The Menstrual Cycle: It’s All About The Hormones

By: | Tags: | Comments: 0 | July 29th, 2011

Did you know that most women don’t actually know how their monthly menstrual cycle works?

They just know it comes around a certain time of the month and is often preceded or followed by moodiness and PMS. For the most part, the menstrual cycle seems to be approached with dread.

But you might be surprised to know that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Did you know that a menstrual cycle doesn’t have to be accompanied by cramps, PMS, moodiness, heavy clotting or breast tenderness? This may be common, but it’s certainly not normal.

But, before we talk about solutions, it’s essential that you understand the basics of a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Let me introduce you to the two main characters in our play: estrogen and progesterone. These two hormones are the co-conductors that orchestrate a woman’s monthly cycle.

A normal menstrual cycle lasts 28 days. The first day that a woman begins her cycle is considered Day 1 of her menstrual cycle.

For the first fourteen days of a woman’s cycle, her ovaries secrete increasing amounts of estrogen. This is incredibly important as estrogen serves to stimulate the growth of the endometrial lining, the tissue that covers the inner surface of the uterus.

Halfway through her cycle, around day 14 one of her two ovaries will produce an egg. This is called ovulation. The ruptured follicle which released the egg is now transformed into what is called the corpus luteum.

The corpus luteum begins producing progesterone as well as a small amount of testosterone. Both progesterone and testosterone peak just after ovulation and stimulate a woman’s libido.

If many of you are thinking, “Wow, this makes sense!” – you’re right! The timing and role of each hormone is perfection. Isn’t it beautiful?

Following ovulation, the body begins preparing for a potential pregnancy. This phase is directed by progesterone. Progesterone’s primary function is to mature the endometrial lining. The importance of progesterone in a successful pregnancy is further explained by its name, which literally means “promoting gestation”.

From this point, if fertilization and pregnancy does not occur, the production of both progesterone and estrogen dramatically falls at the end of the 28 day cycle. The endometrial lining is sloughed, resulting in, you guessed it: a woman’s period.

If you’re female, now you know.

If you’re male kudos to you for making it through the entire post and well…now you have a piece of the puzzle that is Woman. You’re one step ahead of the pack.

Now, that wasn’t that bad was it? Over the next few weeks we’ll continue to unpack issues that tend to crop up due to hormonal imbalance.

 

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