As one of our good friends and naturopath, Lucy Fitzgibbons is one of our go-to experts for natural therapy. In between running her own naturopathy clinic, online store and consulting her patients Australia-wide, the lovely Lucy has spared time to help educate our readers on a frequently misunderstood topic. Our menstrual cycles go beyond our period, and has a fair bit to do with explaining why we feel bouncy one week, and a sloth like creature the next. We invite you to read up
on the 4 phases of our cycle below through a thoughtfully curated piece by the expert herself.
The 4 Phases of the Menstrual Cycle:
Most people will look at menstruation (or a period) as the main ‘event’ in a woman’s menstrual cycle. I can see why they think that. We were only ever taught about the period, it sounded something like… “this is how a tampon works.. cramps are normal, take panadol”. We were never taught what happens in between periods. I know personally that I never learnt about ovulation, or cervical fluid, or why we might be outgoing one week and wanting to hibernate in a cave the next.
I like to look at a menstrual cycle a little differently to most. I view each phase of the cycle as an eb & flow of hormones, with these hormonal fluctuations come different emotional & physical characteristics. If we understand the phases of the cycle we can better predict how we may feel at a certain time, and we then have the awareness to plan our work, social and life events to better suit our needs.
There are 4 phases of the menstrual cycle. Each phase mimics a season of the year. I like to teach it this way as not everyone can grasp the biological terms, but also because as humans we are so deeply connected to nature.
The biological terms for the 4 phases are:
- Follicular phase
- Luteal phase
The phases as seasons:
- Winter (menstruation)
- Spring (follicular)
- Summer (ovulation)
- Autumn (luteal)
Each season represents different emotional and physical fluctuations that you may experience at this time. For example, in winter time most people will want to stay home, cuddle up and eat warming food. The same goes for when we have our period, hence why we call it ‘winter’. Below is a general breakdown of each cycle phase and how you may feel:
1. Winter / Menstruation (period)
o Hormone levels are at their lowest as bleeding starts
o Low energy, time to rest
o Libido may peak – either love or hate sex
o Can feel unmotivated
2. Spring / Before ovulation (luteal)
o Oestrogen is increasing – skin glows
o Boost of serotonin suppresses appetite
o Energy builds
o Body feels lighter
o Increased urge to exercise
o More outgoing
o Increased desire to socialise
3. Summer / Ovulation
o Libido peaks
o At your most fertile
o Boost of serotonin suppresses appetite
o Cervical fluid (discharge) is more copious, stretchy and clear
o Increased focus & productivity
o High intensity workouts are good here
o Confident & outgoing
o Can cope with a heavier workload & longer days
o Networking & socialising
o Pleasure & fun
4. Autumn / Luteal – premenstrual
o Increased appetite & food cravings – start to food prep
o Body can feel swollen
o Energy starts to dip
o Self care needed
o Crave space (alone time)
o Desire to declutter/clean/organise
o Inner critic surfaces
How to track your menstrual cycle?
Pull out your diary and at the top of the day you need to write the cycle day you are currently on (e.g. DAY 26)
Underneath the cycle day, jot down your symptoms & how you are feeling
(e.g. DAY 26- tired, little bit anxious, craving chocolate, tender breasts, trying to get out of dinner with friends tonight) or (DAY 14- productive, so much energy, focused, stretchy cervical fluid).
After tracking these symptoms for a few months you will start to see patterns emerge. For example, I’ve personally found that every day 14 I end up working late and smashing my to-do list. I now call day 14 ‘superwoman day’.
To honour this, I have started scheduling more into my diary around day 13-15 because I know I’m capable of getting a lot done.
I’ve had a patient who has realised that on every cycle day 27 she gets a headache. Another has identified that she gets bloated during ovulation/summer. We are all different. Identifying these patterns gives you a deeper sense of connection with your body & reproductive health.
Note: The first day of your period (full bleeding, not spotting) is considered day 1. You then count forward until your next period.
Lucy's favourite cycle loving products from Prae:
• WINTER: Butter Pecan Caramel Chocolate by Loco Love
• SPRING: Cleanse Inner Beauty Powder by The Beauty Chef
• SUMMER: Scented Perfume Oil - Rumi by Ayu
• AUTUM: Salt Soak by The Seeke