For folks with female hormones, your menstrual cycle is the system that builds your uterine lining and sheds it each month, giving you a period.
You also have an ovarian cycle which looks after endocrine function (release of hormones into your bloodstream) and prepares eggs for ovulation.
As a (very rough) parallel, if you imagine your uterus as a bird’s nest, you could compare the menstrual cycle to your body building up the comfortable nest, and the ovarian cycle as the system that works to prepare the egg itself.
People often confuse the two cycles, but don’t worry, we’re here to clear things up!
These cycles work closely together to give you a monthly cycle in which your body goes through changing levels of sex hormones and prepares for a possible pregnancy.
More than this, the ovarian cycle gives you different levels of energy at different stages, and working with these stages of your cycle can be a helpful way to look after your mind and body.
There are 3 main phases of the ovarian cycle, called the follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase. The below image shows your cycle divided into two halves (follicular and luteal phases), with a period at the start, and ovulation in the middle.
Each phase has an important part to play in balancing hormones and keeping your body healthy and happy.
The first phase of your cycle, the follicular phase, includes the time when you’re bleeding and the week immediately after your period ends. During this phase, your body is all about FSH...Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) (not to be confused with the animal fish) which develops a follicle (fluid-filled sac containing an egg), getting you ready for ovulation.
In the later half of your luteal phase, you’ll likely feel more energetic and, thanks to increased estrogen/testosterone, you might feel happier and more confident.
Around week 3 of your cycle, your body is ovulating - that is releasing an egg from one of your ovaries. This is the time when it’s easiest to get pregnant.
This can be a time of higher energy, high sex drive and all-round increased confidence and zest for life!
The final half of your cycle, the luteal phase is where progesterone levels rise and your body is preparing your uterus for possible pregnancy.
The lining of your uterus will thicken ready to support a growing embryo.
Progesterone is known as our calming, mood, sleep, libido and bone-enhancing hormone. Progesterone often makes you feel sleepy.
This is a beautiful time to slow down a little and give yourself plenty of rest and TLC.
Then it’s over to your menstrual cycle with the start of your period and a brand new cycle.
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