I don't know about you but I think it is a shame that we don't learn about our menstrual cycle at school in the depth we should. Most people can't even name the distinct phases. I remember my first women's health specific training (Fertility Massage Therapy a few years ago if anyone is wondering) and finding out so much about the menstrual cycle and I remembered being an 11 year old girl pre-internet pouring through the information that various tampon companies and sanitary towel companies had given to us in little packs to go through in personal and social education with our teachers.
This was pre the internet and quite frankly, our biology textbooks were very out dated. But I remember being so fascinated and thinking there has to be so much more to this that I don't know, and it turns out there really is.
For those of you who have been following my blog a while, this may be quite boring to you, but this is the basic information I wish I knew as a girl and I think all women should know.
The most easily recognisable phase, our main hormones, oestrogen and progesterone have dropped off, triggering the shedding of our uterine lining resulting in a period. This should be a bright red flow of blood lasting 3 to 7 days.
How You Will Feel If You Have Relatively Healthy Hormones: a bit tired and lethargic due to the lack in hormones. Feeling really still, wanting to be on your own and do slow activities.
It is also a time where you are able to give yourself space to reflect on things that may have been difficult to see a solution to or things that have been bothering you for a while.
This is the time to indulge yourself and really listen to what your body wants and needs. The ideal time for a spa break or treat.
FOLLICULAR OR PROLIFERATIVE PHASE
The is the next phase, usually you are "dry" to start with, with no fluid leaving your vagina. Your eggs will start maturing in their follicles in the ovary, producing oestrogen.
As the oestrogen levels rise, this will trigger the production of various cervical fluids from crumbly or tacky, to very liquid and the proliferation of the endometrial lining (for a fertilised egg to implant into).
Any sperm coming into your body at this phase will be nourished by the cervical fluid keeping it safe and ready for when the egg is released so this is a fertile phase of your cycle. Your libido will start to rise.
How You Will Feel If Relatively Healthy: you will notice that your cervical fluid has arrived and will start off with a crumbly, pasty or tacky, thick consistency. It will gradually become thinner and more fluid until you get very slippery, water and stretchy fluid. You will start to feel more social, become better at communicating and very creative during this time.
Your personal confidence will be increasing and you will find your energy levels rising, so you can get more done in less time and working over time isn't an issue.
This is when you reach peak fertility, you finally have a follicle that has matured enough and will rupture. Hopefully a fallopian tube will be around to receive the egg and if there are sperm in the tube, they will start to try and fertilise the egg.
You will have lots of cervical fluid which is mostly clear, very slippery and cold to feel and extremely stretchy. Your libido will be at its peak.
How You Will Feel If Relatively Healthy: you will have lots of cervical fluid and your libido will be at its highest. You will also be at your most confident and outgoing. This is the best time for expressing yourself and bargaining (so this is the time to request a pay rise).
You will generally feel on top of the world and see endless possibilities so be careful not to overcommit to things in the future during this phase.
This is the longest phase lasting two weeks. At this point, oestrogen has dropped off and the left over follicle has turned into something called the corpus luteum in the ovary.
This will secrete progesterone, which will heat up the body to act as an incubator for the egg until a placenta grows. Progesterone also holds the womb lining in place.
Your oestrogen will drop off and then rise a little again. It is thought that at this time, the two hemispheres of your brain have the most cross talk. If the egg isn't fertilised, then at the end of this phase you will notice a drop in hormones such as progesterone and oestrogen which could result in PMS and other symptoms.
How You Will Feel If You Are Relatively Healthy: you will find your energy levels have dropped a bit and you no longer crave company. You are able to focus on detail orientated and administrative tasks. Things that have been bothering you for a while may really highlight themselves now, but as we are less able to express ourselves clearly, it isn't always the best time to communicate this (best to wait until your next ovulatory phase where you are super persuasive).
There are several key take away points I want you to remember here. First of all, we are cyclical beings. It is really important to remember it is ok that how we feel about a project one week may not be the same as how we feel about it the next and that is ok.
Having this awareness that we can change that quickly is key to understanding ourselves and figuring out what is going on sometimes. It is ok to change and not be consistent.
Secondly, charting how you personally change throughout the cycle is so empowering. And as such, if you haven't already signed up for my chart your cycle kit which is free, I encourage you to do so now as it is so empowering when you know what is going on and what to expect.
You may not match up to the above pattern even if your cycles and hormones are healthy, but you will start to see what your individual pattern is and if you have a partner, you can start showing them what your pattern is so they know how to support you and how to respond best at different times.
Finally, I just want to re-iterate, if you are suffering from PMS or period pain, neither of these are normal, although they are common. They are signs of hormonal imbalance and there is a lot that can be done to help these using diet lifestyle and a few other techniques.
I hope you come to love and respect your cycles as much as I have.
If you want to get to know your cycle, you can get your free cycle charting toolkit here.
Learn how to chart your menstrual cycle using the sympto-thermal method here.