It’s important to know how your body works. Period.
You know that thing no one likes to talk about? THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE! Many think of their cycle only as the days of their period, but the cycle itself has four distinct phases: menstrual, follicular, ovulatory and luteal. Our transition through these phases is a well choreographed ebb and flow of hormones. Each rise and drop sparking the next step in the complex dance of the female body. And while you most likely dread your period, honestly, it should be celebrated! Heck, that monthly cleanse is your body’s way of telling you that things are working down there.
Knowing your cycle is crucial if you are trying to conceive, prevent pregnancy or just want to understand why you are feeling so cruddy every month. Ultimately, we can’t change the process so you might as well get a peek into the magic.
For the sake of this conversation we are talking in terms of the cycle being 28 days. We know not everyone falls into this schedule but it makes the math easy 🙂 Oh and for those significant others reading this blog, I applaud you for wanting to be in step with your partner.
Ready? Here we go!
The Menstrual Phase (Days 1-5)
The day you get your period! Ugh! During this phase your body is preparing for a potential baby by shedding the endometrial lining of your uterus from the last cycle. The length of your bleed averages about 5 days but may last from 2-7. Having cramps, headaches, bloating, etc? It’s because estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest. This is also why your mood might be crappy as estrogen increases the production of serotonin (the hormone of happiness!) Every woman will respond differently to this drop, hence why you might have back pain while your sister is dealing with a headache.
Take away: Eating warm, blood nourishing, clean foods during this time will help support your body. What foods are blood nourishing?? Click here for a list!
The Follicular Phase (Days 6-13)
You are feeling more like yourself again thanks to your ovaries releasing higher levels of estrogen. This is also the time your pituitary gland releases a hormone called follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) to prepare and mature a new lucky egg. When the egg begins to mature in one of your ovaries, notice if you feel more creative during this time.
Take away: Your energy has returned! This is the perfect time to try something new and let that creative spirit shine through.
The Ovulatory Phase (Day 14)
You have finally reached the midpoint of your cycle and probably feel pretty darn sexy! Estrogen has been on the rise and triggered a surge in Luteinizing Hormone (LH) which ultimately sparks ovulation, the release of that lucky mature egg. Unless you are hoping for a baby, it’s a good idea to use contraception. Do you know your fertility window? Many don’t, so don’t be ashamed. It is five days leading up to ovulation, plus the day of and after ovulation. Why? Because sperm is able to live for about 5 days in the female body meaning unprotected sex 5 days before ovulation can still create a pregnancy. The egg, on the other hand, only has 24 hours and if it fails to connect with a ready sperm it will pass through in your next menstruation. If you are trying to conceive having sex every other day starting around day 10 will do a pretty good job of getting you there.
Take away: If you are TTC this is the time for sex, sex, sex. If a baby is not in your future contraception, contraception, contraception!
The Luteal Phase (Day 15-28)
The last phase of your cycle. By now the egg has left the ovary and that follicle that once housed the egg has developed into a small yellow structure called the corpus luteum. Its main job is to secrete progesterone to create a perfect environment in the uterus for implantation and sustained pregnancy. If pregnancy did not occur, the corpus luteum will break down about day 24 and stop releasing progesterone, triggering the endometrium to shed and the next cycle to begin. If you are prone to PMS this is probably when your symptoms begin as estrogen and progesterone levels quickly drop. You are naturally more aware of your feelings during this time. Pay attention to your emotions and symptoms and add some healthy habits that may help you decrease these emotions the next time around. Adding exercise, massage, and acupuncture are great ways to help resolve those emotions and put a smile back on your face.
Take away: Suffering with pms? Get in to see your acupuncturist to help calm your mind, eliminate discomfort and get rid of those PMS symptoms.
How to Calculate + Track
Now that you understand the four phases of your menstrual cycle, you should know how to calculate it. Especially if you are interested in pregnancy timing! Remember that day one is always the first day you bleed. You calculate the total day of your cycle by the first day you bleed from your previous period to the first day of your next period. The average cycle is 28 ish days, but it can range from 21-35 days! You can also actually track what phase you are in by your cervical mucus. That might sound gross, but it’s how our bodies communicate with us! We’re pretty awesome creatures. Have an IUD or recently got off birth control and haven’t had your period since? You can record your basal body temperature (BBT) to know when you are ovulating, even with those irregular periods! We will post resources below on how to record your BBT and how that can help track your cycle. In addition, your phone has apps just for period tracking!
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Find Acupuncture Near Me for Fertility!
If you are in Grand Rapids or West Michigan we are here for you. If you are located outside our area and looking for great acupuncturist the Acupuncture and TCM Board of Reproductive Medicine (ABORM) is the ideal resource for specialty trained acupuncturist in the field of reproductive medicine.
If you don’t have an ABORM fellow in your area the National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) is another great resource for highly trained acupuncturists.
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