Hormone-Free: Week 1 & The Four Phases
It’s been just over a week since I had my hormonal IUD removed and I feel great!
I was scared that it might be as painful to remove as it was to have put it, but to my relief was not at all. I had the slightest cramping and immediately felt relieved after the procedure.
As promised, I’m sharing my experience: Two days after I had my IUD removed, I started the first day of my period. I literally only had two tampons in the house that were probably four years old… What was I thinking?! I didn’t have any cramping and it was fairy light for about three days until it ended. To my relief, it wasn’t the end of the world. I also noticed my acne got better, especially around my jaw line even though I felt my skin was slightly more oily than before.
From Lauren’s advice I downloaded the Flo App and started documenting all of my symptoms and feelings - good and bad. If you haven’t used the app before, it’s pretty awesome and I recommend every gal use it if you are in any way irregular or want to learn more about your own unique cycle. It predicts when each of your cycles are going to begin and gives you insight to some symptoms you might experience along the way.
The part I’m most excited about this entire process is learning more about my body and women’s health in general. As I mentioned in my first post, I’ve been working with Lauren Chambers, Nutrition & Hormone Health Coach and the woman behind sofreshnsogreen.com, as a guide through my own transition off of hormonal brith control. One of the things she opened my eyes to were the intricacies of our natural four-phase cycle and how we can be strategic with our nutrition, exercise, romantic relationship, and even our productivity levels during each phase for optimal health and wellness at ALL phases. Here’s a brief overview starting with the most familiar:
Four Phases of the Menstrual Cycle:
Menstrual Phase - Winter
AKA your period. The phase begins when an egg from the previous cycle isn’t fertilized. Estrogen and progesterone start to drop and the thickened lining of the uterus is shed. On average, women are in the menstrual phase of their cycle for 3 to 7 days, while some have longer periods than others.
During this phase progesterone levels drop and energy levels drop to their lowest, possibly leaving you tired or feeling withdrawn.
Follicular Phase - Spring
The follicular phase also starts on the first day of your period, so there’s a little overlap between these first two phases, and it ends when you ovulate, or release an egg from the ovaries. It’s initiated by the hypothalamus sending a signal to your pituitary gland to release follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) that stimulates your ovaries to produce around 5 to 20 small sacs called follicles. Each follicle contains an immature egg. The healthiest egg eventually matures, normally only one (on rare occasions a woman may have two eggs mature) and the rest of the follicles are reabsorbed into the body. When the follicle matures it sets off a surge in estrogen that thickens the lining of your uterus, creating a nutrient-rich environment for an embryo to grow. On average, the follicular phase lasts about 16 days, but can range anywhere between 11 to 27 days depending on your cycle.
As your estrogen levels increase, you might feel a boost in energy and mood. A rise in testosterone levels can also stimulate libido giving you a bolder sense of self!
Ovulation Phase - Summer
During the ovulation phase, rising estrogen levels trigger the pituitary gland to release luteinizing hormone (LH), starting the process of ovulation. The mature egg travels down the fallopian tube toward the uterus to be fertilized (OR NOT) by sperm. Ovulation happens around day 14 if you have a 28-day cycle and lasts around 24 hours. After a day the egg will dissolve if not fertilized. The ovulation phase is the only time during your cycle that you can get pregnant. However, sperm can live up to five days, which means you pregnancy can occur if you have unprotected sex as much as five days prior to ovulating.
Levels of estrogen and testosterone are at their peak during this phase. Sex drive is typically higher and feelings of confidence are maximized, which makes sense given this is the time women are most fertile. Bow chicka wow wow.
Luteal Phase - Fall
After the follicle release its egg, it changes into the corpus luteum, which is a structure that releases hormones - mainly progesterone and some estrogen - keeping the uterine lining thick and ready in case a fertilized egg is to implant. Assuming you don’t get pregnant, the corpus luteum will shrink away and be reabsorbed. That leads to decreased levels of estrogen and progesterone, which causes - you may have guessed - your period. The luteal phase lasts for 11-17 days, with the average length being 14 days.
During the first half of the luteal phase feelings of confidence might still be riding high, but as progesterone levels increase those feelings might start to fizzle.
My girl Lauren has all the tips and tricks to optimize your daily life during each phase. To see more check out her latest post on Cycle Syncing 101. If have a similar experience to what I had, you will probably have some ‘AHA’ moments and nod your head the entire time you read her material on promoting a healthy cycle.
And a huge THANK YOU to everyone who commented or reached out to me after my first post. It is NOT easy to share your own experiences around something so personal and maybe a bit TMI for some. I appreciate your feedback and support!