenon of menstruation, unique to female-bodied individuals, is a complex interplay of hormonal, physiological, and evolutionary factors. Understanding why females menstruate requires delving into the intricate mechanisms that have evolved over millions of years. 

Menstruation serves as a fundamental biological process essential for reproductive health in females. At its core, menstruation is the result of the monthly shedding of the uterine lining, known as the endometrium, which gets thicker in preparation for potential embryo implantation. This cyclic shedding occurs when there is no pregnancy and is regulated by a delicate balance of hormones, including estrogen and progesterone.

Evolutionarily, menstruation is believed to have evolved as a mechanism to ensure the survival of the species by facilitating the shedding of old, potentially damaged endometrial tissue and preparing the uterus for a new cycle of fertility. Despite its physiological significance, menstruation can also bring about discomfort and challenges for individuals experiencing it.

By unraveling the underlying reasons behind menstruation, we gain valuable insights into the complexities of human reproductive biology and the remarkable adaptations that have shaped our species over time. 

Can Other Species Menstruate?

Curiosity about menstruation often extends beyond human biology, leading to questions about whether other species undergo a similar reproductive process. While menstruation is primarily associated with humans and certain primate species, it’s interesting to explore whether menstruation occurs in other members of the animal kingdom.

Although menstruation is a distinctive feature of the human reproductive system, it is not exclusive to our species. Other primates, such as apes and monkeys, also experience menstruation. However, the occurrence and nature of menstruation vary widely across different animal taxa.

In non-human primates, menstruation is characterized by the shedding of the uterine lining, similar to humans. Hormonal fluctuations influence this process and typically coincide with the reproductive cycle. However, the duration and frequency of menstruation can differ significantly between species.

Outside of primates, menstruation is relatively rare in the animal kingdom. Some species, such as certain bats and shrews, undergo a process similar to menstruation, but it is not as well-documented or understood. In most mammals, including domestic pets like dogs and cats, the reproductive cycle differs from menstruation, with the uterine lining being reabsorbed rather than shed.

While menstruation occurs in a few select species beyond humans, its prevalence and characteristics vary widely. Understanding menstruation across different animals provides valuable insights into the diversity of reproductive strategies in nature.

What is a Menstrual Cycle Length?

The menstrual cycle length refers to the number of days between the start of one menstrual period and the start of the next. While it’s often depicted as a standard 28-day cycle, the reality is far more varied. Scientific research indicates that menstrual cycles can range anywhere from 21 to 35 days on average, with deviations from this range still considered normal for many women.

At the heart of the menstrual cycle are hormonal fluctuations orchestrated by the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and ovaries. These hormones drive the cyclical changes in the uterus, preparing it for potential pregnancy each month. The cycle typically consists of three main phases: the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase.

Several factors can influence the length of the menstrual cycle, including age, genetics, hormonal balance, stress levels, and overall health. Adolescents and women approaching menopause often experience more irregular cycle lengths due to hormonal changes. Additionally, lifestyle factors such as excessive exercise, significant weight fluctuations, and certain medications can impact cycle length.

Understanding one’s menstrual cycle length can provide valuable insights into reproductive health and fertility. Monitoring any irregularities or significant deviations from the average cycle length can help individuals identify potential health concerns and seek appropriate medical advice. Ultimately, recognizing the variability in menstrual cycle length empowers individuals to take control of their reproductive health journey.

What Can Affect Menstrual Cycle Length?

Genetic Factors

Understanding and managing menstrual cycle length is crucial for maintaining reproductive health. Recent studies, such as a GWAS conducted in 2018 have shed light on the genetic factors influencing cycle length, particularly certain genetic locations harboring genes like FSHB, DOCK5/GNRH1, PGR, NR5A2, and IGF-2/INS-IGF2. These genes play key roles in regulating hormone levels and ovarian function, such as the FSHB gene which codes for the beta-subunit of the follicle-stimulating hormone.

The research involving over 44,000 women of European ancestry identified several genetic signals associated with menstrual cycle length. For example, variants near the FSHB gene, such as the SNP rs11031006,  showed a strong association with cycle length. Genetic variants near other genes like NR5A2, involved in steroidogenesis, and INS-IGF2, implicated in growth regulation, also exhibited significant associations.

Understanding the genetic basis of menstrual cycle length not only enhances our knowledge of reproductive biology but also provides insights into related conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis. Genetic correlation analyses have also revealed potential links between menstrual cycle length and factors like age at menarche and menopause.

By unraveling the genetic underpinnings of menstrual cycle regulation, researchers aim to improve our understanding of reproductive health and develop targeted interventions for menstrual disorders. This study underscores the importance of personalized approaches to women’s health, taking into account individual genetic variations.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors play a significant role in influencing menstrual cycle length, highlighting the intricate relationship between our bodies and the world around us. Here are several key environmental factors known to impact menstrual cycle length:

  1. Stress: Psychological stress can disrupt the delicate balance of hormones regulating the menstrual cycle. High levels of stress can lead to irregular cycles or even missed periods. Research suggests that chronic stress can affect the functioning of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which in turn influences the release of reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone.
  2. Nutrition: Adequate nutrition is essential for maintaining regular menstrual cycles. Both undernutrition and overnutrition can disrupt hormonal balance and affect cycle length. For instance, extreme weight loss or low body fat percentage, commonly seen in individuals with eating disorders or intense athletes, can lead to irregular or absent periods. On the other hand, obesity and high body fat levels can also disrupt hormonal regulation, resulting in irregular cycles.
  3. Exercise: While regular exercise is beneficial for overall health, excessive or intense physical activity can impact menstrual cycle length. Intense training regimens, particularly endurance sports, can lead to disruptions in hormonal balance and irregular menstrual cycles. This phenomenon, known as exercise-induced amenorrhea, is thought to result from alterations in the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis.
  4. Environmental Toxins: Exposure to environmental toxins, such as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), can interfere with hormone production and regulation, potentially affecting menstrual cycle length. EDCs, found in pesticides, plastics, and certain consumer products, can mimic or block the action of natural hormones in the body, leading to hormonal imbalances and menstrual irregularities.
  5. Shift work and Light Exposure: Disruption of the body’s natural circadian rhythm, often experienced by individuals working night shifts or irregular schedules, can impact menstrual cycle length. Research suggests that exposure to artificial light at night can suppress melatonin production, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, and may also influence reproductive hormone secretion.
  6. Temperature Extremes: Extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold, can disrupt hormonal balance and affect menstrual cycle length. Studies have shown that exposure to extreme heat or cold stressors can alter the functioning of the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, leading to irregularities in menstrual cycles.

Understanding the influence of these environmental factors on menstrual cycle length is crucial for maintaining reproductive health. By adopting healthy lifestyle habits, minimizing exposure to environmental toxins, and managing stress levels, individuals can support the regularity of their menstrual cycles and promote overall well-being.

How Do You Calculate Menstrual Cycle Length?

Calculating menstrual cycle length involves determining the number of days between the start of one menstrual period and the start of the next. To do this, you need to track your menstrual cycles over several months to identify patterns and establish an average cycle length.

Begin by marking the first day of your period as day one of your menstrual cycle. Continue tracking each day until the start of your next period. The number of days between these two dates represents the length of your menstrual cycle.

It’s important to note that menstrual cycle length can vary from month to month and from person to person. Factors such as hormonal fluctuations, stress, lifestyle habits, and underlying health conditions can influence cycle length. Therefore, it’s advisable to track your cycles over several months to get a more accurate picture of your average cycle length.

Using a menstrual cycle tracking app or calendar can help streamline the process and provide insights into your menstrual patterns. Additionally, consulting with a healthcare provider can offer guidance and support in tracking and interpreting menstrual cycle data, especially if you have concerns about irregularities or fertility issues. 

Is it Normal for Menstrual Cycles to Change?

Yes, it is normal for menstrual cycles to change over time and to vary from month to month. Scientific research indicates that fluctuations in menstrual cycle length and pattern are common occurrences in many women’s reproductive lives.

Several factors can contribute to changes in menstrual cycles, including hormonal fluctuations, stress levels, lifestyle habits, age, and underlying health conditions. For example, during adolescence and perimenopause, hormonal shifts can cause irregular cycles as the body adjusts to changes in hormone levels. Additionally, fluctuations in weight, exercise habits, and stress levels can impact the regularity of menstrual cycles.

While occasional changes in menstrual cycles are generally normal, significant or persistent alterations may warrant further evaluation by a healthcare provider. Irregularities such as unusually short or long cycles, missed periods, or excessive bleeding could be indicative of underlying health concerns that require medical attention.

Understanding that menstrual cycles can change over time helps individuals better navigate their reproductive health journey. By monitoring and tracking menstrual cycles and seeking medical guidance when needed, individuals can maintain optimal reproductive health and overall well-being.

Does Menstrual Cycle Length Affect Ovulation?

Yes, menstrual cycle length can affect ovulation, as the timing of ovulation is closely linked to the length of the menstrual cycle. Ovulation typically occurs around the midpoint of the menstrual cycle, with variations depending on cycle length.

In a typical 28-day menstrual cycle, ovulation usually occurs around day 14. However, in shorter cycles, ovulation may occur earlier, while in longer cycles, ovulation may be delayed. This timing is regulated by the complex interplay of hormones, including estrogen and luteinizing hormone (LH), which trigger the release of an egg from the ovary.

Understanding the relationship between menstrual cycle length and ovulation is crucial for those trying to conceive or avoid pregnancy. Tracking menstrual cycles and monitoring signs of ovulation, such as changes in cervical mucus or basal body temperature, can help predict fertile days and optimize timing for conception.

Irregularities in menstrual cycle length can sometimes indicate underlying issues affecting ovulation, such as hormonal imbalances or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). In such cases, seeking medical advice from a healthcare provider can help identify and address any potential fertility concerns.

How to Manage and Regulate Your Menstrual Cycle Length

Managing and regulating menstrual cycle length involves adopting healthy lifestyle habits and addressing underlying factors that may influence reproductive health. Here are several evidence-based strategies to help manage and regulate your menstrual cycle:

Maintain a Balanced Diet

Consuming a nutritious diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can support hormonal balance and regulate menstrual cycles. Aim to include foods high in essential nutrients such as iron, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids, which play key roles in reproductive health.

Manage Stress

Chronic stress can disrupt the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and affect hormonal balance, leading to irregular menstrual cycles. Incorporate stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness, yoga, meditation, and regular exercise to help manage stress levels and promote hormonal equilibrium.

Achieve a Healthy Weight

Both underweight and overweight individuals may experience irregular menstrual cycles due to disruptions in hormone production. Maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise and a balanced diet can help regulate menstrual cycle length.

Get Adequate Sleep

Prioritize quality sleep, aiming for 7 to 9 hours per night, as inadequate sleep can disrupt hormone production and menstrual cycle regulation. Establish a consistent sleep schedule and create a relaxing bedtime routine to support hormonal balance.

Limit Alcohol and Caffeine

Excessive alcohol and caffeine intake can interfere with hormone levels and menstrual cycle regulation. Limit consumption of alcoholic beverages and caffeinated drinks to support reproductive health.

Avoid Smoking

Smoking has been linked to menstrual irregularities and can disrupt hormone balance. If you smoke, consider quitting to improve reproductive health and regulate menstrual cycles.

Monitor Medications

Certain medications, such as hormonal contraceptives, antidepressants, and antipsychotics, may impact menstrual cycle length. Consult with a healthcare provider to discuss the potential effects of medications on menstrual cycles and explore alternative options if needed.

Address Underlying Health Conditions

Conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disorders, and reproductive tract infections can contribute to irregular menstrual cycles. Seek medical evaluation and treatment for underlying health issues to help regulate menstrual cycle length.

Track Menstrual Cycles

Keep a menstrual calendar or use a tracking app to monitor the length and pattern of your menstrual cycles. Tracking ovulation signs such as basal body temperature, cervical mucus changes, and ovulation predictor kits can help identify fertile days and optimize timing for conception if desired.

By implementing these strategies and addressing underlying factors influencing menstrual cycle length, individuals can promote reproductive health and maintain regular, predictable menstrual cycles. If you experience persistent irregularities or have concerns about your menstrual cycles, consult with a healthcare provider for personalized guidance and support.

LifeDNA’s Menstrual Cycle Length Trait Report

Discover the power of personalized wellness with LifeDNA’s Menstrual Cycle Length Trait Report. Our scientifically-backed and comprehensive Wellness Report provides invaluable insights into your unique genetic profile, helping you understand what your body needs to thrive.

Understanding your menstrual cycle length is essential for optimizing reproductive health and overall well-being. With LifeDNA’s Menstrual Cycle Length Trait Report, you’ll gain insights into factors influencing your cycle, empowering you to make informed decisions about your well-being.

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Embark on your wellness journey today and unlock the secrets of your genetic blueprint. Take the first step towards a healthier, happier life by availing of LifeDNA’s plans. Start living your best life with personalized insights from LifeDNA – because when it comes to your well-being, knowledge is power.


  • Menstruation, a natural biological process, involves shedding the uterine lining through vaginal bleeding and recurs monthly in females of reproductive age.
  • Hormonal fluctuations, primarily involving estrogen and progesterone, regulate the menstrual cycle, which consists of distinct phases like menstruation, follicular phase, ovulation, and luteal phase.
  • Genetics play a significant role in menstrual cycle length, with genes like FSHB, GNRH1, PGR, NR5A2, and INS-IGF2 influencing cycle length through hormonal regulation and ovarian function.
  • Other factors affecting menstrual cycle length include environmental factors such as stress, nutrition, exercise, exposure to toxins, shift work, and temperature extremes.
  • Calculating menstrual cycle length involves tracking the number of days between the start of one period and the next over several months to identify patterns and establish an average cycle length.
  • It’s normal for menstrual cycles to change over time and vary from month to month due to factors like hormonal fluctuations, stress, age, and underlying health conditions.
  • Menstrual cycle length can affect ovulation, with ovulation typically occurring around the midpoint of the cycle; irregularities in cycle length may indicate underlying fertility concerns.
  • Managing and regulating menstrual cycle length involves adopting healthy lifestyle habits, such as maintaining a balanced diet, managing stress, achieving a healthy weight, getting adequate sleep, limiting alcohol and caffeine intake, avoiding smoking, monitoring medications, addressing underlying health conditions, and tracking menstrual cycles for fertility awareness.


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  2. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/endometrium
  3. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/24562-progesterone
  4. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/22353-estrogen
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3528014/
  6. https://academic.oup.com/hmg/article/27/24/4323/5092468 
  7. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/menstrual-cycle
  8. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/menstrual-cycle/art-20047186
  9. https://www.utphysicians.com/how-stress-can-affect-your-menstrual-cycle/#:~:text=If%20the%20stress%20is%20short,culprits%20of%20a%20delayed%20cycle.
  10. https://www.verywellhealth.com/exercise-effects-on-menstruation-4104136#:~:text=Intense%20exercise%20can%20cause%20changes,sometimes%2C%20no%20period%20at%20all.
  11. https://www.americanscientist.org/article/how-endocrine-disruptors-affect-menstruation
  12. https://www.always.co.uk/en-gb/tips-and-advice-for-girls-and-parents/my-period/how-to-calculate-your-menstrual-cycle/
  13. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14633-abnormal-menstruation-periods
  14. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/ovulation
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6057754/#:~:text=The%20hypothalamic%2Dpituitary%2Dadrenal%20axis%20(HPA)%20is%20the,Breedlove%20and%20Watson%2C%202013).
  16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8178900/#:~:text=Hormonal%20contraceptives%20may%20have%202,the%20hormones%20on%20day%2021.
  17. https://www.greenbrooktms.com/understanding-the-link-between-depression-and-the-menstrual-cycle#:~:text=Can%20Antidepressants%20Affect%20My%20Menstrual,%2C%20heavy%2C%20or%20irregular%20periods.
  18. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/schizort/2013/502697/
  19. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/polycystic-ovary-syndrome?gad_source=1&gclid=Cj0KCQjwwYSwBhDcARIsAOyL0fhoUgkQv_Sl1FLUBLJA6nT2ttw92fDPp_mYvJGkUPsGrv7qIvQ28BEaAsuUEALw_wcB

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