a length or portion of time.
Our periods are so-called because they occur periodically. But, believe it or not, a period is just one small part - right at the end - of an entire menstrual cycle.
As women, we're capable of anything. We're strong. We're independent. We don't need no man. Etcetera etcetera.
We're also lucky enough (and yep, bare with me here if you're not already loving your periods and/or cycle) to have menstrual cycles.
Now, our menstrual cycles consist of three main phases: the Follicular Phase, which lasts between 7 and 21 days, Ovulation, which is a single day thang, and then the Luteal Phase, which lasts 10-16 days. Therefore, all up, a healthy cycle should last between 21 and 35 days, with 28 days being the ideal down-the-middle number (hence the connection to the lunar - or moon - cycle, which you may or may not have heard of).
Day 1 of your Cycle is the first day of your period (and we're talking the first reeeeaaal day of proper bleeding). And then you count through the rest of the days of your Cycle from there.
Here's a bit of an overview for the visual gals among us...
... but allow me to dig a bit deeper ...
T H E F O L L I C U L A R P H A S E - 7 - 2 1 d a y s
Picture this: a group of 6-8 follicles (little sacs) gathering at the starting line for the final days of the race of their lives. Their end goal? The finish line - aka ovulation.
Now, these little follicles have been kicking around for a while in preparation. Their lifespan from dormant to the end of that race is 100 days (just over 3 months) - which is why hormonal health is a *AND I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH* long-term project.
Now, during this phase (race), one of our hormones - our Follicle Stimulating Hormone (or FSH) ramps things up by stimulating the follicles to produce another hormone: Oestradiol, which is an Oestrogen hormone responsible for thickening the uterine lining, prepping it for a baby. It also produces a fertile mucus or discharge which is going to act, basically, as a bit of a sperm escalator, in preparation for our most fertile point in our cycle.
Aside from basically building a little nest in the uterus, Oestradiol is also our happy hormone. It boosts our mood, boosts libido (hello), improves our sleep, speeds up our metabolism, and promotes the health of our bones, muscles, brain, heart, and SKIN.
O V U L A T I O N
This is it. The winning follicle crosses the finish line, and, with the help of another of our hormones Leutinising Hormone (LH), it releases its egg!
This release? That's ovulation, babe.
Maybe you'll feel a little twinge or some mild pain as this happens. Maybe not. But lemme tell you a little thing: either you ovulate, or you don't. There's no such thing as a partial egg release.
There are two outcomes to ovulation: either pregnancy, or a period.
Oh, and ovulation is FAB because it helps us to produce yet another hormone: Progesterone. More about that in a sec.
T H E L U T E A L P H A S E - 1 0 - 1 6 d a y s
Babe, I've gotta tell you: your body is MAGICAL. After you ovulate, that follicle transforms into a temporary endocrine gland! How cool is that?!
Yep. In less than 24 hours, you go from having an emptied follicle to a 4cm functioning gland called the Corpus Luteum (hence the name of this phase).
Now, your Corpus Luteum is responsible for secreting Progesterone. This hormone is key for period health. While its main job is to hold a pregnancy, it also:
- counterbalances Oestrogen (Progesterone is the yin to Oestrogen's yang)
- reduces inflammation
- calms our nervous system, helping us to better cope with stress
- promotes sleep
- builds muscle
- protects against heart disease
Quick, important note: Progesterone comes from our Corpus Luteum, and not from birth control pills. Many women believe that they are on a version of the Pill containing Progesterone, however the Pill actually usually contains Progestin, which is a completely different hormone. Progestin can work in the very opposite way to Progesterone, actually causing anxiety or making it worse instead of calming your body the heck down!
The health of your Corpus Luteum - the very end result for that little follicle - is decided and determined over the course of the follicle's 100 day lifespan. If you're suffering from a disease, if there's inflammation in your body, or if you're deficient in some v important nutrients? Your Corpus Luteum - and the supply of progesterone - is going to feel it.
Y O U R P E R I O D
As I mentioned back up da top of this post, your period should arrive every 21-35 days - no more or less often. A healthy period will flow anywhere from 2-7 days, although most women flow for 3-5 days, with 50ml's worth of flow. You may get a little bit of pain or discomfort for the first day or so, but you probably wouldn't need to take painkillers (and, if you did, they'd definitely get rid of the pain pretty quick-smart).
One last, very important note: if you are on the pill or have an implant device, your 'period' is not a true period. Your 'period' is in fact a pill withdrawal or implant bleed, and they're quite different things.
But more on that in the next post of our series - stay tuned, babe.
In the meantime, if you feel that your cycles just aren't cycling as they should, why not book a one-on-one consult with me?