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 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 beforehand, 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 throughout 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 pregnant 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 re-establishing its normal rhythm. Some women have a sense of this, whether it’s from changing the 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 during pregnancy is generally easy and supportive, but may not be right for you so always check with your doctor.