Female hormones fluxuate. So much so that it affects our mood, sex drive, cravings and energy level. The body is a miraculous thing, and the female hormonal cycle is just one example of its ingenious. The only thing is that hormones are particular – they like to be exactly balanced, and when even one is lagging a bit or spiked just a smidge, we can experience some awful symptoms, like PMS. That is why it is super important to understand your body, its cycle and your hormones. FEMNA teaches you about you.
Yes, PMS and pms are just symptoms – hence the s-acronym. PMS was the first coined medical term in 1953 as Pre-Menstrual Symptoms. Now, women experience post-menstrual symptoms too. PMS isn’t normal! So, stop living with it.
Here’s a synopsis of how your body and hormones work during your monthly cycle and a few ways to prevent those nasty PMS and pms from every coming back.
Phase 1: Follicular – When you “Frolic with her”
Follicular is not the sexiest word. It represents the follicles that grow into eggs. This phase prepares your body for ovulation. We begin the follicular phase and our monthly cycle the first day that we menstruate. This is why your GYNO always asks for the first day of your last period. Though many women can experience a short time of heavy bleeding and may consider their period over in just 4-5 days, the whole phase takes anywhere from 15-18 days because after menstruating, shedding the uterus lining from not becoming pregnant last month, the body prepares itself for fertilization and ovulation.
It’s like our bodies want us to get pregnant…
Yes, our body is constantly getting us ready for conception. The follicular phase is initiated by an unfertilized egg. After your ovary drops an egg in your fallopian tube (ovulation) and it does not become fertilized, the egg dissolves, triggering an increase in the luteinising (LH) and follicular stimulating hormone (FSH). These hormones travel from your brain to your ovaries to stimulate the growth of new eggs, preparing you for your next ovulation.
And when I think of my uterus preparing for fertilization, I imagine me and my uteric holding hands and frolicing… frolic with her = follicular – right?
The production of eggs increases the estrogen hormone which automatically stops the production of FSH so that your ovaries don’t fill up with an abundance of eggs. Don’t worry though, you won’t be laying eggs like chickens do – only one egg survives, the biggest and the strongest. The others die and the dominant egg matures with the rise of estrogen.
Phase 2: Ovulatory – It’s your “Ovulate story”
You guessed it. This is the phase when you ovulate – or really just the day. You only have one day of ovulation but you are most fertile 2-3 days beforehand and still fertile up to 6 days before your ovulation day because sperm can live that long.
Ovulation is the moment when your body releases a mature egg – the one that survived and was just stimulated during your follicular phase. The release is triggered by a chain of events starting with the increase of estrogen which stopped the production of the follicular stimulating hormone (FSH) in the last phase. With raising estrogen, your hypothalamus, a gland in the brain, releases the chemical gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) which raises the level of the luteinising hormone (LH). The LH is responsible for the egg release.
Now, your fallopian tubes have a fertile egg waiting for insemination. During this phase, your body temperature rises about .5-1° C (1-2° F) and you might notice your vaginal mucus resembles the texture of egg whites. Many women also experience a heightened libido – our species’ survival mechanisms at work!
If you take birth control, you do not ovulate. The hormones work to trick your body into thinking that it is pregnant by raising progesterone. This means that your body will not ovulate. The most common problem for women who take the pill and then stop is getting their body back into its normal cycle which means ovulating again.
Phase 3: Luteal – It’s when “You heal”
This is the final stage of your cycle, after you have ovulated. This is when your body heals (you heal = luteal) – either by protecting your uterus for pregnancy or cleansing the unfertilized egg for a new cycle.
After ovulation, your body does not know right away if you have become pregnant or not, so it prepares for pregnancy by raising progesterone and a small bit of estrogen in your body. This combination creates a thick uterus lining that works to protect the pregnancy like armor.
If the egg becomes fertilized, the body will continue to pump out progesterone to maintain the thick lining armor in order to continue the pregnancy. If the egg does not become fertilized, the egg will start to die around day 22 in a 28-day cycle. This triggers a drop in progesterone because the body does not need the baby armor anymore. The drop in progesterone sheds the lining of the uterus, like a uterus cleanse, so that it can generate a new egg for the new cycle of the month.
And, the shedding of the uterus lining is menstruation. Back to phase one!