Why To Love
Your Period

Our cycles can tell so much about our overall health and wellbeing, and very few of us are taught to actually read these signs as biomarkers for our health. It is time that we start understanding what our bodies are telling us so we can better understand our overall health, wellness, and fertility!

By Emily Chaffee

Ahh, getting mail is the best! Minus when you are an adult as the only thing we get now tend to be bills. But when we actually look at those bills, we can glean a lot from the previous month. Some credit card companies break down where you spent your money and any patterns in spending (aka take out and Amazon every other day). So while it may not be the most exciting thing to receive in the mail, it does give a good overview of your financial activity for the previous month and how you may need to adjust moving forward. #adulting

 

Now, wouldn’t it be helpful if we got these reports for all aspects of our lives? What if I told you, you already do, but you may not be reading them?


Well, as womxn, we have the best monthly report already! Unfortunately, many of us dread this report card because it may bring pain or excessive chocolate. We refer to it as that time of the month, Aunt Flo, or other names other than what it is actually called.

If you haven’t already figured it out, I am talking about our monthly cycles!

By learning about your cycle, you are becoming an informed participant in your reproductive and overall health as this is truly our fifth vital sign.

- Emily Chaffee

Importance of Monthly Cycles

Our cycles are our monthly report cards that can tell us SO much about our overall health and wellbeing, and very few of us are taught to actually read these signs as biomarkers for our health. It is time that we learn to love this monthly report card, and start understanding what our bodies are telling us so we can better understand our overall health, wellness, and fertility!

 

An amazing part of our cycles is that for each event to occur, the previous hormone must reach an adequate level to trigger the next event in line. This is why reading the signs throughout your entire cycle are important, as you can begin to notice the signs the next step is occurring (or for some, is not occurring).

 

It is also important to note that if you are on hormonal birth control, a lot of this information does not necessarily apply to you. Hormonal birth control, such as the pill, the ring, IUDs, etc., provide synthetic hormones that suppress hormonal function, therefore not letting your body ovulate. So, while some of the following information may be relevant to you, you may not notice all of the biomarkers talked about.

Stages of Your Cycle

Menstrual Cycle: A better name for your entire cycle should actually be the Ovulation Cycle, as ovulation is the most important event of it. So whether you call it your ovulation cycle, menstrual cycle, or monthly cycle, the important aspect of this is the entire event. Cycle day one is the first day of bleeding that requires you do something about it. This could mean a pad, tampon, or cup. It however does not mean spotting as spotting falls into the previous cycle. The last day of your cycle is the day before your period starts. 

 

  • What you should be looking for: A typical cycle length is 24-36 days, and can vary month to month depending on various aspects of your life.

 

  • What is happening in your body and what that means for your health: By learning about your cycle, you are becoming an informed participant in your reproductive and overall health as this is truly our fifth vital sign.

 

Bleeding/Period: We often think of this at the end of our cycle, but it is actually the beginning of a new one. The quality of bleeding is a direct reflection of the hormones in the previous cycle, and shows if it was a true ovulatory cycle or not.

 

  • What you should be looking for: Bleeding should last 3-7 days with at least one day of moderate to heavy bleeding. Blood color should be a rich, crimson red. 

 

  • What is happening in your body and what that means for your health: This is when the uterine lining is shedding if implantation did not occur the previous cycle. If you are having any physical symptoms, it is important to record these as pain and cramps are not a normal period symptom. Extremely light or heavy bleeding, light or dark blood, and cramps may be signs that your previous cycle may reflect other hormonal or health issues. 

 

Follicular Phase: This is the stage of your ovulation cycle from cycle day one through ovulation. This phase varies from person to person, and can be different each month. During this time, the follicle, or egg, is maturing and preparing for ovulation. Many hormones are rising at this time to prepare your body for ovulation.

 

  • What you should be looking for: In the beginning of this phase, some progesterone may be left over from the previous cycle, so you will likely notice vaginal dryness. As your estrogen rises, you should notice an increase in cervical mucus. It should be increasingly more present, stretchy, thin, and clear the closer to ovulation.

 

  • What is happening in your body and what that means for your health: Estrogen is steadily rising to prepare the follicle, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is released to mature the follicle, and when estrogen is at its peak, luteinizing hormone (LH) is released to trigger ovulation. With Estrogen being the dominant hormone, you likely are gaining more confidence and ready to mingle with friends on Zoom or 6 feet apart. If you are noticing little or no cervical mucus, this may mean that estrogen is not reaching its appropriate level. 

 

Ovulation: Ovulation occurs only when the hormones reach sufficient levels in the follicular phase to release a mature follicle. This is the time when the follicle bursts, and an egg is released. The egg travels down the fallopian tubes towards the uterus. 

 

  • What you should be looking for: As all the hormones are peaking, your cervical mucus should be plentiful. You can either see it when you wipe after using the bathroom, or in your underwear. 

 

  • What is happening in your body and what that means for your health: All hormones must have reached the proper level, so cervical mucus is ready to go! This mucus is sperm friendly, and wants to provide a slip and slide for the sperm to reach your awaiting egg. 

 

Luteal Phase: This stage is from after ovulation until the last day before menstruation. After ovulation, the follicle transforms into the corpus luteum which begins to produce progesterone. This phase is the most predictable in length, and should be between 11-17 days, averaging 12-14 days. 

 

  • What you should be looking for: You likely will not notice any cervical mucus. If you notice any spotting towards the end of the phase, this may mean an insufficient level of progesterone causing breakthrough bleeding. 

 

  • What is happening in your body and what that means for your health: With progesterone as your dominant hormone, you likely feel more sedentary and may be a bit more thankful for social distancing. At this time, there is little cervical mucus to observe. A healthy luteal phase is a reflection of a healthy ovulation. 

 

And then things repeat again! Monitoring each day is key to starting to notice patterns and beginning to predict future cycles. Furthermore, if you keep notes of your various feelings, life events, sleep changes, and physical symptoms, you can begin noticing how your hormonal biomarkers are impacted by these changes.

We hope this helped you understand why in fact you should love your cycle! Look how much it can tell us about our hormonal health if we just stop and listen!

Emily is a fertility and birth doula, childbirth educator, perinatal massage therapist and certified educator of infant massage. She started her doula journey during her own pregnancy in 2015 as she learned the power of her own voice, and realized that she could help others find theirs. Since then, she has built Carolina Birth and Wellness to be a full spectrum doula agency that provides support for individuals and families from preconception through the first years of having a baby. Her own struggles with infertility has also opened her eyes to helping women understand what their body is telling them through the menstrual cycle and various other biomarkers that are so often ignored or not talked about because it seems too personal. She strongly believes in helping her clients learn each and every option available to them as the only right choice is what is best for you, your body, and your family.

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