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The truth about your menstrual cycle and how to use it as your superpower

We live in a world where we tend to overlook the importance of our menstrual cycle, even though it's one of the best indicators of a woman's health. Women are cyclic beings.

Before I was faced with my fertility issues and began to truly understand how our menstrual cycle works, I believed that all women have linear cycles, meaning that we were either "on our period" or not. I didn't understand that our cycles are a dance between hormones that dictate the way our bodies function, our mood and our metabolism. Once I understood this, I found it fascinating. Once you grasp how it works, you learn how your behavior changes based on your hormones, you can adapt more easily to life situations and even take advantage of this beautiful hormonal dance and use it to tap into your higher feminine energy.

Your menstrual cycle is the 6th vital sign of your body alongside your body temperature, your heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure and oxygen saturation.

Women have approximately 400 menstrual cycles in their lifetime which translates to about 34 years. This fact alone should be a good reason to pay more attention to it and learn more about it.

Your menstrual cycle regulates your mood every day, it dictates your energy levels and how you show up. Furthermore, it can be a great indicator of your hormonal heath, whether or not you have underlying inflammation or nutritional deficiencies. Therefore, by understanding your menstrual cycle you will understand your body, your hormones and your overall well being at the deepest level.

Let's learn more about it, shall we?

Contrary to common belief, that your menstrual cycle represents just the time of your bleeding, your menstrual cycle has 4 main phases - Menstruation, the Follicular phase, Ovulation and the Luteal phase. Scientific research indicates how the hormonal shifts during these phases mirror the 4 seasons of nature.

All the changes we go through are regulated by different hormones that change in intensity depending on which phase of the month you are in. The main hormones regulating your mood and your behavior each month, are:

  • Estrogen - this is the Queen of hormones. There are 3 types of estrogen, the main one being E2 that drives the first part of your menstrual cycle and its main role is to build the uterine lining and start the bleeding ( unless pregnancy occurs).

  • Progesterone - it's the hormone that goes up once ovulation has started and helps prepare the body for pregnancy and maintains it if conception happens. This hormone is extremely important when trying to conceive. It tells your doctor and you if you ovulated and/or if your body can maintain a pregnancy.

  • LH ( Luteinizing Hormone) - it is produced by the pituitary gland and is the main hormone that controls the reproductive system. It is crucial in regulating the function of the testes in men and ovaries in women.

  • FSH ( Follicle Stimulating Hormone) - produced by the pituitary gland, it is the primary hormone responsible for the growth of ovarian follicles. These follicles develop before ovulation and contain the developing egg. FSH also increases estrogen production.

  • Androgens- are sex hormones that bring on puberty, maturing the body and boost your sex drive. Testosterone is the primary androgen and it's produced by both men and women ( in lower amount in women). Androgen deficiencies may cause tiredness and loss of sexual desire.

A healthy menstrual cycle is considered to be between 26-34 days with a bleeding period lasting between 3-7 days.

We start our menstrual cycle with with the bleeding, which is the Menstruation phase ( ~ Days 1-6).

Your hormone levels drop and your uterine lining starts to shed. While this phase may come with some mild discomfort, it shouldn't come with so much pain that you require medication. Also the amount of bleeding should not be so heavy that you require more than 6 tampons or pads per day.

This phase is known as your ‘winter’. It’s a yin phase, and just like the winter in nature, this is your time to go inward and ‘hibernate’ if you can. You may feel very low in energy as your body undertakes the ginormous task of shedding the old uterine lining and starting a fresh one. This is essentially a ‘dying’ phase, as we shed what is no longer serving us before we start like new again. You can honor this phase by thinking about your relationship with yourself, slow down as much as possible, switch off social media, say ‘no thank you’ to invites, turn off your phone and emails, rest and recharge as much as possible. Being a mom of 2 and running my own business, I understand how impossible it may sound to just slow down and take care of yourself, but keep in mind that your hormones are at rock bottom here, so any small amount of slowing down can be possible when you prioritize it. Some tips on how to make small increments of time for yourself in this period, are: if you have children, journal at night after your kids go to bed or early in the morning before they wake up; rest by going to bed earlier every night; take a longer than usual shower while running an essential oil diffuser with lavender essential oil; connect with Mother Nature even if it's just 10 minute/day; enjoy homemade hearty and warming slow-cooked foods, sip herbal teas; read; use heat packs and take magnesium supplements — especially in the first two days. Be open and communicate with your family that you are in your "winter" phase so that they know to give you a little more space.

Make sure that the feminine products you use in this period are not full of hormone disrupting chemicals. I like to use all organic cotton pads or a menstrual cup. I tend to stir away from tampons ( even if they are organic cotton tampons) because they are full of toxic chemicals and they can limit our natural flow and connection with our cycle, and I believe we are meant to be letting the blood flow out, not blocking it in. I also like to practice light yoga, legs up on the wall and drink lots of warm teas, lemon water or just hydrate with plain water.

The "winter" phase is about introspection and self-reflection, this is why it is so important to spend time alone even for very small increments of time. You can ask yourself some powerful questions in this period, such as: "What do I need to let go of?" "What needs to shed?"

After the first couple of days of self-reflection, you can start to set an intention for the month, but do not take action yet. Just follow your inner wisdom and intuition, set some goals and enjoy the introspection. The time for action will come in the next weeks.

Then we shift into our second phase of the menstrual cycle, which is the Follicular Phase ( ~ Days 1-13)- which includes the Menstrual phase as well). This phase is considered our "spring". The name comes from the follicles that are maturing in the ovaries. During this period the uterine lining thickens to get ready for implantation in case pregnancy occurs. This phase is dominated by estrogen - which brings a calm and optimistic state of being, and testosterone - which elevates your energy levels, your motivation, your strength and also your sex drive. In this period the FSH starts to rise as well.

With all these hormones rising and reaching peak levels, we feel like socializing more, our skin tends to look clearer and we see ourselves much prettier and sexier. This is a yang phase and the most masculine "season". This is a time to say yes to invitations, to go out and socialize, to have fun. With your motivation being so high, this is the time to take actions on your set goals and dreams. As we reemerge back from "winter", we can ease back into our exercise routine, start on new project, deep clean your house, launch a program or try something new. Make sure to keep in mind that you are still coming out of " winter hibernation", so ease into everything slowly, be gentle with yourself and your body.

As we move into the "summer" phase, our Ovulation ( ~ Days 14-20), which marks the beginning of our Luteal phase, the luteinizing hormone starts to go up, causing the mature follicle to rupture and release the ovum, which travels down the fallopian tube and either meets up with the sperm to try to find the egg that is ready to be fertilized, or it goes down into the uterus after approximately 5 days, unfertilized. The egg survives for 24 hours, but because the sperm can be viable for 3-5 days, our fertile window is longer, lasting from about 5 days before ovulation to 1-2 days after.

Toward the second half of this phase, progesterone goes up and takes over, getting the body ready to sustain a pregnancy if the egg is fertilized.

Knowing when you are ovulating is extremely important for timing conception, preventing a pregnancy and to let you know of any underlying conditions in case you are not ovulating, such as: PCOS, stress or hormonal issues. You know that you are ovulating when your vaginal discharge changes, becoming more stretchy, similar to egg whites. This cervical mucus is amazingly "designed" to keep the sperm alive for 5 days and to help the sperm find its way to the cervix. Some women may experience a sharp pain either on their left side or right side of the lower abdomen, depending on which ovary released an egg that month.

Both testosterone and estrogen are high in this period, pumping our sexual drive up. This is nature's sneaky way to make us reproduce. I find it pretty fascinating!

This is a very yang, masculine phase and a time to socialize, party, go to get togethers, be an extrovert and be more playful. As far as work goes, this is the time to do that presentation, that workshop, finish the project that you wanted to do.

If you are a mom, this period makes you more patient and tolerant which is great when being with kids all day long.

The next and last phase is our "autumn" phase, or Luteal Phase ( ~Days 14-28), encompassing the ovulation phase as well. The name comes from the corpus luteum and it's dominated by the progesterone.

If fertilization of the ovum occurs after ovulation, the fertilized egg will travel through your fallopian tube to your uterine lining where it will implant and grow. If fertilization does not occur, progesterone and estrogen levels will drop about ten days after ovulation, leading your uterine lining to shed – which is the start of your next period. 

In the second half of this phase, your cervical mucus changes, creating a more hostile environment for sperm. The cervical mucus cyclicity is an important indication of hormonal health, so paying attention to it may teach you a lot about your health.

Your hormone levels start to drop, just like the leaves from the tree shed in the fall. This is a yin phase, so you will tend to start to go inward, choosing rest and nest instead of socializing. During this period emotional things that you haven't addressed could show up. There is very "keep or destroy" energy in the premenstrual phase and you can feel less tolerant. You may want to say "no, thank you" to any projects or invitations and start to build in time for self-care and quiet in order to prevent irritability, resentment, burn-out as well as getting sick if you push yourself above your limits.

Also in the second half of your luteal phase, especially as you head into those 5 or so days before your next period is due, your body starts to produce more of a chemical called prostaglandin, which increases inflammation, produces uterine cramping, increases your overall sense of pain, and also gets your bowels a bit irritated – leading to some bloating and for many women, looser stools. The more inflammation you already have, the more prostaglandins you’ll produce – and the more pain, etc.

How can you get to know your cycle better?

You can keep a menstrual cycle chart by downloading an app or using you calendar to mark the dates of your cycle. This is a great indicator for the length of your period, your flow and any symptoms, irregularities that may show up.

Keeping track of your cycle, will be a great sign for your fertility as well, if you are getting ready to conceive. Taking your body temperature around your ovulation will be a criterion to let you know whether or not you have ovulated. Right after ovulation your body temperature will increase by approximately 0.5 to 1 degree Fahrenheit.

I highly recommend to pay attention to how you feel physically, mentally, energetically and emotionally. This will help you adjut with more awareness to your everyday life situations.

You menstrual cycle is literally a dance between hormones and it's the most natural process. Although it may look complex, once you learn your cycle and learn how to dance along with it, you will know that this hormonal dance is the power of our femininity, sex drive and fertility.

YOU have the POWER to bring and keep the hormones in balance and rid yourself of your symptoms. Connecting to the natural rhythm of your body is the most precious gift you can give yourself and your daughters.

If you found this article helpful, please share it with all the women in your life.

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