Your cycle, those 24-31 days, can be completely magical. Your cycle can also be your kryptonite. Do you know how to harness your cycle so that you can use it to your benefit? I like to view the cycle as the seasons. We, as women, have four parts of our cycles, just like mother earth designed our year into four parts. Here’s how to view your cycle as the seasons.
Unlike men, we have 24-31 day cycles in which our hormones are shifting and changing. Men, have 24 hour hormone cycles, so they run through their cycles in one day, whereas women go through their cycles over a month, give or take.
The first part of your cycle is when you are bleeding. It is known as your period or menses. I view this first part of the cycle as the Winter of your cycle. All of your hormone levels are at the lowest they will be for the entire month. In this first phase, you are more reflective and crave hibernation. Your energy levels are lower in this phase. You may feel most comfortable at home, with a big mug of tea, a blanket, and Netflix. Those cravings are completely normal. Thanks to your hormones being low, your energy is likely to be low too.
What’s Happening With Your Hormones?
Your reproductive system as a whole, is under the influence of certain hormones which are regulated by the hypothalamus and its gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). This hormone, GnRH, causes the cells in the frontal part of the pituitary gland to produce two types of hormones.
The first hormone that the pituitary gland produces in FSH or follicle-stimulating hormone. The second is LH or luteinizing hormone. Once these hormones are produced, they travel to the ovaries where they influence estrogen and progesterone levels to change. This entire cascade helps follicles to mature inside the ovaries.
Some of the matured follicles will eventually become eggs and travel down the fallopian tubes to get fertilized and if successful, will make their home in your uterus. This complex hormone interaction and cascade is called the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Ovarian Axis.
At the end of the previous cycle, leading up to your period, the gonadotropin-releasing hormone levels will increase due to negative feedback of estrogen and progesterone. This negative feedback causes estrogen and progesterone to drop right before your period. The negative feedback also increases follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
Even during your period, your body is still preparing for the potential of pregnancy. All of the hormone fluctuations you experience have to do with ovulation. These changes in your hormones can cause acne, mood disruptions, and appetite changes.
The Follicular Phase
This phase happens after your period and before ovulation. It’s when the follicles, which will eventually become eggs, are maturing. This phase of your cycle can be compared to Spring. Your energy will start to come back, slowly you’ll feel more confident and sexy. During this phase you should start planning events with friends, meetings with your boss to ask for a promotion, booking networking events into your calendar. This is just the beginning of the upswing in terms of your energy levels.
What’s Going On Hormone Wise?
This phase begins on Day 4-5 of your cycle. Estrogen continues to rise during this phase. FSH and estrogen create a mature follicle that will develop into an egg at ovulation. Estrogen is highest in this phase. Testosterone also rises during this phase. During your follicular phase, FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) rises to stimulate folliculogenesis. In the beginning, of your follicular phase, many follicles grow but then one follicle is selected as the dominant one. Luteinizing hormone also begins to increase towards the end of the follicular phase.
Between the high estrogen and testosterone, energy levels will also be high during this week, which makes it a great time for more activity, higher intensity movement, and more extroverted activity.
The Ovulatory Phase
This is the culmination of all the hard work your body has been up to for the past two weeks! An egg gets released from the follicle in your ovary and will survive for 12-24 hours. During this phase, you’ll notice a difference in your cervical mucus. If your hormones are relatively balanced, you’ll notice a change from a creamy white fluid to a fluid which is most similar to egg whites, stretchy, sticky, clear and wet.
I like to compare this part of your cycle to Summer, you are feeling yourself and are in the mood for fun! Your energy peaks during this phase of your cycle. This is the perfect time for a date night, girls night, or to ask your boss for a promotion. The increase of testosterone and estrogen levels will leave you feeling confident, sexy, and energized, woohoo!
Thanks to your abundant energy, this is also the perfect time for a high intensity workout, lunchtime walks, power yoga, and strength training!
Let’s Chat Hormones
In this part of your cycle your testosterone and estrogen level peak. It’s those high hormone levels that give you a boost in confidence, energy, and sexiness. Luteinizing hormone is also rising in this part of your cycle. FSH or follicle stimulating hormone is dropping so that LH can soar. Towards the end of ovulation and into your Luteal Phase we see progesterone make it’s mark too.
The Luteal Phase
In the luteal phase, the follicle that become “dominant” in the follicular phase transforms into the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum is a transient endocrine organ that predominantly secretes progesterone which prepares the uterus inner layer for implantation.
I like to attribute the Luteal Phase to Fall. Throughout this final part of your cycle your energy slowly begins to decline again. This is the perfect time to reflect, journal, and go over your goals and create new intentions. Progesterone is rising in this phase and progesterone is an anti-anxiety, calming hormone, so you will find yourself slowing down. This is the perfect time to cross of things on your to-do list, clean up around your home, and take comfort in nesting.
This phase is the perfect time for practicing self care, taking restorative yoga classes, going on walks, and cutting yourself some slack to rest and relax.
Your Hormones During The Luteal Phase
The first half of your luteal phase is when we see estrogen and testosterone levels drop. This drop leaves room for progesterone to take over. We also see LH, luteinizing hormone, also decrease through this phase of your cycle. Increased progesterone levels can cause changes in your bowel movements, specifically constipation. As progesterone levels decrease, you may also notice PMS symptoms increase, like moodiness, irritability, bloating, etc.
If you got pregnant in this cycle, your progesterone will remain high. If you are not pregnant, your progesterone levels will drop during the last part of the luteal phase.
As you can see your body and hormones undergo a LOT of changes from day 1 of your cycle through to the last day of your cycle. From energy shifts to appetite changes, so many of these transitions are controlled by your hormones. I hope breaking down everything that happens in your body into the seasons of your cycle made it easier to understand. Being a woman definitely has it’s challenges, but your menstrual cycle shouldn’t be one of them. Whether your periods are too short or overly long, if you aren’t having a cycle or not ovulating, we can fix all of that. If you’re ready to get your hormones back in check, I’d love to talk to you. You can find out more about how I work with clients, here.