The Normal Menstrual Cycle
As women we are told in various ways what to think, what to wear, how to feel and why something should matter. The messages are obvious and often subliminal. But what would happen if you were to challenge them? Not necessarily start a riot but increase your awareness and understanding of your beautiful body? You would then become your own champion and empower others to do the same. Over the next month we will be discussing the two main female life transitions and how her hormones play a role. In this first entry we will discuss the menstrual cycle, so that you may have the power and knowledge about what’s going on with your body.
In various cultures the transition from girl into womanhood is celebrated, but for many there is so much shame around this amazing feat. Every month you bleed and shed parts of you for a week and not die! I kid but let’s be serious, the fact that we are either unaware or misunderstand why this is good makes me sad.
The menstrual cycle is a complex monthly hormonal cycle that your body undergoes to prepare to make a baby. We will simplify it by focusing on the 4 main hormones; they are the follicular stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), estrogen and progesterone. These hormones can be further divided based on the phases of the menstrual cycle; the follicular phase and the luteal phase. The follicular phase is governed by FSH and estrogen and the luteal phase is governed by the LH and progesterone.
The brain produces FSH to tell the ovaries to produce estrogen. This influx of estrogen causes one primary egg also known as a follicle to mature around day 14. FSH then starts to decrease because estrogen is at its peak and LH begins to rise. LH stimulates progesterone production which causes the matured egg to be released and allow the uterine lining to build. Yay! The mature egg is free and travels toward the uterus for the next approximately 14 days. If you’re not “preggo” then the progesterone levels drop and the uterine lining “leggo”! Day 1 of your period has now begun.
This entire process of the menstrual cycle usually takes 28 days but may vary, lasting between 21-35 days. If you are experiencing a longer menstrual cycle it may feel like a nice break, but having skipped periods, or no bleeding at all, may be a sign of something more serious such as PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).
Polycystic ovarian syndrome stands for poly-many, cysts-fluid filled sacs that are on the ovaries. Basically, instead of the egg becoming mature and being released, it isn’t released at all but instead becomes a cyst. This is because progesterone, the hormone responsible for egg release, is low. There are a variety of reasons why this could happen including cortisol (stress hormone) being turned into more estrogen instead of becoming progesterone, or the progesterone being turned into testosterone. Our sex hormones have this uncanny ability to change between each other, so a multifaceted approach is key.
The main symptoms you may experience if you have PCOS include cystic acne, long or absent periods, and hair in some unwanted places like your chin or chest. You don’t have to have all these symptoms but if you do, then this is a reason to see the doctor. Have some questions about your hormones? You can schedule your 15-minute complimentary meet and greet with me here. Until then, you are beautiful, you are not alone, and you are powerful!
Tune in next time when we will discuss more about PCOS. Until then, Thank you for Reading.