Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Hormonal Basics

Our menstrual cycle is divided into the follicular phase (first half of the cycle, pre ovulation) and the luteal phase (second half of the cycle, post ovulation).  The follicular phase starts with day one of our cycle (which  is the first day of our period) and ends with ovulation (at mid cycle generally).  And the luteal phase starts after ovulation and ends with the last day of our cycle (which is the day before our next period starts).  A 'normal' regular cycle doesn't have to be exactly 28 days - it can be anywhere between 21 and 35 days.  Most importantly we need to have a sense of what our average cycle length is - this establishes our own individual normal and if our cycle starts to shift from this, it is a reflection that something is changing for us, hormonally.  
We generally ovulate approximately 14 days prior to our next period starting.  Some women will note one sided ovarian pain at ovulation (we ovulate from only one ovary each cycle and will ovulate from the other ovary the next cycle).  Generally there are also changes in the cervical mucous at ovulation with increased production and change in texture being pretty easy to note.
 It is also important for us to know how many days our period/menstrual flow lasts for and how heavy our flow is (a heavy flow is generally defined as needing to change menstrual products at least every 1.5-2 hours).  If we have a heavy flow at any point during our period or if we have an extended flow (6 days or more), it is important to have our ferritin levels (which measure our iron stores) tested at least yearly.  
All women will feel some increased sensitivity as we lead up to our period.  During the luteal phase, we are able to more closely connect with our intuition and how we are feeling on a deeper/less conscious level.  It is important to create some extra space for our selves during this part of our cycle to be able to listen more carefully and more clearly to the messages our body is more able/willing to share with us.  This can also make it easier to manage any fluctuations (on an emotional or physical level) that may occur during the luteal phase.  
If we do experience concerns that have a significant impact on our life and how we function as we lead up to the period, there are a number of different naturopathic therapeutics that we can consider to help bring more balance to our hormones and our cycle.  
Becoming more informed around and familiar with the basics of our own menstrual cycle can help us have a more manageable and balanced period and is a proactive way of supporting our overall health. 

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