Category Archives: PCOS

PCOS infographic. Because it’s awesome.

I love love LOVE infographics. Seriously. So here’s an awesome PCOS infographic, made by yours truly. Please share this with sisters, mothers, daughters, wives and besties.  Women need to know how common PCOS really is and how many women are struggling but don’t know it. Men should know too – maybe she’s actually doing everything she can but still struggling with weight because there’s an actual medical condition.  Maybe she needs a little more support right now. Send it to your guy friends too, because men you can hand down the tendencies for PCOS to your children and there is growing evidence that men can be affected as well. So pass it on my friends! Pass it on.

PCOS infographic from dramyneuzil.com

PCOS made pretty. Pass it on folks – women need to know.

 

Want to share this on your own website?  Please do!

Link it back to me if you can. Here’s the code:

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OR:

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Get the Most Benefit from Inositol for PCOS

Inositol for PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome,  is one of the best known natural remedies for this condition. Things get a little dicey though when you’re trying to choose a type of inositol and find the right protocol to help your body. Let’s review what inositol is, what it does and what is the best form or forms for you to take to help you the most.

What is Inositol?

Inositol is a naturally-occurring nutrient found in many plant-based foods like oranges and cantaloupe. It used to be considered a vitamin (vitamin B8 to be precise), but an essential component to a nutrient having “vitamin” status is the human inability to produce it ourselves.  When it was discovered that inositol can actually be made in the human body from glucose, it was reclassified. The bulk of inositol from foods is called myo-inositol.  There are many other forms that are significant for health, and they do different things but the other one that is important for PCOS is D-chiro-inositol.  In a completely-unrelated-to-health-but-kind-of-fun aside, inositol is also widely used in explosives (!!) and as a substitute for actual cocaine in TV and movies when they need to show someone snorting something up their nose (!!!)

This explosion is probably not caused by inositol, but it's more interesting than a picture of inositol. Inositol for PCOS is the bomb. See what I did there?

This explosion is probably not caused by inositol, but it’s more interesting than a picture of inositol. Inositol for PCOS is the bomb. See what I did there?

Why Would You Take Inositol for PCOS?

One of the main issues that face women with PCOS is the strong tendency towards insulin resistance or even outright diabetes. According to a 2017 study from the Journal Gynecological Endocrinology, Inositol, at a dose of 4 g (or 4,000 mg) per day has been shown to be as effective at sensitizing the body to insulin as the drug Metformin. This means that by taking inositol you are helping your body to utilize sugars more effectively and so it helps you to lose some of the insulin-related weight and even to normalize your menses.  Inositol is also well known in helping with egg quality and so helps to improve fertility. Inositol also improves ovarian function, reduces testosterone and helps to balance the LH/FSH ratios that are so important for normal ovulation. There are many studies showing all of this, but the best I’ve seen to date is this 2016 review from the International Journal of Endocrinology which compares the effects of myo-inositol and D-chiro-inositol for PCOS.  If the label just says “inositol” it’s myo-inositol.

What Does Myo-Inositol do for PCOS?

Myo-inositol is the form that is most commonly naturally occurring and the form that is most commonly suggested for PCOS. Here’s why according to the awesome review from the International Journal of Endocrinology above:

  • 4g per day is as effective as the pharmaceutical drug Metformin 1500 mg per day in improving insulin sensitivity (see the reference above for the research).
  • With improved insulin sensitivity come improved BMI – this means weight loss
  • Menstrual cycle normalizes with 4 g per day dose in about 50% of the women who take it – that is huge because typically women’s hormones are much trickier than that.
  • Helps to reduce LH and improve LH/FSH ratios which is important for creating healthy eggs and also for healthy ovulation.
  • Myo-inositol helps to reduce total and free testosterone, which is important if you don’t want to be the bearded lady (sadly it doesn’t seem to reduce the hair growth that has already happened. That’s what lasers are for.)
  • Helps balance blood lipids by reducing plasma triglycerides and total cholesterol.
  • Improves ovarian function. Woot woot!




What does D-Chiro-Inositol or DCI Do for PCOS?

D-chiro-inositol or DCI is being studied more recently for its effects on insulin-mediated androgen synthesis (this means excessive testosterone production secondary to high blood sugars). Normally we are supposed to convert myo-inositol to DCI, but some people don’t do this very well (and many of those people have PCOS). The suggested dose is 600 mg for women 130 lbs or under, 600 mg twice per day for women who are over 130 pounds.

  • Improves insulin sensitivity through a different pathway than myo-inositol (by using an IPG mediator).
  • Reduces total and free testosterone through the same mechanism myo-inositol does.
  • Helps those women who can’t convert myo-inostiol to DCI
  • Especially helpful for PCOS if you’re overweight. Not as much if you’re the “skinny” type of PCOS
  • DCI is less effective for women with thyroid disease.

What if I Take Both Types of Inositol for PCOS?

Actually, research is showing this is the best course of action in comparison studies. It’s essentially the most effective scenario because the types of inositol complement each other and you don’t have to rely on your body being able to convert anything.  Studies show:

  • The combination of the two inositol for PCOS gets the same or better blood sugar control, far faster (meaningful change in only 12 weeks for the combo).
  • Restores ovulation
  • Reduces fasting insulin and fasting glucose
  • Decreases LH
  • Decreases free testosterone
  • Increases Estradiol
  • Increases Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (which further reduces the negative effects of testosterone).

So, inositol for PCOS?  That’s a big YES.  Given the effects on ovaries and egg quality (as well as sperm quality for the men) it’s becoming commonly used in fertility treatments too, whether you’ve got PCOS or not.

 



Seed Cycling and Pregnancy Before, During and After.

Seed cycling is a gentle way to re-establish normal hormonal rhythms for women, but many people have questions about what to do around seed cycling and pregnancy.  If you’re unfamiliar with the idea of seed cycling you can read about the basics here and I’ll add a visual how-to before we get started. Here are some thoughts.

Seed Cycling for hormone balance adds seeds into your diet following the rhythm of your body or the moon. Seed cycling and pregnancy are a natural fit.

Seed Cycling for hormone balance adds seeds into your diet following the rhythm of your body or the moon. Seed cycling and pregnancy are a natural fit.




Seed Cycling and Pre-Pregnancy Fertility Boost

Naturally anything that helps to normalize your cycle will ultimately boost fertility so seed cycling and pregnancy go hand-in-hand.  In preparing for pregnancy your body is trying to create a soft landing space for a fertilized egg, a cushy spot to settle down and take nourishment. That cushy spot is created via the hormones – estrogen to thicken the uterine lining (in the first half of the cycle) and progesterone to ripen that lining and make it ultimately inhabitable for a fertile egg.  Both halves of the woman’s cycle need to be strong for this to occur and seed cycling helps to encourage that balance.  Days 1 (the first day of your period) through day 14 (when you ovulate) are called the follicular phase. They are building uterine lining and also ripening a strong egg. The flax and pumpkin seeds that you take during those days help to bring healthy estrogen levels while blocking conversion to unhelpful androgenic hormones like DHT.

Day 14 and the window around that time (24-48 hours) is your fertile time – the time when you are most likely to conceive.  Strong ovulations need a healthy estrogen spike nurtured by the hormone balance achieved in Days 1-14.

After ovulation through the rest of your cycle is called the luteal phase and is dominated by the hormone progesterone, which is encouraged by the combination of sunflower and sesame seeds. Progesterone is released by the pocket on the ovary out of which that month’s fertile egg came, called the corpus luteum. If the egg is successfully fertilized (meaning you get pregnant) then progesterone levels must stay elevated to help the egg to implant into the uterus and to prevent your body from flushing out the uterine lining (to prevent your next period).

Encouraging good progesterone levels, is in fact one of the most important factors in keeping viable early pregnancies, especially in older women who are trying to get pregnant or women who have unbalanced hormone pictures that are shifted towards estrogen (like PCOS, endometriosis, and many cases of multiple pregnancy loss). Happily in the implanting days women who are seed cycling are already encouraging progesterone with the sunflower seed and sesame combination.  But what to do when you find out you are pregnant?  That depends very much on you.

Seed Cycling and Pregnancy

Once women become pregnant seeds in your diet can still be highly supportive, but it helps to have some idea of your hormone balance before hand, and the “cycle” of menstruating is no longer happening.  In fact, hormonally pregnancy becomes almost a hyper-extension of the luteal phase.

Progesterone in Luteal phase:  1 – 28 ng/ml. Average is 10-15
Progesterone in First Trimester: 9 – 47 ng/ml
Progesterone in Second Trimester: 17 – 146 ng/ml
Progesterone in Third Trimester: 49 – 300 ng.ml

As you can see, progesterone levels are on the rise through the entire pregnancy and logically to support that some women take the theory that they should continue the luteal phase seeds – sesame and sunflower.  Others feel that all the seeds provide support and so choose to do steady amounts of all seeds on a consistent basis.

*One good tip to remember* If you’re trying to get pregnancy it’s important to continue the luteal-phase seeds (sesame/sunflower) until you actually have a period, just in case you are pregnant that month. This gives the egg the best chance at implantation.

Women who have a history of estrogen dominance,  repeated miscarriages, or are “advanced maternal age”:

For these women progesterone support can help to keep the pregnancy viable and often prescription progesterone is given.  Seeds can help as well. Women in this category can use all sunflower/sesame through the pregnancy or a 2:1 ratio of sunflower and sesame: flax and pumpkin.  These seeds are not a substitute for prescription progesterone, but they can be safely used in combination with prescription progesterone. I personally feel that all the seeds are supportive and so taking all of them each day during pregnancy gives the biggest nutritional boost. In this case a good mix would be:

2 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp flax seeds
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds

Young women with typically balanced hormones and normal pregnancy history:

Although pregnancy is still a higher progesterone time, women who have healthy balanced hormones should have no problem maintaining the progesterone levels needed. In these cases equal amounts of all seeds can be used or the ratios can be weighted towards sunflower/sesame if that is your choice. So:

1 – 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 – 2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp flax seeds
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds

This can be continued through the entire pregnancy as well as the early months of nursing (up to about 6 months post-partum). This seems to help many women soften the post-partum emotional changes that can occur because of the huge hormone nose-dive.

Seed Cycling for Post-Pregnancy Restoration of Cycle

After delivery some women have a hard time with the sharp drop of progesterone that happens along with the normalization of estrogen levels. Continuing the steady doses of seeds suggested in the pregnancy section can help to smooth out some of the rough edges, but there will come a time when your body moves more towards reestablishing it’s normal rhythm. Some women have a sense of this, whether it’s from changing nursing habits of their baby to hormonal symptoms like skin changes and some women really don’t feel it happening until they get their first cycle.  If you start to feel changes then I typically suggest re-starting seed cycling then according to the lunar phase. If you don’t particularly feel anything then around 6-9 months or when your baby really starts to be interested in solid foods you can restart (also according to lunar phase).  If your body surprises you with your first period out of the blue, then start seed cycling using day 1 of that cycle as your starting place.

In every phase of pre-, during and post- pregnancy make sure that your maternity care team and doctors are aware of your seed cycling routine and that they don’t have any concerns for your particular pregnancy. Seed cycling and pregnancy is generally lovely, but may not be right for you so do check with your doctor.

Also – here’s the moon phases, just in case you need those.

CURRENT MOON



Keeping Your Breasts Healthy Naturally

In light of breast cancer awareness month I’d like to talk a little bit about keeping your girls healthy and happy and cancer-free. The fact is that there are lots of simple things you can do to stay healthy and help prevent breast cancer.  Simple changes can really add up – but don’t forget the most important thing you can do, which is monthly breast self-exams.  As with any cancer, breast cancer is easiest to treat if you catch it early and take definitive action and so checking regularly is just great self-care. Here’s my favorite way to remind myself:

Keeping Your Breasts Healthy Naturally:

  1. Manage your estrogen – One of the biggest contributors to breast cancer is estrogen dominance, which means that your estrogen levels are too high relative to progesterone levels. We’ll talk about this in more detail because managing estrogen dominance is one of the most important considerations in keeping your breasts healthy naturally.
  2. Don’t take extra estrogen if you’re high risk – if you have genetic risk or a family history of breast cancer than just don’t use birth control or HRT that adds estrogen into your system.  That means no birth control pills, no implants, no shots, no patch.  If you really need a birth control method that isn’t condoms, then consider an IUD – the Mirena IUD actually secretes a small amount of progesterone and so would be very balancing for a woman who normally has high estrogen.  The copper IUD lasts longer (about 10 years for one IUD) but can cause heavy bleeding.  Talk with your doctor to find a solution that is right for you.
  3. Help your Breast tissue – dense or fibrocystic breasts are one of the precursors to breast cancer and also make early detection more difficult. Dense, disorganized or cystic breast tissue may indicate an iodine deficiency. Iodine helps your tissues to grow smoothly and in an organized pattern and so when tissues start to form nodules or changes in density patterns it’ may be an indication that iodine levels are low. Iodine deficiency can also affect thyroid and other hormone levels so this can be a complex problem.  It’s really important to check with your doctor or practitioner if you have thyroid problems before you start taking iodine.  GLA, the beneficial fatty acid from Borage or Evening Primrose Oil can also be extremely helpful for fibrocystic breasts and for keeping your breasts healthy in general. Breast tissue can change and soften with the right nutritional influences and this will help you with both prevention of breast cancer (which is more likely to appear in fibrocystic breasts) and also easier detection. Also for some women caffeine consumption contributes to breast density, sensitivity and nodularity and so limiting caffeine can be beneficial.
  4. Limit the estrogenic chemicals in your life – cut out the phthalates (the chemicals that make plastics soft), the BPA in hard plastics (and if you don’t know about the horrible substitute they’re using called BPS then read up here), the chemical cleaning products, the pesticides and herbicides.  All of these chemicals mimic estrogen in your body and so have the same potential cancer causing effects. Switch to organic foods when you can, especially in meat, milk, butter and eggs. The reason these categories are so important is because antibiotics and hormones are not permitted in organic meat animals or organic dairy animals, but are widely used in conventionally raised animals. If you’re high-risk then this is especially important but I believe every woman should protect herself and her children.
  5. Exercise – This really does make a huge difference in every aspect of your health, especially your risk for chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. In terms of keeping your breasts healthy, exercise increases circulation, increases the rate of lymphatic detoxification in breast tissue and also reduces the total estrogen burden.
  6. Breast self-exams – Breast self exams, as explained by the hunky gentlemen in the previous video who really just want to take care of your breasts (thank you god), help you to ensure  that no lumps pop up quickly.  You can use circular motions to feel the whole area of breast tissue, including under your arms on both sides.  Look for lumps or knots.  Also make sure you look at your breasts in the mirror – dimpling, puckering or inverted nipples can indicate a problem – especially if it starts suddenly.  Also watch for sores or ‘bug bites’ that don’t go away – it is much more rare but there is a form of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer that just looks like a sore or an itchy rash-like spot on the breast that doesn’t heal. Although, I’d suggest watching the video a few times to ensure you have it right. 🙂
  7. Lose Weight – I know. I say that like it’s simple, right?  The issue with carrying extra weight is that fat tissue generates its own estrogen and so carrying extra fat means you are also dealing with extra estrogen – and extra estrogen is the biggest and most important risk factor for breast cancer outside of the BrCA gene.
  8. Eat your veggies and cut down on the meat and dairy – a more plant-based diet helps to reduce your risk and protect your body from many types of cancers, including breast. This diet gives you higher fiber (which helps detoxify estrogens) and more antioxidants and complex polyphenols that reduce your risk even further.
  9. Screening – mammograms are suggested for women over 40 and although there is some radiation exposure they also help with early detection so talk with your doctor about what is right for you.  For women who are truly high risk having a thermogram, or thermal imaging, of the breasts done yearly can be extremely helpful.  Thermal imaging will show problem areas far before you would be able to feel a lump or find anything on a mammogram, although if a spot shows up you will still need to get a mammogram to pinpoint the exact location.  Thermal imaging essentially acts as an early warning system that shows you what to watch.  It also gives you the opportunity to take more aggressive steps if something does show up to prevent it from growing into cancer.




Managing Your Estrogen and Recognizing Estrogen Dominance

Estrogen in women is responsible for all kind of issues and generally it promotes cell growth, weight gain, and moodiness if it’s out of balance or present in high doses. Estrogen dominance is one of the major factors in breast disease including fibrocystic breasts and breast cancer.  Keeping your breasts healthy means recognizing estrogen dominance when it is happening and working to reduce your estrogen burden. Some of the symptoms or indicators that you may be prone to estrogen dominance include:

  • Fibrocystic breasts
  • Breast tenderness and heaviness
  • Water retention in hands and feet
  • Irritability, mood swings
  • Depression
  • Uterine fibroids
  • PMS
  • Severe cramping
  • Heavy bleeding and clotting
  • Endometriosis
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Breast cancer

Keeping your breasts healthy means reducing estrogen when it's overloaded, and I'm guessing this woman is overloaded. SCREAMING © Erik Reis | Dreamstime.com Keeping your breasts healthy means reducing estrogen when it’s overloaded, and I’m guessing this woman is overloaded. SCREAMING © Erik Reis | Dreamstime.com

Reducing your estrogens:

30-50 g fiber daily
Exercise – at least 10 minutes daily
Magnesium supplement
B complex supplement
DIM or I3C
Lots of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale
Reduce caffeine
Reduce calorie intake or portion sizes to help yourself lose weight
Boost your water intake to flush out excess estrogen.

Broccoli, cabbage and kale may seem like a strange step, but there is a supplement with the active ingredient from cruciferous vegetables taken out and concentrated. You can find it under two different names.  One is DIM (Di-indole Methane) or I3C (Indole 3-Carbanol).  These are essentially the same thing, just at different points in the metabolic pathway.  Cruciferous vegetables and both of these supplements are powerful estrogen “chelators”, which means that they bind to estrogen to help your body eliminate them.

Fiber and water are both important for this elimination pathway as well because estrogen binds to fiber in your digestive tract which stops it from being reabsorbed.  Water helps to flush everything out of your system, estrogen included. Fiber and water are two of the most important steps towards keeping your breasts healthy naturally.

Losing weight is one of the most important steps you can take to balance your estrogen, simply because your fat tissue makes it’s own estrogen.  How terrifying is that?  In both men and women, fat cells actually make estrogen.

All of these seem like small steps, and it’s true they won’t change your estrogen levels overnight, but sadly, nothing will short of drugs like tamoxifen that are used in breast cancer. Still, taking these steps for three months will produce noticeable results in your PMS, mood swings, estrogen related weight gain and cycle. Also, if you happen to be using tamoxifen then it is imperative that you read this article about preventing tamoxifen resistance using melatonin.

Take care of your breasts ladies – it’s incredibly important.  These days it seems like everyone knows and loves someone who has been touched by breast cancer. We all have mothers or aunts or sisters or friends who have faced this beast, but together we can help to protect ourselves and our loved ones.  Make sure your friends know how to take care of themselves, raise your children doing breast self-exams and practicing good eating habits.  It is never too early or too late to start keeping your breasts healthy naturally.



Is it Your Thyroid or Could It Be Undiagnosed PCOS?

Everyone knows that if you’re tired, sluggish, gaining weight or can’t lose weight, depressed and losing hair that you have thyroid problems – except that in reality it could also be undiagnosed PCOS. So frequently I have women come into my office who are concerned that they have thyroid disease but the blood tests come out normal – even optimal.  This can be so frustrating, because these women aren’t finding help and while they’re searching they continue to gain weight, have irregular menstrual cycles, have a hard time getting pregnant and inch closer to diabetes and heart disease.  An estimated 50-70% of women who have PCOS remain undiagnosed, making this a silent killer.

Normal ovary vs. polycystic ovary from womenshealth.gov

Normal ovary vs. polycystic ovary from womenshealth.gov

What is PCOS?

PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and is the most common endocrine disorder in women, affecting between 5-10% of the female population. Nobody is really sure why PCOS exists, although there seem to be both genetic and lifestyle contributors, similar to obesity or type II diabetes. PCOS affects only women (we being the ones with the ovaries), although men can carry the gene and notice some symptoms. Because of the genetic link if someone else in your family has it, you are more likely to have it too.  This is considered a multi-endocrine disorder because it changes levels of your sex hormones, but can also influence thyroid function and has a strong effect on your insulin. This means that PCOS and other hormone diseases like thyroid conditions or  blood sugar issues go hand-in-hand. There is no one test for PCOS, which is part of the reason it is so commonly undiagnosed.




You Should Be Checked for Undiagnosed PCOS If:

  • Other women in your family have PCOS
  • You have low thyroid symptoms but your thyroid tests normal
  • Your menstrual cycle is irregular, you frequently skip periods, have more than 35 days between periods on average, or have abnormally long periods with either very heavy or very light flow.
  • You have had a hard time getting pregnant
  • Your hair is thinning, especially in a more typically male pattern
  • You have signs of masculinization or excess testosterone including facial hair growth, excess body hair in general, severe acne, deepening voice, or even excessive muscle development in a woman.
  • You are a woman diagnosed with diabetes or glucose intolerance between the ages of 20 and 50 (because according to the PCOS foundation, 40% of the women who meet those criteria have diagnosed or undiagnosed PCOS.)
  • You have easy and excessive weight gain or difficulty losing weight
  • You have non-specific symptoms such as anxiety, depression, or pelvic pain
  • You have blood sugar issues including insulin resistance, type II diabetes, or hypoglycemia (meaning if you get overly hungry you get tired, shakey, angry, irritable, sad, or sick feeling).
  • You have strongly decreased or strongly increased sex drive
  • You have other unexplained symptoms such as sleep apnea, skin tags, and darkened skin patches.

Can Men Get PCOS?

Technically no – because you guys don’t have ovaries, but you can still carry some of the genes for PCOS and pass it on to your daughters.  Also having some of the genes may increase your risk for things like early male-pattern balding, high blood sugars, metabolic syndrome and acne. So even though you don’t have ovaries that can become cystic you may still have some of the features of PCOS.

Low Thyroid vs. PCOS

Is it any wonder undiagnosed PCOS is often confused for thyroid dysfunction?

Is it any wonder undiagnosed PCOS is often confused for thyroid dysfunction?

If I Suspect PCOS How Should I be Evaluated?

If this sounds like it might be you, the best thing to do is talk with your gynecologist. They will want to ask you about your menstrual history, probably do hormone and blood sugar testing, and may do an ultrasound to see if they can see any cysts on your ovaries.  PCOS is manageable if you know you have it, but undiagnosed PCOS can be frustrating and is easily confused with other conditions, like low thyroid.  Getting the diagnosis right is a big deal, so try to give your doctor the most accurate and complete picture of your symptoms possible. Keep looking back in the next few weeks for information about what you can do naturally for PCOS.



Natural Fertility: Honoring Your Cycle

Natural fertility is a growing concern – although rates of infertility fell in the last few years from 8.5% of couples in the U.S. to 6%, there are still staggering numbers of people who are struggling to get pregnant and especially to have natural fertility.  Many couples are experiencing “sub-fertility” which means that they can technically become pregnant, but are having a hard time doing so. Also many women experience irregular cycles, skipped ovulation and general hormone wackiness that makes planning for fertility more of a challenge. I genuinely feel that part of the issue with fertility is that women have come to see the rhythms of their bodies as inconvenient, painful, embarrassing or a nuisance. There is a huge disconnect between the powerful things that happen in our bodies and our perception of and regard for them.

In light of all of the emotional, lifestyle and financial burden of infertility there is a movement towards improving fertility naturally, which sounds great, but this whole issue can seem daunting and overly complicated.  Don’t worry – we’re going to make it as easy as possible. There will be many posts on the subject, but we’re going to start with the basics. The first step is to actually begin to understand what is happening in your body during the different phases of your menstrual cycle and why those things are so important. In this post we’ll talk about the whole reason for your cycle, more the spirit behind the thing.  In subsequent posts we’ll talk about the hormone changes in more detail, fertility tracking and general steps towards boosting your fertility naturally.




Step One to Natural Fertility: Honoring Your Menstrual Cycle

Anyone who has ever known a woman can tell you that a woman’s cycle is a powerful driving force in their lives. This is a huge part of what makes the experience of being a woman entirely different from the experience of being a man. We have a rhythm and that rhythm dictates when we are the most sexual, the most vulnerable and for some women the most emotionally labile. To begin with, let’s take a look at a picture of all the things that are happening in your cycle. Remember “day 1” is counted from the first day you bleed each month:

Natural fertility and your monthly cycle - Look how much your body does every month!

Natural fertility and your monthly cycle – Look how much your body does every month!

First off – I just want to stop for a moment and appreciate just how much is happening here. Your body is doing all of this without any particular input from you – it is following it’s own rhythm. To me, that seems like an awesome kind of miracle and a tremendously beautiful part of being human. Strong natural fertility is in our blood, or psyche and our DNA. Your body does this – on it’s own – with no conscious direction.  That is completely mind blowing. To me, this is a natural cycle that must be honored in our daily lives. Your natural fertility and the tides of your body can be made into an almost spiritual awareness of the way life itself moves within you.

Understanding the Phases of Your Menstrual Cycle

Natural Fertility Week 1: Eliminating the not-needed and selecting the best hopes for the future. (Follicular phase)

This first week of your cycle is the section that most women stay connected to, simply because it’s the most obvious. This is the week you bleed, the week you shed the uterine lining that you built up last month because there was no fertilized egg to nourish with those tissues.  In this season, the spring of your four-phase cycle, you are doing two things. One is the literal spring cleaning that you might think of – the sloughing off of the cushy landing spot that your body made for last month’s egg.  Clearly the egg didn’t need it so you are free to release that tissue so that you can start the process over again and build a fresh place for the next egg to land.  Simultaneously you are selecting the healthiest follicle from those which are starting to mature this month – you’re selecting your best egg, so to speak.  This is a literal process of letting go of what is no longer needed and selecting the best starting place for your path forward – this is the death and rebirth phase of your rhythm.  Emotionally too this is a wonderful time for self-reflection.  Using the week of your menses to actually look at your last month, to see what has been serving you in your life and what might be eliminated. Typically this is a more inward time for women with less desire to be out in the world and more time for quiet and inner peace.

Natural Fertility Week 2: The ripening (Follicular phase)

This week of the cycle is the one I hear most women report as their most peaceful, when energy is building and it is easiest to turn out towards the world – culminating with our social peak at ovulation.  Your body is ripening the chosen follicle to become a healthy viable egg.  You can see on the menstrual graph that all of our hormones take a sharp rise right before ovulation, when you are at your peak of fertility as well as your peak sexuality. This is the ripening phase of your cycle when your body is literally preparing to bear fruit – this is your summer. Your physical, sexual and creative energies are all increasing and most women are more likely to focus more on their outward appearance during this time because our hormone drives are pushing us to be more desirable to a mate.

Culmination: Ovulation

Right around Day 14 of your cycle (which often corresponds with the full moon – we’ll get to that in another post) your body’s energy builds, your hormones peak, your sexual drive reaches it’s highest point – according to market research this is the time when women are most likely to dress provocatively, to be more socially active and to buy sexy lingerie. The end result is that your body releases a fertile egg, and gives you the drives to do something about it.  Some women feel the ovulatory release with a sharp pinching or stabbing pain on the ovary that is releasing an egg (called middleschmertz – great word!!), some women have a dull ache over that ovary and some women don’t feel ovulation at all.




Week 3: Letting Down (Luteal Phase)

During this week the frantic energy that happens around ovulation begins to dissipate, and the ruptured follicle where your egg was released turns into the corpus luteum, which secretes progesterone. If fertilization occurs, then in this week the fertile egg journeys through the fallopian tube to implant in the uterus around day 21. In this week the uterine lining fully matures so that it is at it’s peak for implantation. This is the fall of the cycle, the journey to find a place to settle down. This is a more calm time in your cycle and many women feel a continuing stability from week 2 (with that brief, frantic ovulation instability in the middle).

Natural fertility implantation diagram. Week 3 of the cycle

Natural fertility implantation diagram. Week 3 of the cycle. Thanks to wikimedia commons for the great pictures!

Natural Fertility Week 4: A Look at What Needs to be Let Go (Luteal Phase and Possibly PMS)

This final phase of your cycle is when your body either transitions into viable pregnancy, or switches gears accepting that a pregnancy hasn’t happened and so prepares to shed the uterine lining for another cycle.  The Uterine lining is now fully mature, and if implantation doesn’t occur then we see an over-ripening in preparation for break down. Clearly the winter of your own personal cycle, this is when a lot of women begin to look back at what might not have worked this past month or dealing with any sadness, losses and irritations. It is the time when emotions can run closest to the surface and the premenstrual hormone shifts only amplify what is already there. Just like actual winter, this is a great time to notice the issues that are coming to the surface – contemplate and reexamine in preparation for the next cycle (or the next spring fresh start).

This is perhaps a little bit different way of looking at your menstrual cycle, which we often dismiss as annoying or irritating or inconvenient.  If you are working to normalize your hormone balance or to boost your fertility naturally then it’s time to start maintaining a daily awareness of the vast changes that are going on in your body every day and the staggering number of things your body is doing to help you prepare for the possibility of a baby. By bringing some awareness to this process every day you are making a conscious shift towards valuing this part of you as a woman, to actually honoring your menstrual cycle for the miracle of natural fertility that it is. Today, say thanks for your natural fertility. It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman of reproductive years, if you’ve already had your babies, or even if you’re a man and this is the first thought you’ve given to a women’s menstrual cycle – you are still connected intimately to this cycle that occurs in the human world.  Today is the day to give it some thought, to pay a little bit of attention to a truly awe-inspiring human phenomenon.