Your menstrual cycle is a monthly series of changes in hormones where the average cycle length is 28 days including your days of menstruation. Women have an average of 9-12 periods in a year, so understanding when and how your hormone shifts occur can help you take better care of your health.
The hormonal shifts occur in two main phases:
- Follicular Phase – This is the first part of the menstrual cycle which occurs on days 1-14. During this phase, your body prepares itself for ovulation. Your follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) stimulates your ovaries to release an egg from its follicles, which then causes estrogen to rise and another hormone, luteinizing hormone (LH), to spike. During this phase you should be feeling your best – you are at your most fertile and how you feel reflects this.
- Ovulation – This occurs around day 14. An egg is being released from your ovary and this is the optimal time to try for pregnancy if you are planning on becoming pregnant. A lot of women report an increase in libido either one day before or the day of ovulation.
- Luteal Phase – This second part of your menstrual cycle are days 15-28. Estrogen begins to decrease and progesterone increases. Imbalance in these hormones during this time can cause PMS symptoms, including mood swings, acne, fatigue, headaches, breast tenderness and low back pain.
Why Should You Track Your Cycles?
Your hormones go through many shifts throughout the month. Tracking your periods may help with the following:
- It helps you understand if your digestive issues are hormonal – For example, many women find they are often bloated around their time of menstruation. Some may find that after tracking their cycles the bloating occurs from ovulation until the onset of menstruation but that prior to ovulation, there is no bloating! This indicates that perhaps there is much more of a hormonal connection to your digestive system than you may think.
- You can choose to optimize your fertility or avoid getting pregnant – For a variety of reasons, some women actually do not ovulate on day 14. On ovulation, a lot of women have cervical discharge – they may find that there is an egg-white like discharge on a specific day of the month. This may be a sign of ovulation and can help you plan to become or prevent becoming pregnant.
- You can plan your month more efficiently: Are you planning a big speech or perhaps a wedding? Keeping track of your cycles can tell you when you will be naturally feeling most vibrant – try planning your big day for the follicular phase after your period has finished.
- It helps to better understand mood changes: If you find yourself suddenly feeling more impatient or moody but are not sure why check to see where in your menstrual cycle you are at. If you are in the luteal phase, hormonal changes may explain why you are feeling differently.
- Knowledge is power: Keeping track of your periods over the long term can help you understand how much your hormones affect your physical and mental health. Keep track of when you tend to feel your best or are feeling a little low. Some shifts in these feelings are normal, however, if you realize these changes are on the extreme side, it may be time to look into regulating your hormones.
Tracking your menstrual cycle doesn’t have to be complicated. Talk to your naturopathic doctor about options for testing your hormones or treatments that can help you optimize your overall health.
– Dr. Kay Wong, ND
To book an appointment with Dr. Kay, visit our website at theiv.ca or give us a call at 604-974-8999.