a healthy period: color, cycle length, amount
Your 5th Vital Sign A.K.A. your period
In today’s world, women are often expected to be able to juggle multiple roles and responsibilities. From work to family to social obligations, it can be difficult to keep track of everything. Unfortunately, one of the most important aspects of a woman’s health and wellbeing is often overlooked: her menstrual cycle.
Your menstrual cycle is like your 5th vital sign. You can gain insight into your fertility, hormones, and overall health by listening to what your period is telling you.
A Healthy Period: Cycle Length, Color, + Amount
A healthy menstrual cycle is 21-35 day with 2-7 days of bleeding. A cycle shorter than 21 days or longer than 35 days is considered irregular.
Menstrual fluid should be mostly liquid with no large clots.
Once flow starts, the menstrual blood should be light to bright red. Blood loss should not be more than 50 ml or three tablespoons over the course of your period. Menstrual bleeding often seems like a whole lot more than it really is! Some discomfort is to be expected, but severe pain is not normal.
Hormones + Your Cycle
Estrogen is high before ovulation and dominates the pre-ovulatory, follicular phase of your cycle (the days from the end of your period through to just before you ovulate).
Estrogen does the following:
+ Builds up your endometrium so that a fertilized egg can find nourishment and implant. Your endometrium is the lining of your uterus which you shed each month as a period if you are not pregnant.
+ Produces your cervical fluid which is necessary for guiding and nourishing the sperm on its travels to your fallopian tubes where your egg may be fertilized.
+ Causes your cervix to soften and open so that the sperm may enter and reach your fallopian tube for fertilization.
+ Estrogen signals the release of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) which is needed to trigger ovulation.
Luteinizing Hormone //
Luteinizing Hormone peaks before ovulation and is the hormone responsible for triggering the rupture of the ovarian sac that releases the egg at ovulation.
Progesterone is high after ovulation and during pregnancy it dominates the post-ovulatory, luteal phase of your cycle (the time from post ovulation until you get your period). After ovulation, progesterone is produced by the corpus luteum (the remains of the ovarian follicle that houses your ovum or egg after ovulation) and is present in dramatically higher amounts.
Progesterone plays the following roles:
+ Makes the lining of your uterus soft and spongy so that your fertilized egg can latch onto it and implant.
+ Causes your basal body temperature to rise after ovulation so that it can be measured with a BBT thermometer.
+ Is needed to support and sustain a pregnancy.
+ Causes your BBT to stay elevated throughout pregnancy.
What is your period telling you: Color, Clots, Cycle Length
+ Bright red blood
This is an indicator of healthy menstrual flow.
Menstrual clots are usually caused when stagnation occurs due to excessive flow that does not get expelled.
+ Dark, thick, or brown blood
If you release blood that looks old and thick, it is blood that had been left over from your previous menstruation. This is usually caused by a sluggish menstrual flow, low uterine circulation, or lack of uterine tone.
+ Heavy menstruation
This could be caused by either a progesterone imbalance or overstimulation of the endometrium due to excess estrogen, or both of these things. Some nutritional imbalances, such as a Vitamin A or C deficiency, can also lead to heavy menstruation.
+ Menstrual cramps
Some cramping is normal during menstruation. However, severe cramping is not. Estrogen dominance, low progesterone, endometriosis and inflammation can cause menstrual cramps. If menstrual cramps are something that plague you every month, I want you to know it is possible to have a pain-free period! Check out my Vibrant Woman course if you’re interested in learning how.
+ Long cycles
Long cycles often indicate a hormonal imbalance or a failure to ovulate. Progesterone is responsible for stopping excessive bleeding during menstruation. When you have too much estrogen or too little progesterone, bleeding may continue for longer than it should.
+ Missing a period
Missing one period should be no cause for alarm, especially if you usually have irregular periods. Sometimes, hormonal balance can be affected by such factors as stress, so it will generally reset itself eventually. However, if you miss a couple periods in a row there could be an underlying hormone imbalance, hypothalamic amenorrhea or another medical condition.
+ Short cycle
Short cycles can lead to fertility problems. They could indicate a lack of ovulation, an unusually short follicular or luteal phase, lack of nutrition, low body weight, some form of deficiency, or anemia.
Spotting occurs for many reasons. It is usually not something to be worried about. For many women, spotting happens when they exercise too much, when ovulation occurs, or when they use hormonal contraceptives. Spotting can also be caused by failure to ovulate, poor nutrition, endometriosis, cervical abnormalities, and ovarian cysts.
+ Watery, pale, or thin menstruation
This is a sign of poor blood quality, an effect or hormonal imbalance and poor circulation to the uterus. A change to a healthier diet will usually help improve this situation – especially iron rich foods to build the blood. Try this recipe to get some iron in your diet.
Tracking Your Menstrual Cycles
Tracking your menstrual cycle can be done in a variety of ways (if you want to know more about cycle charting, check out my post here). You can use a paper calendar, an app, or even a fertility awareness method such as the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). FAM is a method of tracking your menstrual cycle and fertility signs to help you understand your body and your fertility. (psst…I teach this in my Vibrant Woman course!)
The Benefits of Tracking Your Menstrual Cycle
Tracking your menstrual cycle can provide numerous benefits. It can help you understand your body and your fertility, as well as identify any potential health issues. It can also help you plan for pregnancy, as well as prevent unplanned pregnancies. Additionally, tracking your menstrual cycle can help you identify any hormonal imbalances or irregularities, which can be addressed with the help of a healthcare provider.
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