As women, we all can relate to the turbulence of our monthly cycle. Throughout our lifetime, we can have approximately 450 monthly cycles. If challenged by your cycle, it can disrupt work, socialising, workouts, and even intimate connections. Did you know that it is possible to not just survive, but actually thrive and learn how to embrace the superpower that is our monthly cycle?
Over the course of each cycle, we move through 4 phases. These are our Period (phase 1), our Follicular phase (phase 2), ovulation (phase 3) and finally our luteal phase (phase 4). Let's break down what goes down over each phase.
Phase 1 – Menstruation, aka Our Period
We should get a bleed every 21-45 days. It should come without much notice and should be relatively pain-free. Yep, that's right, period pain is not normal. Common, yes, but not normal. You want to see a deep red, cranberry-like colour and we generally lose between 50ml – 80ml of menstrual fluid over 3-7 days. During this time our hormones are low, and this may result in lower energy. It is important to listen to your body and if it's telling you to rest, please rest. Consider sleep part of your exercise routine during this phase. We should focus on cooked foods such as warm oats, vegetable curry or chicken soup. These foods are easy to digest and therefore reserve energy for the process of menstruation. An easy way to remember this is to think of your period like winter. Hibernate, eat warm cosy food and reserve your energy for spring.
10 fully soaked pads or tampons = 50ml menstrual fluid
Phase 2 – Follicular Phase, There’s a Spring in Our Step
During this phase, follicles within the ovaries are at their final stage of growth and maturation. To finalise this process, hormones called LH, FSH and estrogen gradually rise over 1-2 weeks. As these hormones rise, so may your energy. We can relate this phase to spring, the gradual growth of our follicles like flowers on trees and our food choices turn to fresh, vibrant coloured fruits and vegetables. We have a little more energy to break down raw/lightly cooked meals such as a berry smoothie, salads with grilled fish and vegetable stir-fries. This phase ends with hormones reaching a peak, initiating ovulation.
We are born with follicles inside our ovaries. During your menstruating years, these follicles are stimulated by hormones. The maturing process of our follicles takes over 100 days. Therefore, your health over the last 100 days can determine the health of your cycle today. Period problem or PMS? Ask yourself, "how was my health 3-4 months ago?"
Phase 3 – Ovulation, Cracking Open Our Fertile Window
Hormones have reached a peak that initiates ovulation. This is when the most matured follicle releases an egg. You may feel some slight twinge in your lower abdomen during ovulation, commonly referred to as ovulation pain. The lifespan of this egg is between 24 – 48 hours and within this time, if in the company of sperm, the egg may be fertilised. Not only is this phase necessary to fall pregnant, ovulation is also key for a healthy monthly cycle as it determines the production of another major hormone, progesterone.
We can relate this short phase to summer, continuing to include fresh, vibrant colourful fruits and vegetables. We have the energy to break down raw/lightly cooked meals and feel dynamic, happy, and motivated. Your sex drive may be higher, and you will notice a few key changes that can be recorded in your cycle tracking app or diary. The