How to tell if your menstrual cycle is normal

Think all you need to know about your menstrual cycle is when to avoid white jeans? Think again!

There is so much we can learn by increasing our awareness of our menstrual cycle and its phases.

And the best place to start? By changing our attitudes towards menstruation.

“In many cultures there has been a long history of viewing menstruation as unclean or embarrassing,” says naturopath and health coach Louisa Carter.

“We can make the choice to start thinking differently about our cycles and start living with them in a new way.”

The four phases of menstruation

Menstrual, follicular, ovulation and luteal are the four phases of the menstrual cycle.

The follicular phase follows your period, with follicle-stimulating hormones being released.

Ovulation comes next, with the dominant follicle swelling and releasing its egg.

The follicle then becomes a progesterone-secreting gland called the corpus luteum.

It’s also in this luteal phase that the uterine lining builds, ready for possible implantation, otherwise it will shed and bring you back to the menstrual stage.

Tuning in to your menstrual cycle

There are general estimates as to when each stage occurs, but these are often based around a 28-day cycle and don’t take in to account any variances.

To better understand your cycle, start to chart it.

This is easily done through apps such as MyFLO or Clue.

“Charting can highlight any menstrual or premenstrual symptoms and pinpoint the need for treatment, while allowing you to see the ebbs and flow of how you feel throughout the different phases,” says Louisa.

Syncing your menstrual cycle to your lifestyle

Understanding your menstrual cycle is not just handy if you’re trying to conceive or prevent a pregnancy.

It can also help you make that all important call on whether to stay in or go out.

“Women have been conditioned to think they’re meant to be the same all the time – productive and ready for action at any point during their cycle,” says Louisa.

“As women, we are cyclical in nature, and with some awareness of our cycle we can start to live in line with the phases of our menstrual cycle rather than against it.”

The follicular phase is believed to be conducive to energetic undertakings (so head to that HIIT session or do some serious Kondo-ing of your closet), while the luteal phase is a restorative time.

Through regular tracking, you’ll become aware of variations in your cycle.

“Each month our hormones fluctuate in a natural cycle that is influenced by and reacts to any changes in our diet and lifestyle,” says Louisa.

“A sudden lack of sleep, an increase in stress or not eating regular meals can all affect our hormones and the way our cycle presents.”

The good news is that from awareness can come change.

“You are in control of your body and your hormones through making positive changes to your diet and lifestyle,” says Louisa.

Written by Samantha Allemann.