The period is perhaps one of the best tools to determine the state of your fertility and even your health in general.
Let's explore the different phases of your cycle and how you will feel and what tips will help during that phase.
As we listen to the rhythm of our body we tap into our intuition and really start to listen what our body needs in each phase of the cycle.
Even though cycles are individual to each woman and can be very different, there are still certain guidelines that allow them to fall into the category of “normal.”
But before we dive into the expectations of “normal”, what exactly is the “period”?
How many of us actually know what is going on during this time?
Menstruation is the breaking down of the endometrium, or the uterine lining, where blood exits the uterus, usually occurring once a month.
You may have found out by now that the pathway toward conception is full of hormones.
Well, the menstrual cycle is no exception! The processes within the period rely heavily on the endocrine system.
This is why imbalanced hormones can greatly impact one’s fertility, because without proper balance, natural and normal menstruation couldn’t be possible. This also ties into the importance of period logs.
It can be very helpful to note specific instances during your period; you know, if something just doesn’t seem right. You’d be surprised how many women don’t know about their own body’s patterns.
In fact, 69% of women do not keep menstrual logs, and 54% do not know when their next menstruation is predicted to take place. For awareness is a critical aspect to assessing the health of your cycle.
There is so much to know about the menstrual cycle, but for introductory measures, we’ll stick with the basics for now.
So what are the phases of the period?
Well, there are four:
Menstruation, Follicular Phase, Ovulation, Luteal Phase
The first day of bleeding is considered to be day one of your cycle. Progesterone drops which causes the uterine lining to shed, and your period comes. A healthy period typically lasts anywhere from 3-7 days!
Typically your energy will be a little low during this week. Add in some self care like a warm bath, try meditation or a visualization exercise and do some light exercise like walking or some gentle yoga poses. Its important to stay hydrated during this phase, avoid eating red meat and processed foods.
Within the follicular phase (first day of your period – ovulation: average is around 14 days), estrogen drops within the body and the hypothalamus, a part of the brain responsible for the production and signaling of many hormones essential to the body, releases GnRH (Gonadotropin-releasing hormone) to the pituitary gland to begin the secretion of FSH (Follicle-stimulating hormone, to induce the production of eggs).
During the Follicular phase you will probably have more energy! As estrogen and testosterone start to surge! This is a great time for problem solving and although strenuous exercise will feel good during this time, give up the urge to exercise to vigorously as this can elevate cortisol levels which then affects your sex hormones. Also even though you may feel more energized make sure you get enough sleep
This hormone is meant to jump-start follicular growth within the ovaries. A number of follicles begin to develop, releasing estrogen and triggering the endometrium to prepare for the implantation of an egg. With the gradual rise of estrogen within the body, GnRH then induces the surge of LH (Luteinizing hormone) and FSH to trigger ovulation. A lot happens during this time, but once ovulation begins, the two hormones begin to regulate and production slows.
Estrogen and testosterone will be at peak levels, plus your sex drive will be at its highest! Plus you'll have lots of energy so go for a brisk walk, try some interval training or lift some weights. Avoid inflammatory foods such as dairy and processed sugar as these can cause congestion in your tubes and uterus. Avoid too many raw foods as they can be difficult to digest.
After ovulation begins, the luteal phase then starts. This phase takes place in the days between ovulation and menstruation. Within this time period, lasting at least 12 days to allow for proper fertilization, the corpus luteum, a hormone-producing structure within the ovary, produces and administers progesterone and estrogen into the body. The progesterone, in turn, causes a development of the uterine lining in preparation for supporting a growing embryo. If fertilization never takes place, though, the endometrium then sheds. And once hormone levels are regulated, the cycle simply starts over again.
As estrogen and testosterone start to decline you'll start producing more progesterone. This is the anti anxiety hormone, so you should feel like slowing down. During this phase PMS and cravings, moodiness, anxiety can hit and make you feel frazzled. Add in some self care, eat a nutrient dense diet like the Fertility Diet. Avoid caffeine and alcoholReally honour your cycle and do what feel right to keep you balanced.
After all of this said, a healthy cycle should be between 21 and 35 days. Many things can contribute to cycle length, such as: lifestyle factors, ovarian parameters, and Antimullerian hormone (AMH) levels, just to name a few. It is important to be conscience of what is contributing to your cycle health.
After reading this, you may be thinking, “gosh, but there is so much more than this,” or maybe you’re not. But yes, there is. This, back to the period logs, is also why notation is so necessary.
Consistency. Color. Menstruation time. Pain.
Length of your period and your cycle in its entirety.
It is all so important and can provide much needed information on your fertility!
However, in this article alone, I hope you have learned a few things: the fundamentals of your cycle. That you have learned what to strive for and that even if you are a little outside of “normal,” that it is no big deal.
There is always another way; you just have to find it. So what do you think? What can you do to improve your awareness of your cycle? And is there anything you can think of that may be causing any inconsistencies in your cycle; what can you do to improve them?
I hope to write more articles going into more depth about the very broad topic of the menstrual cycle!
Sarah Clark empowers couples to discover how lifestyle and diet can dramatically impact their chances of conceiving. She was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure at 28 and had both her kids with donor eggs. Not until years later did she discover that the root cause of her infertility was a food intolerance. Join the Free Fab Fertile Support Group on Facebook for mini-challenges, motivation and inspiration!