Phases of the men­strual cy­cle

In the Moment - - Wellbeing -

YOUR GUIDE TO YOUR MONTHLY HOR­MONAL CHANGES. EACH PHASE MAY BE SLIGHTLY LONGER OR SHORTER,

DE­PEND­ING ON YOUR BODY

DAYS 1–5: MEN­STRUAL PHASE

This be­gins on the rst day of your bleed when the uterus sheds its in­ner lin­ing of soft tis­sue and blood ves­sels, ex­it­ing the body in the form of men­strual

uid. Dur­ing this phase you may ex­pe­ri­ence ab­dom­i­nal cramps, caused by the con­trac­tion of the uter­ine and ab­dom­i­nal mus­cles to ex­pel the men­strual uid.

DAYS 1-13: FOL­LIC­U­LAR PHASE

This phase also starts on the rst day of men­stru­a­tion and it’s all about fer­til­i­sa­tion (whether you are try­ing to be­come preg­nant or not). Dur­ing this phase the pi­tu­itary gland (lo­cated be­hind your nose, at­tached to the hy­po­thal­a­mus) se­cretes the hor­mone oe­stro­gen, stim­u­lat­ing the egg cells in the ovaries to grow. Over 13 days, one of these egg cells reaches ma­tu­rity in a sac-like-struc­ture called a fol­li­cle, which se­cretes a hor­mone that stim­u­lates the uterus to develop a lin­ing of blood ves­sels and soft tis­sue called the en­dometrium. To­wards the end of this phase you may ex­pe­ri­ence feel­ings of calm and well­be­ing.

DAY 14: OVU­LA­TION PHASE

This is the day that the pi­tu­itary gland se­cretes a hor­mone to make the ovary re­lease the ma­tured egg cell, which is then swept into the fal­lop­ian tube. It’s the day that you are most fertile in your cy­cle.

DAYS 15-28: LUTEAL PHASE

The main hor­mone that con­trols the ac­tiv­i­ties of the luteal phase is pro­ges­terone. Dur­ing this phase, the egg cell re­leased dur­ing ovu­la­tion stays in the fal­lop­ian tube for 24 hours. If it’s not im­preg­nated by a sperm cell within this time, it dis­in­te­grates. Pro­ges­terone, the hor­mone that causes the uterus to re­tain its en­dometrium, gets used up by the end of this cy­cle, caus­ing the men­strual phase of the next cy­cle to be­gin again. It’s dur­ing this phase that we can ex­pe­ri­ence the symp­toms of PMS.

So, what hap­pens if our hor­mones are not in bal­ance? Un­for­tu­nately, there’s no ‘one size ts all’ an­swer – we are all di er­ent, af­ter all. How­ever, some com­mon signs that things are amiss in­clude: weight gain, mood swings, ir­reg­u­lar men­strual cy­cles, heavy pe­ri­ods, clotty pe­ri­ods, miss­ing pe­ri­ods (amen­or­rhea), ir­ri­tabil­ity, in­fer­til­ity, mis­car­riage, in­som­nia, low self-es­teem, de­creased li­bido, fa­tigue, anger, fa­cial hair and acne, headaches, panic at­tacks, low mood, bone den­sity loss, vagi­nal dry­ness, belly fat, breast ten­der­ness, broids, PCOS, cold hands and feet, en­dometrio­sis, cysts, and (our long-stand­ing friend) PMS – just to name a few! In fact, PMS alone has more than 150 symp­toms as­so­ci­ated with it. And un­for­tu­nately, there are so many jokes about PMS that many women feel ashamed to even ad­mit that they su er from it.

So what is PMS, and why do we get it? Un­for­tu­nately, most of us will have su ered with it at some time or an­other – be­lieve me, I’ve been there too. PMS is ac­tu­ally a com­plex syn­drome of phys­i­cal, men­tal and phys­i­o­log­i­cal symp­toms, and for some women it can be re­ally de­bil­i­tat­ing. We ex­pe­ri­ence it in the luteal phase of our monthly cy­cle, and it usu­ally im­proves with men­stru­a­tion. Symp­toms can vary month to month but of­ten we ex­pe­ri­ence a whole spec­trum in­clud­ing mood swings, ir­ri­tabil­ity, anger, food crav­ings, in­som­nia, ab­dom­i­nal bloat­ing, breast pain, headaches, dizzi­ness and anx­i­ety. Ba­si­cally, one minute we’re all su­gar and spice; the next we are like an­gry rat­tle snakes wait­ing to at­tack!

It is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that we are all in­cred­i­bly di er­ent, and PMS is com­pli­cated – what causes one woman to su er with it may be di er­ent for the next. But, while there are many causes of it, im­bal­anced hor­mones, life­style and diet play a big role.

So how can we re­store hor­monal bal­ance? These hor­monal whirl­winds can be frus­trat­ing and up­set­ting. But you don’t need to ac­cept this as your ‘norm’ – it is pos­si­ble for us to re­store har­mony and bal­ance. When things are thrown out of equi­lib­rium, it can not only a ect your day, but your health too, even if ev­ery­thing else is seem­ingly per­fect. I my­self had a sea­son ticket to the hor­monal roller­coaster for many years, and I also wear the scars of poly­cys­tic ovary syn­drome

(PCOS) – hy­pothy­roidism, low pro­ges­terone, ade­no­myosis (AKA uter­ine en­dometrio­sis) and two mis­car­riages. I had to work hard to stop the ride and climb o , but I am so pleased that I did. My story, if any­thing, attests to the body’s amaz­ing re­silience and the di er­ence it makes when we hon­our our hor­monal health.

If you su er with PMS, or any of the other symp­toms I’ve men­tioned, I urge you to read as much as you can on the sub­ject. Through my own years of re­search, I now fol­low my six pil­lars to hor­monal health: Nour­ish, Bal­ance, Nur­ture, Cleanse, Move, Re­store. I can at­test that just small changes to your ev­ery­day life­style can start your jour­ney on the path to that holy grail of hor­monal bal­ance.

Clock­wise from top:An­gelique nour­ishesher body to help herhor­mones; mov­ing canease symp­toms of PMS;An­gelique shares herwis­dom in her book,The Bal­ance Plan.

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