Let’s talk about Periods.
What is a period?
It’s when your body sheds the lining of your womb called the endometrium in a nutshell.
Your endometrium being the inner layer and lining of your Uterus/womb.
Periods are essential for our health and well being.
Having a period is the physical side of menstruation. We also need to recognise there are mental and emotional sides to periods.
In 2015, the ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) said periods amongst teenagers should be seen as a 5th vital sign. Many others experts say this should extend into later life also.
So how long should a monthly cycle last?
We are all different and so there is a range that defines a regular monthly cycle. A regular cycle can last between 21 – 35 days according to medical practitioners.
Maisie Hill, a women’s health practitioner disagrees and thinks a healthy regular cycle should range between 26 -32 days.
The average period is supposedly 28 days but only applies to 12.4% of our population.
Which means for 87.6% this is not the case!
Just to clarify how we count our cycles when tracking them, Day 1 is the day of our first full bleed until Day 1 of our next full bleed.
So if you experience light spotting or a darker discharge before you start to fully bleed this is the tail end of your previous cycle.
Periods are a sign your body is healthy.
There are certain times in your cycle that certain hormones will be doing their thing which can explain some of our mood swings, behaviors and thoughts/feelings which when understood will allow us to be much KINDER to ourselves.
There is power in understanding our periods.
For an amazing book all about this I 100% recommend Maisie Hill “Period Power”, 2018. It’s a fantastic book and I learnt a lot from reading it.
Do you know how long “your” cycle is? Homework – start tracking your cycle and write it down!
There are four seasons to each year just as there are four phases to each of our monthly cycles.
They each have distinct qualities but unlike the seasons that are set in length, the four phases to our cycle that represents the seasons will vary greatly in length.
❄️ Our period (menstruation) represents our Winter.
🍃 After Winter before we ovulate we are in our Spring.
☀️ Pre-ovulation we are in Summer.
🍁 The time after ovulation before our period begins is Autumn.
Understanding which phase of our cycle we are in is a sign of GOOD HEALTH as we can ACCEPT, UNDERSTAND ourselves, our hormones and DROP any resentment.
Hormone Cycle Seasons
Lets explore the notion of our menstrual cycles following the traits of the four seasons.
❄️WINTER is where we have LOW HORMONE LEVELS.
We commonly see traits such as feeling flat, fatigued, no get up and go, lack lustre. We have a reduced interest in the world.
❄️ Winter is our time to REST, take time for ourselves, RECALIBRATE and build up our energy for the rest of our cycle.
Having a period is a SIGN OF GOOD HEALTH. (This is not to be confused with a withdrawal bleed like you get when taking the pill as your body has not ovulated).
Acknowledging the above allows us to Accept these feelings, Understand and Acknowledge them for what they are and Allows us to BE KIND to ourselves and DROP and RESENTMENT.
😊 Around Day 3 of our cycle oestrogen starts to rise and so we may feel more energised and positive about ourselves.
🍃SPRING is where we get an UPSURGE in ENERGY. We become more interested in the world. We are creative. We come up with good ideas or solutions. This is our social phase and one which we are a good team player. We are curious about life.
🍃 If after your Winter you are still feeling fatigued and this happens often, go speak to your GP and ask for a full blood count to see if you have an iron deficiency as not having any energy in this phase of your cycle can make life feel hard both mentally and physically.
☀️SUMMER is where we Ovulate for those not taking the Oral Contraceptive Pill. The process of ovulation can last around 24hours but it is possible to conceive during your cycle for around 6-7 days. Tracking your cycle improves your FERTILITY AWARENESS which helps to AVOID/ACHIEVE pregnancy.
☀️ In the build up to SUMMER and OVULATION we have more sexual desire and we are very social and keen to increase our visibility in the world. It’s mother natures sneaky way of making us want to reproduce. For some this time can be tricky as we don’t want to be seen for various reasons.
🍁 AUTUMN is where we get IRRITABLE. We have a steep drop in our Oestrogen hormone levels. This is where many of us may experience Pre-Menstrual Syndrome previously known as PMT (Pre-Menstrual Tension). Some people may suffer with extreme PMSS which is known as PMDD; Pre- Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder.
During our cycle our hormone balance is very sensitive to the main stars Oestrogen and Progesterone. So if we are producing too little of one or even too much we will pick up on this by tracking our cycle.
😊 Simply tracking your energy level if that’s a concern to you, or your libido for example or even just how you feel day to day, you will glean a wealth of information that all helps you understand YOUR BODY and YOUR CYLCE.
🙌🏼 It also empowers you to seek help from a health care professional as you can show them your cycle traits and link things together easier.
Our hormone “cycle” in colour and illustration.
I LOVE a good visual so have drawn this out for you all.
It shows quite wonderfully how the different “seasons” of our cycle flow.
Please note many of us will have longer and shorter seasons within our cycle so for example your Winter maybe long or short depending how many days you are menstruating for.
For educational purposes this shows you an average cycle “proposed norm” but remember this is only a small 12.4% of us who have a 28 day cycle.
If you are no longer having periods you can still follow the seasons of your cycle using the dark moon as the start of your Winter and the New moon as the start of your Summer. The energies of the lunar cycle are very similar to our menstrual cycle lengths for the average person.
The bottom digraph represents the key player hormones that ebb and flow in our cycle notably Oestrogen and Progesterone. Testosterone is fairly steady throughout our cycles as you can see in the BROWN colour.
OESTROGEN is our Beyonce hormone. She wants us to feel social, alive, raring for action and confidently out there visible to the world. We want to use it but then in the second half of our cycle lose it.
PROGESTERONE is our pregnancy hormone. This is preparing our body for if we conceive. It can drastically slow down our DIGESTIVE transit time therefore it can be normal for us to feel constipated as our gut slows down.
As you can see in our Autumn, our hormones levels drastically drop off which explains why we can become IRRITABLE. Also known as PMS which I’ll cover in another post to come.
I think we should all have been taught this earlier on in life so if you have daughters who are coming into the age of having their first period known as Menarche, then show them this, talk about it and help each other to understand your thoughts, feelings and emotions linked to your monthly cycle.
Do not underestimate the power of periods!
Period cramps/pain 101
WHEN? These often occur before or during our period (menstruation). Autumn/Winter phases.
WHY? Our bodies produce prostaglandins that help our blood vessels to constrict so we don’t bleed too heavy with our periods, in theory.
But, they can also cause Pain.
This message can spread beyond the Uterus for example to our digestive tracts which is why many of us experience Period Poos 💩 which has us running for the nearest loo!
😢 Some people produce stronger uterus contractions that have been measured to be stronger than those felt in the second phase of labour (when labor is at its most intense)!
‼️Let’s just reiterate here period cramps may be “common” but THEY ARE NOT NORMAL.
WHAT helps? Managing our…
🌿Our stress levels.
🌿And our lifestyle management can all affect period cramps.
Period pains can often be worse in our teenage years and at peri-menopause (the stage before actual menopause when our periods stop).
Due to our hormones.
Oestrogen is our BIG hormone that helps us to find a mate, be seen and want to reproduce but in the second half of our cycle we need to have used it and then LOOSE it.
🌿During our teen years, we don’t ovulate every period. Our menstrual cycle is finding its rhythm which means that not enough progesterone is produced to balance ovulation some months.
❗Progesterone is only produced after ovulation.
😢Therefore the first few years can be troublesome, heavier and symptomatic as our bodies find their rhythm.
🌿Our bodies are sensitive to our reproductive hormones because our hormone receptors are getting used to them.
😢This heightened response is also noted in Peri-menopause as our hormones start to decline.
❗Often peri-menopausal people live with teenage daughters so they co-exist together in these hormone dances which as you can imagine can be interesting times.
✅ Detox excess Oestrogen safely.
Sweating; so think saunas or hot yoga or HIIT exercise helps.
Eat cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, kale, pak choi, brussel sprouts, etc.
⚠️Note early post natal people are often the opposite of this & show signs of low Oestrogen so avoid the above if you have vaginal dryness, painful sex and poor memory!
The biggest changes you can make are small and affordable.
🌿Your stress levels.
🌿The amount of movement you are getting.
💕We all have areas we can improve on here.
🤔What helps you manage period cramps? Mine was definitely my hot water bottle.
What that wet stuff in your knickers is all about and why it’s important we know about it…
One of the things that struck me the most when reading Masie Hill’s book Period Power was the chapter called – “what that wet stuff in your knickers is all about”.
It was revolutionary and something I was completely unaware of before.
Things to share and tell our teenagers with periods!
“Have you ever paid any attention to your cervical fluid?
No clue what I’m talking about? It’s what that wet patch in your underwear is all about!
Cervical fluid changes in volume, consistency, and colour throughout the menstrual cycle. Paying attention to it can help you to identify when you’re in your ‘fertile window’, which is handy whether you’re trying to conceive or avoiding conceiving.
Here’s what typically happens (but remember, we’re all different):
After your period finishes, you might experience a few days of feeling dry or being slightly moist, but the moisture evaporates within a few seconds of being exposed to air.
This is followed by the production of cervical fluid that tends to be quite sticky. A bit like rubber cement – rubbery, springy and relatively thick. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Next up comes cervical fluid that is increasing in its moisture content and fertile abilities. It’s creamy, runny and milky or lotion-like, and it can also feel quite cool at the opening to your vagina. It’s usually white and opaque. You might start to feel wet even when you’re not turned on.
Then, the most fertile fluid arrives. This magical stuff resembles raw egg whites and is mega slippery and stretchy; it can stretch up to several inches and may just fall out of you. Many women I’ve spoken to have been grossed out by this and assumed there was something dodgy going on. There isn’t. This is a normal and ideal occurrence, you want the egg white goo to be present, particularly if you’re trying to get knocked up because sperm can survive for up to five days in it.
After ovulation, cervical fluid dries up and thickens up thanks to the effects of progesterone. It goes from leaving a symmetrical damp patch on your undies, to a streaky one that goes crusty”⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Creating my petition enabled me to find many like-minded women who were also wanting to create a change in post natal care. It also sent waves out into all areas of the UK and ripples of change started to surface and lots of murmuring amongst health care professionals began.
Recently the NHS plan has just been published and more women’s health physio for post natal care is there in black and white. My next mission is to see proactive changes take place quickly and with the help of some excellent fellow physio’s I truly believe we will make it happen.
My big driver in all this is my daughter. I do not want her receiving the same post natal care I did if she chooses to have her own children when she is older.
Because of her arrival, I had my eyes opened wide to no one taking responsibility for looking after the mother. Because of her, I know some GP’s do not see women at 6 weeks for a check up apart from asking if they are “ok” at their baby 6 week check. Because of my daughter’s birth I know that women’s health physio’s are massively under utilised with their specialist knowledge here. Because of all this, I choose to make post natal care better for all women in the UK.
My purpose this year in 2019 is to educate ladies about the WHY post natal care is so important. The WHAT is needed to change current mindset and understanding of post natal fitness and the HOW the heck do you really do your pelvic floor exercises…correctly! Easy they are not otherwise more of us would do them.
I hope you find the information you are searching for here to help you with your pregnancy or post natal journey. If you would like me to advise you on any postural, post natal or pregnancy pelvic health concerns I provide online consultations that you can find out all about in my WORK WITH ME section.