How much do you really know about the menstrual cycle?!
Buckle up, ladies!! And men! Actually I hope some men are reading this. I think it is incredibly valuable for men to know the inner workings of a woman’s menstrual cycle. The more we include men in this conversation, the more they can nurture the women their lives. So, welcome guys!! Grab some tea and get ready for your first master class on the elusive PERIOD. Not elusive anymore!!
I did a deep dive into the menstrual cycle when I was first diagnosed with PCOS. The extent of my knowledge on the matter was “women bleed for 4-6 days a month” and “we get pregnant when we ovulate”.
But the truth is, there is so much more to it than that! There is a reason why we are effervescent and magnetic around ovulation, and why we tend to bloat and get a little grumpy during our luteal phase.
For so long, women have been forced to fit into the linear, relatively unchanging world of masculinity. It’s like fitting a square peg into a round hole. It. Just. Does. Not. Work.
WHEN WE HONOR THE CYCLICAL NATURE OF OUR BODIES, WE ARE HEALTHIER, HAPPIER, MORE PRODUCTIVE, MORE FERTILE, MORE LIBIDINOUS, AND MORE POWERFUL!
The Menstrual Cycle In A Nutshell
Bleeding lasts 3-7 days on average.
Hormonally, progesterone production stops because the corpus luteum gets reabsorbed into the ovary, and this triggers the shedding of the uterine lining. Estrogen peaks and then drops.
Hormones are at an all time low during menstruation. Physically, you may have cramping, back ache, fatigue, cravings. The energy during menstruation is largely focused inward. This is a good time to say no to parties or large gatherings with friends so that you can nurture your inwardly focused nature. During menstruation, the veil between the seen and the unseen is very thin, so intuitive messages come easily and effortlessly to us during this time.
This phase lasts 7-10 days.
The hypothalamus signals the pituitary gland to send FSH to your ovaries. This tells the ovaries that its time to get ready to release a new egg. Several egg follicles start to swell and mature. Estrogen increases during the follicular phase to thicken the uterine lining.
Our physical energy increases during this time thanks to estrogen. Energetically we tend to feel more upbeat, motivated, and excited to get started on new projects or to create new things. Our mental stamina increases as well as our creative energy.
The ovulatory phase is 3-4 days with the one peak day in there.
Hormonally, there is a sharp rise in FSH and then LH. These hormones together stimulate one follicle to swell and burst from the little sac it lives in, which releases the egg that will travel down the fallopian tube where it will either meet sperm and create a baby, or it will continue to travel down into the uterus unpenetrated by sperm and hang out until the next period starts. Estrogen continues to increase which further thickens your uterine lining in the event of a conception. During ovulation, our vaginal discharge increases and becomes more slippery and stretchy. The consistency is much like uncooked egg white.
We tend to feel very libidinous and juicy during this phase. Our energy is high and our interest in sex is effortless and natural. It’s almost like the body wants to get pregnant or something haha. Our verbal skills are heightened at this time as well. So is our physical energy and stamina, so workouts during this time may feel effortless and rejuvenating.
The luteal phase lasts about 10-14 days.
The egg that we just ovulated was living in a little sac within the ovary called the corpus luteum, and how crazy is this – that little sac actually turns into an endocrine organ after the egg is released! The corpus luteum grows on the surface of the ovary and produces progesterone. Progesterone signals to the body to keep the uterine lining intact in the event of conception. Estrogen continues to increase. If a conception does not occur, then the corpus luteum eventually gets reabsorbed into the body. Progesterone production will come to a halt, and this decline in progesterone triggers your period.
The luteal phase is when we tend to experience PMS symptoms such as irritability, headaches, mood swings, and cravings. Our physical energy slows down and our stamina declines. Our energy is beginning to turn inward and we tend to be focused on mundane tasks like organizing our closets, paying bills, and tying up loose ends.
And that is the menstrual cycle in a nutshell! It’s not just “the week of bleeding” and then that’s it.
No, it is a beautiful, orchestrated, magical dance of hormones, fluids, signals, and bodily wisdom culminating in an experience that is highly individual, extremely profound, and powerfully healing. I wish I had been more in tune with my menstrual cycle from the time of menarche (a girl’s first bleed). Just think – how different might our experiences have been! I probably would have viewed my body as an ally rather than an adversary.
UNDERSTANDING THE ENTIRE MENSTRUAL CYCLE CAN SERIOUSLY HELP US CONNECT TO THE POWER WE LADIES HOLD IN OUR CYCLICAL NATURE!
Every woman and every cycle is unique. You may be someone who cycles every 28 days like clockwork, or maybe you’re a gal who ovulates closer to day 18 rather than 14 and tends to cycle every 33-34 days. This is why I love charting my cycle and keeping a log of my various symptoms, energy levels, libido, and cervical mucus. It’s amazing to see the consistencies and the patterns your body is showing you.
Charting your cycle is very powerful for practicing fertility awareness, because the more aware you are of your own individual menstrual cycle, you are able to figure out when your fertile week is so you know to either abstain from sex or to use barrier methods like condoms.
The birth control pill is a personal choice for every woman, but it is not without risk. I was on various forms of birth control for about 9 years, but had I known that I was medicating myself for something that can only theoretically happen 5-7 days out of the month, I probably would have made a different choice. I believe my hormone imbalances that came later in my life would have been mitigated or avoided all together had I let my hormones do their dance every month instead of relying on the pill to suppress me all together. This is another talk for another day, but only you know what the right choice is for you. And understanding the intricacies of your hormones and menstrual cycle can help you make an informed decision!
Getting off birth control allowed me to hear the inner wisdom and messages of my body louder and clearer, and it connected me more to myself and to my Drew. Involving him in the various phases of my menstrual cycle has brought us closer than I ever imagined I could be with a romantic partner. I love the closeness and the intimacy we experience by being able to talk openly about what changes I experience throughout the month. I know he appreciates me allowing him into that sacred space as well.
So now I want to challenge you with some questions:
How do you feel about your menstrual cycle?
What programming did you grow up with around your menstrual cycle?
Do you look forward to your period or do you admonish it like its the plague?
What words come to mind when you think of your period?
What as your first period like?
I think its important to spend time with these questions and really be honest with ourselves. So many female troubles stem from having an unhealthy relationship with their periods. Remember, we can always heal from these traumatic experiences. And the first step to healing is getting honest.
Knowing the ins and outs of your beautiful female body will give you the power and the grace to live in your wisdom and in alignment with your most authentic self!
Here’s to you and your absolutely amazing menstrual cycle!
(This is not medical advice)