What I've learned about the menstrual cycle so far:
The menstrual cycle is a map. When you observe it you can begin to identify patterns that your body, mind and emotions go through each month. You can then use the map to orientate you: to pre-expect symptoms, and to make the most of your time during your energy's ebbs and flows.
Knowing the cycle is knowing yourself. From that you no longer feel like you are a bystander who experiences "happen to": you become empowered to take charge of your health and life.
What happens within the cycle is actually fascinating.
The rise and fall of particular hormones generates different emotions, thought patterns, and physical reactions. So much so that the four stages of the cycle have been associated with the four seasons.
Associating a mental / emotional aspect with each phase of the cycle may sound "woo-woo" to some people, but it makes sense if you consider that different hormones trigger different emotions. As hormones rise and fall within the cycle, so do different mental states.
The Cycle Day-by-Day
Stage One: Menstruation: Winter
Cycle Days 1-5: Day one of your cycle is the first day you see red blood. Your reproductive hormones are at low ebb: Progesterone has dropped off from your last cycle and estrogen levels are still to rise. The 'old' uterine lining is shed.
Cycle Days 6-8: The cool phase of your cycle is dominated by the hormone estrogen. However, before estrogen can be produced, the brain and body relay a set of sophisticated hormonal messages to get your body on the path to ovulation.
1) The hypothalamus facilitates the secretion of gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), which in turn nudges the pituitary gland to produce FSH - or follicle stimulating hormone. The follicle is the body that holds and nurtures an egg.
2) The pituitary gland also produces LH (or luteinizing hormone). FSH and LH facilitate the maturation off eggs and follicle.
3) As the eggs develop, they in turn produce estrogen!
Your body will likely be in its "cool phase" with temperature low.
Mucus: During the early part of the cycle, after day 5, there may be very little cervical mucus. As estrogen promotes mucus production, through cycle days 6-8, you may begin to observe more cervical mucus (though it will be opaque, sticky, and white/yellowish in colour).
Emotional and Mental aspect: Reflective.
Stage two: Pre-Ovulation: Spring
Cycle Days 8-11: As the eggs mature, estrogen production should now be at full speed! Estrogen supports the build-up of the endometrium (the lining of the womb), preparing your uterus for pregnancy.
Cycle Days 11-13: If you have a 28-day cycle, you're getting close to ovulation and are just entering your fertile window. Estrogen levels are high. You should start to see stronger "ferning patterns" in your ovulation microscope. At this point of the month, your fertility level is "high", even though ovulation may be more than a few days off. The reason you can still get pregnant is because sperm, under optimal conditions (fertile CM), can survive a handful of days in a woman's body.
The hormone that causes ovulation is called LH, or luteinizing hormone.
Temperature: As estrogen is still the dominant hormone, your body temperature will remain low.
Mucus: after the period, a woman will normally experience several “dry” days. The cervical fluid samples she takes with toilet tissue or a clean finger from just inside her vagina will not feel slippery or textured. The increase in estrogen should effectuate observable tactile changes in the cervical mucus. The cervical fluid will build up, beginning with a moist sensation and/or a tacky or creamy texture. Any mucus or moist sensation at the vulva after the period signals that the fertile phase has begun. Cervical mucus (CM) will start to become clear, stretchy, and slippery - and there will be more of it!
Emotional and Mental aspect: Creative.
Stage Three: Ovulation: Summer
Cycle Days 13-14: The estrogen levels are at their highest, which ultimately precipitates a boost in the hormone LH. This LH surge actually causes ovulation, the emergence of the egg from the ovarian follicle. By day 14, ovulation is about to - or already - taking place! You are at peak fertility. Some women experience midcycle pains, or ovulation pain, or "mittelschmerz". These are physical symptoms that ovulation may be taking place.
Cycle Days 14-15: Ovulation has just taken place! With ovulation, estrogen levels drop sharply and your body moves from the cool phase to the hot phase (the luteal phase where progesterone calls the shots). After the egg emerges from the follicle, the follicle becomes a "corpus luteum" and starts producing progesterone - and your body starts to warm up. A few days before your period, if you are not pregnant, the corpus luteum will exhaust itself and progesterone levels will drop.
Temperature: The day of ovulation, your basal temperature will remain lower. Within 24 hours, you can confirm that ovulation has taken place by seeing your basal body temperature rise (a bbt increase of typically 4/10ths to a full degree). The temperature rise should last through most of the remainder of your cycle.
Cervix: Open and soft.
Mucus: cervical fluid tends to become slippery and clear—like raw egg white. The last day of this stretchy cervical fluid or wet sen- sation is called the peak day and signals that ovulation is imminent.
Blood sugar levels are higher and more stable during the fertile time.
Emotional and Mental aspect: Extroverted.
Stage Four: Pre-Menstruation: Autumn
Cycle Days 16-22: The corpus luteum continues to produce progesterone through the second half of your menstrual cycle (the luteal phase). If the egg is fertilized, it begin the trip to the womb to implant.
Cycle Days 23-27: Unless you become pregnant, the corpus luteum will begin to falter. If there is a pregnancy, the developing placenta will "tell" your body to keep pumping out the progesterone. That's because once the embryo implants, it produces a special hormone called hCG. It's the same hormone that your common home pregnancy test looks for.
Cycle Days 28: If you have a 28 days cycle, this will be your last cycle day. Both estrogen and progesterone levels are low.
Temperature: Basal body temperature remains high. About a week after ovulation, progesterone levels are peaking as are your bbt temps. If pregnant, your bbt temps will stay high. If not, the basal temperature will begin to drop at the end of your cycle.
Mucus: A few days after ovulation, the amount of cervical mucus should decrease and you will see it become more cloudy, opaque. It will increasingly become more sticky.
Blood sugar is lowest during the pre-menstrual infertile time.
Emotional and Mental aspect:Critical (of self and / or of others).
Link with Moon:
Again, this sounds like hocus pocus, but there's a growing body of people who believe that a woman's mentrual cycle is supposed to sync with the moon (full moon – signals ovulation; new moon – menstruation). When it does fertility is supposed increased and menstrual symptoms are reduced: http://www.cheeseslave.com/lunacepti...e-you-fertile/
To sync your cycle with the moon:
Sleep in complete darkness. This means covering up alarm clocks and windows that allow in any artificial light. Absolute darkness is best, but if you live in an area where there are no outside lights (in the boonies) you don’t have to be as picky about covering the windows. If you often get up at night to use the restroom, place dim nightlights in the hallway and bathroom and refrain from turning on overhead lights.
The day before the full moon, allow a small amount of light into the room. Natural moon light through a window is best, otherwise try and find a very white, yet dim nightlight for your room.
Three days later, go back to sleeping in complete darkness until the next full moon. It's recommended that you sleep in a completely blacked-out room for the entire month, bar three days.
I'm not going to try Lunaception just yet (charting is enough for me right now ) but if you fancy giving it a go, report back here!