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The Menstrual Cycle & Fertility Awareness: Your Inner Phases

Your menstrual cycle is more than just your period – which is actually just a small fraction of the whole cycle! These are your inner phases; just like the Earth, you are cyclical and have seasons. Paying attention to your whole cycle via tracking will help you notice more of its subtleties, learn when your body needs what based on which phase it’s in, and better plan to sync your life to your cycle.


While every body and every cycle is unique, this chart displays a range of what a healthy menstrual cycle looks like. If your cycle is different, irregular, or non-existent – don’t panic, just be aware. You can always seek professional support & advice via the Healing Resource Directory in the back of your Cycles Journal, &/or via your physician(s).

Cycle Day #s: Day 1 of your cycle is the first day you experience medium to heavy flow of red blood.

Cycle Length: While the average menstrual cycle is stated to be 28 days with ovulation occurring on day 14, cycle lengths anywhere between 21-35 days are healthy. Small fluctuations in length are natural, but big jumps or longer or shorter cycles may be a sign to seek professional help & further research into possible causes + solutions.

Fertility: Despite only being fertile for a small window of your cycle, generally 5 days prior to & 24 hours after ovulation, there is always potential for sperm to stick around anytime cervical fluid/discharge is present. Tracking is the best way to remain aware!

Irregular or Absent Cycles: While not bleeding may seem like a perk, your body is lacking an essential function. The hormonal imbalance that is likely a factor can also affect other areas of your health physically, mentally & emotionally. Don’t panic, but be aware of this as a signal from your body to pay attention & take action to restore balance. Those near menarche or menopause may experience more cycle variation even while healthy.

Phase 1 • Menstrual • Inner Winter • 3-7 days

Uterine Cycle: The uterus sheds its lining (endometrium) when the released egg from ovulation is not fertilized. 2-4 tbsp of vibrant red blood is shed per cycle (approx. 1-2 menstrual cups).

Hormones: Estrogen & progesterone levels remain low.

Common Symptoms: 

  • increased inflammation
  • lower back pain
  • mood swings, irritability
  • fatigue, bloating, cramps
  • headaches, tender chest

 

Phase 2: Follicular • Inner Spring • ~5-11 days (varies)

Uterine Cycle: The follicular phase is also know as the pre-ovulatory phase. The uterine lining rebuilds as it prepares for the potential implantation of an egg.

Hormones: Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) stimulates egg growth in the ovaries. Estrogen levels rise.

Common Symptoms: 

  • increased metabolism
  • improved moods & energy
  • lower body temp. ~96.8-98°F

 

Phase 3: Ovulatory • Inner Summer • ~2-6 days

Uterine Cycle: Fertile phase (window may vary). More cervical fluid/discharge will be present before & after the egg is released.

Hormones: An abrupt surge of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) triggers egg to release from the ovaries. Body reaches estrogen threshold & decreases after.

Common Symptoms: 

  • increased libido
  • fluctuating moods
  • more cervical fluid
  • increased appetite
  • more autoimmune 
  • disease symptoms

 

Phase 4: Luteal • Inner Autumn • ~12-17 days

Uterine Cycle: The uterine lining thickens and prepares for potential implantation if the egg is fertilized. Follicle that held the egg collapses (corpus luteum) – this prevents the release of any other eggs. 

Hormones: Progesterone levels rise. Estrogen levels decrease, then fluctuate.

Common Symptoms: 

  • higher body temp. ~98.1-99.1°F
  • mood swings
  • trouble sleeping
  • lower immune response
  • increased appetite
  • swollen/sore, headaches
  • skin troubles
  • weight gain
  • libido shift

Check out our Pinterest for more on each phase:

Symptoms & Pain: Menstrual cycle pain has been normalized in our culture – this creates an illusion that we do not have options or the power of choice for our own bodies’ health, that we just have to suck it up, and that we have to cover up our symptoms with pharmaceuticals in order to function in a non-cyclical society. We deserve more.

 

While mild discomfort is common and considered normal, debilitating pain that interrupts your daily life is not normal. Usually pain is a signal from your body that something is off or needs attention; hormonally, nutritionally, physically, environmentally, and/or energetically. We can track our symptoms with our cycle to try to uncover what it is linked to – awareness is the first step. Further pages in this journal offer tips to address pain naturally and nourish your body with food – however it is not a replacement for professional support or diagnosis. We hope that this introductory information can inspire you to further your own research as well, so you can feel empowered to study and know your own body & helpful information that exists.

We’ve created a graphic & info sheet to help you understand and reference the Menstrual Cycle Wheel. 

 

Hemispheres & Lunar Perspective:

We all experience the same moon cycle and astrological signs regardless of where we are located on Earth. However, we want to acknowledge the difference in viewpoint from the southern vs northern hemisphere, and give you some tools to be able to use this journal no mater where in the world you are.

 

This journal is created in the northern hemisphere; the daily lunar phase illustrations reflect the northern hemisphere view of each phase, which would be visually flipped for the southern hemisphere. 

For example, on a given day a person in the northern hemisphere will view the waxing first quarter moon as visually illuminated on the right side. Someone looking at the same moon first quarter moon phase from the southern hemisphere see it visually illuminated on the left.

Energy moves clockwise in the northern hemisphere and the menstrual wheel in this journal reflects this movement. Energy moves counter- or anti-clockwise in the southern hemisphere. 

For your convenience, we provide via our website a printable version of the menstrual wheel for the southern hemisphere to support you.



Download Southern Hemisphere Version:

 

Download Northern Hemisphere Version:

 

References:

  • Sources referenced & studies to create our info sheet & visual chart based on median data & public knowledge:
  • Since there was so much varied information I tried to find a middle.
  • https://www.conceptionadvice.com/when-are-you-most-likely-to-get-pregnant/
  • https://theminnesotabirthcenter.com/mbc-to-host-instruction-in-natural-family-planning/
  • https://americanpregnancy.org/getting-pregnant/track-ovulation-irregular-periods/
  • http://www.pregnancy-bliss.co.uk/your_answers25.html
  • https://viosfertility.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/The-Menstraul-Cycle.png
  • https://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/
  •  

  • ACOG lists a wider range of normal cycle lengths, 21-35 days (https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/abnormal-uterine-bleeding).
  • BBT rise is most often described as being post-ovulatory. I believe Sensiplan looks for 4 steady days to confirm ovulation. So I'd say the majority of the temperature rise is post-ovulatory. (https://helloclue.com/articles/sex/natural-birth-control-fertility-awareness-methods)
  • many people experience more autoimmune disease symptoms around ovulation, and actually find the luteal phase, especially early, to be associated with fewer symptoms/lower symptom intensity (https://helloclue.com/articles/cycle-a-z/the-immune-system-and-the-menstrual-cycle)
  •  

    Clinical Resources:

  • The timing of the “fertile window” in the menstrual cycle: day specific estimates from a prospective study - Wilcox 2000
  • Post-ovulatory ageing of the human oocyte and embryo failure - Wilcox 1998
  • Determination of the fertile window: Reproductive competence of women – European cycle databases - Frank-Herrmann 2005 - has data on temp rise as well as fertile periods 
  • Mucus observations in the fertile window: a better predictor of conception than timing of intercourse 
  • Is Female Health Cyclical? Evolutionary Perspectives on Menstruation - 2017
  • Immunology and the menstrual cycle - Oertelt-Prigione 1 2011 
  • In depth discussion of inflammation during menstruation - Do sexually transmitted infections exacerbate negative premenstrual symptoms? Insights from digital health - 2018 
  • REGULATION OF THE 24H BODY TEMPERATURE RHYTHM OF WOMEN IN LUTEAL PHASE: ROLE OF GONADAL STEROIDS AND PROSTAGLANDINS 
  • GLOWM is a cool resource in general, but I think this article is worth reading for a review: https://www.glowm.com/section-view/heading/The%20Hypothalamic-Hypophyseal-Ovarian%20Axis%20and%20the%20Menstrual%20Cycle/item/282#.YShrzo5Kg2w
  •  

    Patient friendly/consumer resources:

  • UK NHS - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/natural-family-planning/
  • “Your Fertility” from the Austrailian Govt - https://www.fertilitysociety.com.au/wp-content/uploads/Understanding-ovulation-and-the-fertile-window.pdf 
  •  

    Disclaimer: Cycles Journal is not a clinical or medical organization or tools – it is not a replacement for consulting professional resources. We are simply a guide, connection point & sharing resources.

     

    This book is a stepping stone and general guide that is full of suggestions and not requirements or claims. It is not a replacement for a textbook, medical diagnoses, or your healthcare provider.

     

    All information in this journal is written with research and/or expertise, care, good intention, and experience, but it does not replace what you &/or your healthcare provider agree is best for you. You are encouraged to do your own research and consult your trusted healthcare provider to support the suggestions in this journal! This also serves as a record to share with them.

     

    We (every person involved in this book) do not claim to have cures to any illnesses or to know everyone’s situations. We are providing intro-level information in this book; nothing further should be assumed. Everything in this book is to be considered for recreational use at your own risk. We are not to be held responsible for any misinterpretations, medical conditions, or reactions that occur while using this journal.

     

    Further Resources:

    You can find our chart version of this info for reference inside Cycles Journal, or download a free PDF copy here.

    Join our free cyclical community, where we have open discussions . There are also optional monthly live workshops & a library of replays about a variety of topics for an accessible price.

    If you are looking for professionals and experienced practitioners, browse our Healing Resource Directory.

     

    A special thank you to Maegan E Boutot, UMass PHD for this list of resources and for collaborating with us on Scientific Info in our journal & on our website – to make our tools more accurate & information more widely accessible to all who bleed!

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