How Fertility Awareness Can Bring Huge Benefits to Your Emotional Health
Learning to live in line with your cycle, rather than against it, is one of the bonuses of becoming more in flow and in tune with your menstrual cycle. Waking up to this way of living with your cycle can bring huge benefits to your own emotional health as well as benefit your relationships.
As a fertility awareness educator, these benefits often come alongside learning about fertility awareness, as folks become more aware of the phases of their cycle and they learn about the changes that happen hormonally each cycle. Learning about the phases of your cycle is a side benefit of charting your cycle and using FAM.
The Hormonal Phases of the Menstrual Cycle
There are two main hormones that are at play each cycle, and these hormones influence your emotions, motivation, creativity, libido and more. Estrogen is the dominant hormone in the first half of the cycle, from menstruation to ovulation. Estrogen is responsible for building up the uterine lining, as well as stimulating brain and bone cells. Estrogen binds with serotonin receptors and makes us feel juicy and alive. The peak of estrogen is the time of ovulation.
After ovulation, progesterone becomes the dominant hormone. Progesterone maintains the uterine lining, and calms the cells and nervous system. Progesterone stays high until before your next period, at which time it drops off and your uterine lining sheds with it at menstruation.
Special note: while cycles are typically displayed as lasting 28 days with ovulation at 14 days, this can be far from the truth for each individual woman.
The interplay of these hormones has a huge impact on how we feel, and when we become aware of their expression at different phases of our cycle, we can live in line with them rather than fighting against them. I like looking at the different phases like the life cycle of a flower: from seed to sprout, bloom and decay.
Just like a seed begins underground, we start our cycle in the cocoon of the menstrual phase. Hormone levels are low at this time, and we feel like retreating and taking care of ourselves. It is a time to rest, take stock, set intentions for the cycle, and to tune into our intuition. How can you take time for yourself during menstruation? Book some time off, spend an hour doing absolutely nothing, indulge your senses or let someone take care of you. Doing lower intensity exercise, like yoga or going for walks outside, will nourish and calm your nervous system at this time.
Once a seed has gathered the nutrients from the earth, it begins to poke its head out of the ground. We feel a return of energy after menstruation, as follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) recruits a follicle, or an immature egg, to start developing. We may feel like we can do life again, and be out in the world. A word of caution though, in this time of new energy, we may overdo it.
The peak time for the flower is when the flower begins to bloom. At ovulation, estrogen rises to peak levels. Ovulation is your outward energy time of the month. You can put your own needs aside and tend to others. You feel like hosting people at your house, or staying out a bit later than you’re used to. You can accomplish many things, and expression of your creativity feels wonderful. Biologically, this is the time that conception can occur, you might feel like getting dressed up, expressing your creativity or your sensuality. Why not take this opportunity of higher energy to do some meal prep for your menstrual phase? Your future self will thank you! If you are someone who practices high intensity exercise, this is a great phase to focus on muscle building, as estrogen helps build muscle cells.
The final stop for the flower is when it returns to the earth. After ovulation, we may feel the withdrawal of hormones. Our energy levels may begin to drop, we may feel like withdrawing - a preparation for the big rest time during menstruation. We may feel more irritable or short during this phase. That is okay!
The premenstrual phase urges you to rock the boat of whatever does not serve you and what you’ve outgrown. It is a time to tie up loose ends, kind of like the week before the new year. If you’re feeling like life is too much or you’ve “had it”, step down and step away for a little bit. Planning ahead for this phase of the cycle to make sure you don’t plan too much, can ease some of the irritability that comes along with it.
And there we have it! The whistle-stop tour through the phases of the menstrual cycle. It can be overwhelming to have this information we have not had our whole lives. Taking some time each day of the cycle to pay attention to how you feel will give you a sense for how these phases play out in your own life. You may not align exactly with the four phases as I’ve outlined them, and that’s okay! Practice being aware of what cycle day you are on, and take it from there.
Nathalie Daudet is a social worker and FEMM instructor based in Winnipeg, Canada. She discovered fertility awareness after searching high and low for a non-hormonal method of birth control. After learning the magic of fertility awareness and the gift of body literacy, she decided to pursue formal fertility awareness training and share the knowledge of fertility awareness with women looking for a natural birth control option. Fertility Awareness Project is the hub for Nathalie’s FEMM classes in both group and individual formats, online and in person in Winnipeg. If you love this post and would like to thank Nathalie, shop Tempdrop with Nathalie's unique referral link.