The Menstrual Cycle 101
There is so much to know about women’s health. And it’s high time that women, as well as men, understand the basics of women’s health beyond what our fourth-grade sex education provides. This is particularly important for women’s monthly menstrual cycle.
A menstrual cycle is a complex interplay of hormones. When it goes right, women feel amazing. When this interplay of hormones is out of balance, it can cause a variety of issues. These issues vary from irregular cycles, amenorrhea (the absence of a period), infertility, recurrent miscarriages, endometriosis, PMS, painful periods, hormonal acne, mood swings and many more.
So read on for the basics of the menstrual cycle – and what you can do if your hormones are not in balance.
Menstrual Cycle Basics
A regular cycle is 28 days in length which is counted from the 1st day of bleeding to the next month’s 1st day of bleeding. The hormones that regulate this monthly cycle are secreted from a gland in the brain. These hormones are known as LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone). They act in concert with each other to effect changes on the ovaries, uterus and other parts of the body.
A menstrual cycle has two phases. The Follicular Phase starts with menstrual bleeding. And during this first phase, under the influence of FSH, the ovaries develop an egg for release. Before it’s release, the egg is referred to as a follicle (thus ‘Follicular’ Phase). The ovaries also release estrogen during this phase, which stimulates the uterus.
Meanwhile, in the uterus, after it has shed it’s lining during the menstrual bleeding, it begins to rebuild it’s lining in preparation for the possibility of a fertilized egg to implant. Once the stage is set, around day 14 of the cycle, a significant spike in LH causes the mature follicle to release an egg. This is called ovulation.
The second phase of the cycle is the Luteal Phase, which is from day 15 – 28. The old follicle that has just ovulated turns into the corpus luteum, which then secretes progesterone. The increase of progesterone causes the lining of the uterus to continue to build. If that egg, released during ovulation, doesn’t get fertilized, then progesterone stops the sudden fall of progesterone causes the uterine lining to be shed. And we’re back to day 1 of the next cycle: menstrual bleeding.
- Menstrual Phase
- Day 1-5
- Shedding of the endometrial lining
- Decrease of Estradiol and Progesterone hormones
- Proliferative Follicular Phase
- Day 6-14
- Endometrial tissue regrowth
- The pituitary gland releases FSH
- Development of Graffian follicle containing the mature egg
- Graffian follicle secretes increasing amounts of Estradiol
- High Estradiol levels suppress the release of FSH and trigger the release of LH from the anterior pituitary
- Secretory Luteal Phase
- Day 15-28
- Ovulation and formation of the Corpus Luteum from the ruptured follicle
- Progesterone production from the Corpus luteum
- Progesterone stimulates endometrial growth
- If implantation does not occur, there will be a decrease in progesterone levels, and menstruation occurs
So, what can go wrong? There are so many moving parts in a healthy menstrual cycle; it’s no wonder that a slight variation in any of the steps can result in many unfavourable outcomes such as those mentioned above. There can be a variety of issues that cause problems, like not enough progesterone, too much estrogen, uterine lining growing outside of the uterus, imbalance of LH or FSH, biomechanical issues like adhesions of the uterus or fallopian tubes and on, and on.
This is where Naturopathic Doctors can be of help. Naturopathic Doctors are trained to treat the root cause of many hormonal conditions like PMS, polycystic ovarian syndrome, infertility and menopause. By investigating hormonal imbalances and using treatments like herbal medicines, nutrient therapies and lifestyle recommendations to restore balance, Naturopathic Doctors are your best choice for discovering health from many hormonal conditions.
Contact me at the IV health centre to learn more about how I can help regulate your cycle naturally and get you feeling balanced. Stay connected on social media and through our newsletter and blogs for my upcoming posts about birth control, endometriosis and more on women’s health.
-Dr. Kaylee Driedger, ND