There's more to your menstrual cycle than just your period.
In fact, each of the 4 phases of your cycle has different characteristics and hormonal fluctuations.
Let's look at what those different phases look like and why it's important to understand.
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Well hello and welcome back to episode 16 of Beauty in Balance.
I’m so happy that you’ve decided to join me again today, as I wanted to follow on a little bit from last week, when we talked about the minefield of period education.
During the one-on-one consultations that I have with clients, I always ask about the length of their menstrual cycle, and more often than not, I’ll get an answer like this “Oh my period will generally last for about 5 days.”
This answer most likely sounds right to you, but here’s the thing. When we talk about the menstrual cycle, it includes the menstrual phase, but also includes 3 other phases.
In other words, the menstrual cycle ideally should be between 25 and 35 days, of which the menstrual phase lasts anything between 4 and 7 days.
So today I wanted to talk a little bit about the 4 different phases of the menstrual cycle. And you can think of the menstrual cycle as a continuous cycle of tissue growth and breakdown. So each phase within the cycle represents either tissue growth or tissue breakdown, and this comes with significant hormonal changes between each of the 4 phases to accommodate this growth or breakdown.
And as you can imagine, these fluctuations also brings about differen physical and emotional signs.
So the very first phase of your cycle, is the menstrual phase.
Day 1 of bleeding also represents day 1 of the cycle, because as bleeding starts, a new egg already starts to mature in the ovaries.
During this phase, both estrogen and progesterone levels are at the lowest that they will be for the entire cycle and the associated signs and symptoms will include skin breakouts, tender breasts, fatigue, bloating, bowel issues, headaches or migraines, mood changes, lower back pain, light abdominal cramping and trouble sleeping.
Although all these symptoms are pretty normal for this phase, you should probably do some investigation if you need pain meds or if these symptoms are severe. You can also listen to episode 13 where I talk about 12 period symptoms that you should not be ignoring. Don’t just assume symptoms are normal without investigating further.
This phase of the cycle is definitely the one that everybody are aware of, but are commonly confused for being the only part of a cycle or even being the main event of the menstrual cycle. And it’s not, but we’ll get to that soon.
Emotionally this can be a hard time for some women, but generally, women report that this phase brings about a sense of relief from the premenstrual phase, which is better know as PMS. So although you might not feel at the top of the world, this phase is likely to be an improvement emotionally from the few days before your period.
I like to liken the menstrual phase to the winter season.
Then, you’ll head into the follicular phase, which is when hormones from your brain start to stimulate the growth of eggs within the follicles. These follicles then begin to produce estrogen, which cause overall estrogen levels to start rising again after it has been at it’s lowest point during the menstrual phase.
So this phase can last anything from 10 to 23 days, with an average of 15 days and the length of this phase will determine the length of your complete cycle. Since the follicular phase is variable, it means your ovulation can shift from cycle to cycle. As opposed to the luteal phase, which will mostly be the same length.
So after bleeding stops, a new cycle begins and an you may experience a sense of hope and excitement. Follicles are rapidly growing and producing estrogen, and your body prepares for ovulation. Most women report this as their best time, feeling really healthy and confident. You may notice increased energy, your skin may be improving and your libido may start to rise.
Important to note here, is that this will be the case if your hormones are in a healthy, balanced cycle.
Many women suffer from hormonal imbalance, and may not experience the benefits of this phase. So if you feel like your menstrual is one long PMS phase, it’s probably time to start doing some investigations and listening to those messages that your body is trying to give to you.
After this phase, you’ll move into ovulation. Which is …. The MAIN EVENT of your menstrual cycle.
Ovulation will only last for one day and this is when one of the ovaries will burst open and release a tiny egg and the fallopian tube will start to prepare for creating a baby!
This is also when estrogen levels will peak.
Now, if you are any form of hormonal contraception, you will not ovulate. Because contraception is intended to prevent ovulation right.
So you’ll miss all the benefits of this phase.
If you want to understand more about why it is critical that you ovulate during each and every cycle, please listen to Episode 6, but in short, if you don’t ovulate, you don’t produce progesterone.
And progesterone is the almost magical hormone that you definitely want more of.
It is our natural anti-depressant and anti-anxiety hormone and it will help you sleep better and make your skin glow.
So make sure you listen to Episode 6 to learn more about progesterone.
During this phase you’ll have high energy levels, your libido should be at it’s highest and you’ll experience more creative energy too.
Then, you’ll move into the Luteal phase, which is when the follicle that released the egg during ovulation, will develop into a small yellow cyst that will temporarily act like a gland that will produce progesterone. And this causes the uterine lining to grow thicker to get ready for implantation of a fertilized egg.
For me personally, the first half of the luteal phase is still great in terms of energy, creativity and overall wellness. But as you move into the second half of this phase, when progesterone levels are getting really high, you may start experiencing those typical PMS symptoms such as mood changes, headaches, acne, bloating and breast tenderness.
A normal luteal phase can last anywhere from 11 to 17 days, but in most women, this will be 12-14 days. The length of your luteal phase shouldn’t change as you age. But your progesterone levels during this phase may drop as you get closer to menopause.
During this phase, your energy will shift from being creative and outgoing to sombre and introspective.
This can be likened to autumn, when there is a certain calmness and almost low mood due to summer ending.
This can be a challenging time, especially if you start fighting your natural inclination to retreat and hibernate. What would usually mildly irritate you may now gravely annoy you, and you might find yourself reacting more emphatically than usual.
Just last week, I was in my premenstrual phase and it was quite a hard one this time around. I had a personal situation to deal with and it arose on this very day. And although I’m usually a very positive and optimistic person, I almost felt depressed and really bothered by the situation. But here’s the important thing, because I knew exactly what the underlying cause of my emotions was, I knew how to deal with it.
This was definitely NOT the time to respond to criticism or negative feedback
So I turned some relaxing music on while I was cooking, took a long warm bath and I was in bed by 7:30pm, asleep by 8. I knew my body was telling me that it was time to retreat. So it didn’t freak me out. And because I know that I’m not thinking with my rational brain during this time, I know how to deal with my family and I can communicate this with them too. They have an understanding of where I’m at and they respect that. And this helps to build a strong trust relationship with those closest to me, in this case my husband and children.
You may find that you have easily been dismissing these emotions to think you are too sensitive or hormonal
I love what Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer state in their book, Wild Power:
“The premenstrum is the classic feedback moment in the cycle. You’re being shown exactly what needs your attention, what needs to change and what isn’t working. You get feedback on your overall health and stress levels, how well you have been caring for yourself, your relationships, creative projects, spiritual life and more. Your task is to stay present and receive the feedback with as much self kindness as you can muster.”
So when you experience really uncomfortable premenstrual phases, it’s a reflection of how your body is doing and how well you’ve been looking after it during the 3 previous phases. Take the feedback with kindness and courage and make sure you do better next time.
So there you have it, the 4 phases of your menstrual cycle. If you learn to understand these 4 phases really well, you’ll know how to adjust your lifestyle around it, so you can support your body through these hormonal changes.
But first of all, you need to start addressing underlying hormonal imbalances, before you can start experiencing healthy phases.
And once you’ve set the strong foundation, you can start adjusting your lifestyle to suite every phase of your cycle.
And this is when you start discovering your superpower.
So if you would like a proven step-by-step guide on how to do exactly that, this intake of the Hormone Health Academy is only open until Saturday 8pm Eastern time.
It is truly a life-changing experience.
During this live coaching program, you’ll learn exactly how to address underlying hormonal imbalance and how to live in harmony with your cycle.
And you’ll have lifetime access to all the content.
So I would love for you to join me on this intake.
You can also use the code HHA50 before Saturday 8pm and get 50% off the full price as a founding member.
I’m confident that you won’t get this value anywhere and I won’t be offering this founding member offer again.
So head to vandghie.com/hha to join me today.
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Ok my friends, until next week, I’ll see you then.