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Women's health: Periods + Hormones

by Nicole van Heerden on August 04, 2020
House of Health - Periods + Hormones

 

I want to pose a question. Why is it that the term “period” is more commonly used when referring to time or as a punctuation mark, than when referring to the menstrual cycle? Let that sink. Almost every woman in the world experiences a period once a month, 420 in their lifetime – yet here we are.
The reason why I started off by saying this is because “Periods” or “The Menstrual Cycle” is seen as such a taboo topic, but let’s end that. You deserve to be able to speak about and learn about your body.
Okay, that’s my little women empowerment rant over. I am going to just hop right into the facts here. We can’t talk about what is happening in the female reproductive system, if you don’t know what it looks like. Here is a little diagram, because I bet we can’t all remember grade 9 biology:

 

One of the many roles that the female reproductive organ plays is in the menstrual cycle or commonly known as your period.
Menstruation is “the cyclic, orderly sloughing of the uterine lining, in response to the interactions of hormones produced by the hypothalamus, pituitary, and ovaries” (Reed & Carr, 2018). Essentially this is when the body prepares itself for pregnancy
however, should the egg not be fertilised the uterus sheds it’s lining.
It is controlled by various hormones which fluctuate throughout the month, we are going to focus on the following 4 hormones, when they are at their peak, when they are at their lowest and what their role essentially is (Hormone Health Network, 2019):
  1. Estrogen – stimulates the maturation of the egg follicle and assists in cognitive health; skin and mood. Estrogen peaks around the middle of your cycle, which is when you ovulate – side note: some people say that this is when you feel your “best” (you peak when your estrogen does) which is when you are most fertile, therefore increasing your chances to reproduce. Estrogen levels are at their lowest during your period: hence mood swings; breakouts; foggy brain – it all makes sense now right?
  2. Progesterone – prepares the uterus for potential implantation. Progesterone allows the uterus to maintain its health for the duration of pregnancy and prevents ovulation.
  3. Luteinizing Hormone (LH) – essentially the role of LH is to release the egg during ovulation, therefore its peak is in ovulation.
  4. Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) – stimulates the production and maturation of the egg follicles. It peaks during menstruation and then again in ovulation.

Now the menstrual cycle can be divided into 3 phases:

  1. The Menstrual Phase: All of your hormones are pretty low here. This is not the time to push your body.
  2. The Follicular Phase: This is when the hormones start to peak, you have lots of energy, you are glowing, you are feeling great and your body is releasing the egg – this is the time where you can get more involved in strenuous activities.
  3. The Luteal Phase: This is when your body is preparing for pregnancy and your progesterone drops suddenly resulting in dropping of serotonin which results in you scavenging for the sugar and anything to help you feel better – and that is totally okay!

 Here are some little summaries which show the different phases and hormones really nicely:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to August: the month where we are celebrating women a little extra. We hope this helped clear up any confusion regarding your period – please let us know if you have any other questions. Don’t forget to share this blog if you enjoyed and subscribe to the newsletter – we hope you have a happy and healthy day xxx

 

References:

  • The Oncofertility Consortium | labeled-female-reproductive-system-diagram.jpg. (2015). Retrieved from https://oncofertility.northwestern.edu/files/images/labeled-female-reproductive-system-diagramjpg
  • Reed, B., & Carr, B. (2018). The Normal Menstrual Cycle and the Control of Ovulation. Endotext. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279054/
  • Hormone Health Network. “Women's Health | Endocrine Society”. Hormone.org, Endocrine Society. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones/womens-health

 

DISCLAIMER: This blog post in no way aims to provide medical or psychological advice. It merely aims to provide some understanding of the menstrual cycle. This is based on the writer’s opinion and research.

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