Ever wondered what your hormones are doing across your menstrual cycle? Having a period involves a complex interaction between brain and body to regulate hormone levels and prepare your body for a possible pregnancy.
Most of us know a bit about estrogen, but what does it actually get up to each month?
So what is estrogen and what does it do?
Estrogen is one of the two main sex hormones that women have (the other being progesterone). Most of your estrogen is made in your ovaries, a small amount in the adrenal glands and some in fat tissue.
Estrogen plays a role in developing and maintaining your boobs, body hair and periods. It also helps with cholesterol control, bone health and good moods. As you can see, estrogen has quite a big job to do, to keep our bodies healthy and happy.
What happens to estrogen throughout my cycle?
Just like progesterone (and other hormones), estrogen levels change throughout your cycle. Let’s take a look - the green line is your estrogen level across your cycle.
Week one: menstruation
The start of your period marks the start of a brand new cycle. In week one, estrogen levels drop which lets your body know to start your period. How cool is that?
This is often a time when your energy levels are at their lowest and you might experience premenstrual syndrome (think cramps, feeling sad or grumpy...those kinds of things).
Try giving yourself plenty of time to rest now, and soothe aches and pains with magnesium baths and heat packs.
Week two: follicular phase (before the release of an egg)
You’ve just finished your period and your estrogen levels are still low but starting to rise. More estrogen lets your body know it’s time to start developing a follicle (fluid-filled sac containing an egg).
With increased estrogen comes increased energy, and you might feel happier and more confident.
This can be a lovely time to be social, and to get some things crossed off your to do list. Make sure to drink plenty of water and continue to make time to rest.
Week 3: ovulation (egg releases)
Right before ovulation is when your estrogen levels will peak. This lets your body know to start making Luteinising Hormone (LH) and to release an egg. This is when your chances of pregnancy are highest and for many folks, when your sex drive will also be in full swing.
This is a great time for increased physical activity and any big events you have planned.
Week 4: luteal phase (after the release of an egg)
As you head into your luteal phase, your fertile window closes, and estrogen levels start to fall. Estrogen affects serotonin (one of our happy, feel-good hormones) and so you’ll likely have lower amounts of both hormones in your body now.
Lower serotonin can mean you feel a bit sader, flatter or just not as bubbly as last week.
And, you’ll likely experience some PMS symptoms now. You might have food cravings, physical discomfort and feel grumpy about nothing in particular.
Try increasing self care, eat lots of greens and drink plenty of water, do yoga or other stress-relieving activities and slow down where you can.
For most folks who bleed, this monthly cycle continues until menopause.
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