It seems we ladies are a little confused about our periods. In talking with patients, friends and family it’s come to light that many of us aren’t quite sure what exactly is going on when it comes to our cycle. I’m going to be honest with you; I didn’t really know myself until I came off the pill at age 28. I went on the pill at a very early age in an effort to “regulate my cycle” (which I’m sure many of you can relate to) and that was that. The pill was “controlling my period” (something I cringe at now), and it became just something that happened once a month. Knowing what was actually going on didn’t really seem important or necessary. Sadly, I think many of us are in the same boat and have become a little disconnected from our bodies. It’s not until we come off the pill or start thinking about having a baby that we start wondering what is actually going on. So I thought I’d share with you some of the most common talking points that come up with patients in the hope of clearing up some of the confusion and reconnecting you with your body.
- Your cycle is approximately 28 days long.
How long is your cycle? So often the response I receive to this question is “umm, 4/5/7 days”. Your cycle length actually refers to the time from the first day of your period (or the first day of bleeding) right through to the first day of your next period. 28 days is generally considered ‘normal’, but anything from between 21 to 35 days is healthy. Knowing the length of your cycle is not only great for predicting when your next period is due, but it can help us track what else might be going on during your cycle, and can even be used as a method of contraception. Which leads us on to the next point…
- You ovulate on or around day 14 of your cycle.
Now that you understand your cycle length, count forward 14 days from day 1 of your period. You ovulate around this day. To put it very simply, ovulation is the release of an egg by the ovary. Day 14 is average. If your cycle is shorter or longer, you will ovulate a little earlier or later. You may feel a slight twinge of pain as the egg is released from your ovary. Following ovulation, you will get a period approximately two weeks later (or, if your egg is fertilised you will be pregnant). So ladies, please note, you are at your most fertile on day 14 and the few days following (i.e. these are the days upon which you can fall pregnant). Once you get in sync with your cycle, you can use this information to either prevent or try for a pregnancy.
- PMS is not normal.
Headaches, cramping, bloating, fluid retention, breast tenderness, breakouts, cravings, irritability, anxiety, depression, crying at the drop of a hat. Sound familiar? These are the most common symptoms of PMS. Up to 90% of women experience any number of these symptoms during the 10 or so days leading up to their period. And unfortunately this is considered normal. But boy do I have news for you! While PMS is absolutely real, it is not part and parcel of being a woman. And while it can be wonderful to honour or cycle and take time out during our period, we absolutely do not have to suffer through it. You can live a life relatively PMS free. There are many causes of PMS (which I promise, will be the topic of another post), most of which can be treated naturally and quickly.
- The oral contraceptive pill does not regulate your cycle.
So many of us are prescribed the oral contraceptive pill in an effort to “regulate” our cycles. And so often when I ask my clients about their cycle they tell me its regular “because I’m on the pill”. The pill DOES NOT regulate your cycle. In fact, you do not have a true cycle whist taking the pill. The pill works to inhibit, or “turn-off” ovulation. So you do not ovulate while taking the pill. The hormones within the pill mimic true hormones and the bleed you have while taking the pill is a withdrawal bleed, and while it may feel like a period it is most definitely not.
These are just a few of the topics I chat with my patients, friends and family about on a regular basis. Each of them could be a post on their own, and I will endeavour to write more in depth on each topic. But if you have any questions or comments please leave me a comment or don’t hesitate to get in touch.