Understand your menstrual cycle to improve your overall health and fertility

How well do you understand your menstrual cycle? When you’re trying to conceive it can feel like the most important time in the cycle to pinpoint is your fertile window. Whilst it is obviously important to know when you ovulate, it also misses the mark when you’re trying to improve your overall health and fertility.

Our entire menstrual cycle holds clues for us about our health and fertility.

For example, an extremely light period might be an indication that the uterine lining needs building up, and conversely a heavy clot-filled period can be a sign of hormones being out of balance.

These are obvious physical clues about our cycle, but there are also more subtle signs that our body gives us around our cycle as well. Our energy levels throughout the month can give us a good indication of our health and fertility and listening to the clues our body gives us is the best way to practice the type of self-care (and yoga!) that we actually need.

Watch this video below where I talk about this more, or read on for a summary.

Why you need to understand your menstrual cycle for fertility?

If you’re anything like I used to be, you might only think about your cycle in terms of ‘on your period’ and ‘off your period’.

This is certainly all I was taught and how I used to think about my body. It wasn’t until after my three losses when I started following my cycle more closely, that I learnt how there are actually four very distinct phases of our cycle; menstruation, pre-ovulation, ovulation and pre-menstruation.

I noticed that I would feel very different from one phase to the next but that I had to be paying attention. My energy levels changed, my skin, my libido, my moods, my appetite, my emotions, even the self-talk I used changed depending on where I was in my cycle. (You may have even experienced this yourself – does your inner-bitch come out during your pre-menstrual phase too?)

Once I noticed how different I felt during the four phases I started looking after myself according the phase that I was in. I noticed that I needed more rest during my pre-menstrual and menstrual phases but that I had more energy during the other two phases. Knowing this helped me to plan more rest and solo time during these phases and save social events for the times I knew I would feel more outgoing.

Living in this way, helped me to find a better balance in my life and make sure I was getting the rest that I needed, when I needed it. Understanding my menstrual cycle in this way was like getting the keys to myself. Suddenly I didn’t feel like I fighting how I was feeling all the time. And because I was looking after myself better and actually listening to my body, I felt better, my health improved and my fertility did as well.

How do the different phases of you cycle change?

Firstly, let me start by saying everyone’s cycle is unique so while I can give you a bit of an overview of ‘what’s typical’ – the best way to understand your menstrual cycle is to start tracking it for a couple of months.

Menstrual phase (approximately days 1 – 6)

Hormones are the at lowest and so is energy. Your body usually asks for rest and care at this time. This is a good time to reflect, nurture your body with easy to digest food, sleep and dream. You’ll may find social events and logical, clear thinking difficult at this time.

Pre-ovulatory phase (approximately days 7 – 13)

Estrogen starts to rise as your body starts to prepare for the release of an egg. Your energy increases and your ability to think clearly returns. This is a good time for social events, trying new things and more energetic activities.

Ovulatory Phase (approximately day 14 – 20)

This phases of the cycle is usually the peak time for energy levels. (Side note. If you often feel exhausted or burnt out during this phase of the cycle it might be sign that you’re doing too much). Women often feel really good at this time – sexy, outgoing and confident. This is a good time for connecting with others and social events.

Pre-Menstrual phase (approximately day 21 – 28)

Energy levels typically start to decline in this phase. The changing combination of oestrogen and progesterone can start to make logical thinking more difficult and change your mood (if you’re new to cycle tracking, start by noticing your self-talk and moods during this phase). This is a good time to start slowing down and focusing again on self-care as this cycle comes to an end.

Where and how do you start?

Keep it simple to start with. Just note down your moods, appetite, emotions and energy levels each day of your cycle for a couple of months. (You could do this on your phone or in a notebook).

If you’re wanting to improve your fertility, you may also want to chart your cycle using a thermometer. This is done by taking your BBT each morning (your temperature before you move or do anything). Learn more about that here.

After a couple of months you should be able to see a pattern emerging. It might be helpful to get someone else to look over your charts as you might not be able to notice things that others can because you’re too close to it. This is often what I do when I work one on one with women around fertility because fertility charts can show us so much about what is going on physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. If you’d like some help with your charts you can organise a session here.

As you start to understand your cycle better you’ll be able to plan around it more. Changes you might consider making include:

  • different exercise (including yoga) during the different phases
  • food (including pre-preparing for the menstrual phase)
  • plan social events around cycle
  • planning the times to connect with you partner (socially and intimately)
  • rest and sleep (you’ll need more during pre-menstrual and menstrual phases)
  • spiritual practices (at some phases of the cycle you may feel more connected than at others)

If you’d like to know more about practicing yoga throughout the different phases of the cycle check out my four part fertility yoga series. Or if you have any questions I’m happy to answer them below. x

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