Our menstrual cycle serves as a vital sign, offering profound insights into our overall health and well-being as women, irrespective of our current reproductive goals. Understanding the nuanced signs of a healthy cycle not only empowers us to better attune to our bodies but also enables us to promptly identify any irregularities that may necessitate further attention. With the expertise of Le’Nise Brothers, a respected nutritionist specialising in women’s health, hormones, and the menstrual cycle, and the author of the illuminating book “You Can Have a Better Period,” navigating the complexities of our monthly flow becomes far more manageable and a heck of a lot less complicated! 

Whether one’s aim is to optimise fertility through cycle tracking or simply to enhance overall well-being, the insights offered by Le’Nise regarding what genuinely constitutes a healthy menstrual cycle are invaluable. Given the prevalent confusion surrounding the definition of a healthy menstrual cycle, distinguishing between normal variations and potential red flags can be challenging. Below, we delve into five key indicators highlighted by Le’Nise that shed invaluable light on our menstrual health.

1. Menstrual Cycle Length:

A healthy menstrual cycle typically spans between 21 to 31 days. While the textbook definition often cites 28 days, it’s essential to recognise that variability is common among individuals. Fluctuations of up to 3-4 days each month are considered normal, influenced by factors such as stress, travel, or illness. However, wider variations may indicate underlying issues and merit consultation with a healthcare provider. The ideal cycle length 21-31 days is important because it allows sufficient time for the uterine lining to thicken, hormonal fluctuations to support ovulation, and the potential sustenance of an embryo post-ovulation.

2. Energy Levels:

Energy fluctuations throughout the menstrual cycle are normal, mirroring hormonal shifts. During menstruation, lower energy levels are typical due to the body’s shedding of the uterine lining and decreased estrogen levels. “It’s an intense process for our bodies” says Le’nise so it’s understandable our energy levels feel a bit depleted during this time. As menstruation ends, estrogen levels rise, coinciding with an uptick in energy that peaks around ovulation. Post-ovulation, estrogen declines gradually until the next cycle begins. It’s totally normal to have ups and downs throughout the month but consistent feelings of depletion warrant further investigation.

3. Mood Variability:

Just as energy levels fluctuate, so do moods, owing to hormonal changes. Low estrogen levels around the time of our period may contribute to introspection and reflectiveness while increasing estrogen levels post-period and moving towards ovulation boost neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, influencing mood and cognitive function more positively. As estrogen wanes towards the end of the cycle, mood changes may occur, characterised by heightened honesty and assertiveness. Le’Nise says “It’s essential to recognize estrogen as the hormone that often facilitates accommodation and feminisation. When estrogen levels dip, it can lead to a greater willingness to express ourselves openly, sometimes resulting in unjust labels such as “bitchy” or “too blunt.” Understanding these hormonal nuances helps contextualise mood shifts throughout the cycle and might help you prepare for these fluctuations. Or at least allow you to be kinder and less judgmental to yourself. It’s important to note that extreme mood swings are not considered “normal” so if you find yourself struggling in that respect it could be a sign of hormonal imbalance. 

4. Basal Body Temperature Changes:

Monitoring basal body temperature (BBT) is essential for understanding the menstrual cycle, offering insights into hormonal fluctuations and reproductive health. Before ovulation, BBT typically ranges between 36.1 to 36.7 degrees Celsius, rising post-ovulation to anywhere between 36.4 to 37 degrees Celsius due to progesterone release. This temperature shift, detectable through tracking, indicates ovulation, aiding in natural family planning or fertility tracking efforts. Subsequently, a drop in temperature heralds the onset of menstruation, signalling the decline of progesterone and the transition to a new cycle. BBT tracking empowers individuals to pinpoint ovulation accurately and make informed decisions regarding fertility, family planning, or overall reproductive well-being.

5. Cervical Fluid Changes:

Observing changes in cervical fluid provides valuable insights into hormonal activity throughout the menstrual cycle. Following menstruation, cervical fluid typically undergoes a transitional phase, manifesting initially as a stickier consistency before gradually evolving into a creamier texture. This gradual transformation serves as an early indication of the body’s preparation for potential conception. As ovulation approaches, the appearance of fertile cervical mucus becomes increasingly noticeable, characterized by its stretchy and slippery texture reminiscent of egg whites. This distinctive cervical fluid consistency serves as a reliable indicator of rising estrogen levels, which play a crucial role in creating an optimal environment for conception during the follicular phase of the cycle. Post-ovulation, as progesterone levels increase, cervical fluid diminishes, transitioning to a drier state as the body prepares for potential pregnancy. Understanding these nuanced changes in cervical fluid can empower individuals to accurately track their fertility status and optimize their chances of conception.

It’s essential to recognise that individual variations exist in menstrual cycles, and deviations from the norm may occur. However, understanding these five signs provides a framework for assessing menstrual health.

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