Having a healthy menstrual cycle is instrumental to having abundant fertility. The menstrual cycle can tell us a lot about what is happening in the body, if the uterus is getting enough circulation, if hormones are imbalanced, if you are ovulating and so much more. Our monthly cycle IS our fertility.
Also determining what is ‘normal’ or what should be the goal for us to get our cycles to is important. While everyone can not fit into one box, there is a general range that represents a healthy cycle. But let’s start from the beginning…
Menstruation (the period) is the shedding of the endometrium lining of the uterus. This generally occurs monthly, releasing blood and tissues from the uterus.
How the cycle works…
The period is only one part of the amazingly complex monthly fertility cycle orchestrated by the endocrine system. The endocrine glands work together to send messages via hormones. This is called the feedback loop.
In very simple terms the hypothalamus produces GnRH (gonadotrophin-releasing homrones) which signals to the pituitary to produce LH (luteinising hormones and FSH (folilicle stimulating hormone) to signal to the ovaries that it is there turn to release estrogen and progesterone which is recognized by the pituitary gland.
Simple right? Not so. As you can see a healthy cycle is dependent on each part of the feedback loop functioning properly. Think of it as an orchestra, if just one part of the cycle is off, it will throw the entire cycle off, causing imbalances that can effect fertility.
As the estrogen increases (secreted from the developing follicles prior to ovulation) the cervical mucous begins to change to ‘fertile mucous’ which is egg white in its consistency. The increasing levels of estrogen then trigger the secretion of GnRH from the hypothalamus which them signals the surge of LH and FSH which most likely triggers the release of the egg. Once ovulation occurs FSH levels drop fast and LH starts to drop slowly.
The endometrium is now influenced by progesterone causing it to develop to be capable of nourishing a developing embryo.
If fertilization does not occur, the decline of the hormones causes the endometrium to shed, which is dependent on hormones at all times for its health, maintenance and development. When estrogen reaches a low enough point the hypothalamus releases GnRH and the cycle starts over again.
Counting the days of your menstrual cycle
The luteal phase is the days between ovulation and menstruation. It is generally 14 days long. This is the time when a fertilized egg is attaching itself to the lining in the uterus to establish itself. If the luteal phase is too short (less than 12 days) this can make implantation almost impossible as the egg has not had sufficient time to properly implant and signal to the cycle that pregnancy has occurred.
We get asked often what is an ideal period. Unfortunately there is no one answer to this question as we are all different. A ‘textbook’ period is 28 days long with menstruation lasting 3-5 days. The information that is most important about your cycle is the length of your period, the length of your entire cycle, the amount of pain, the color and consistency of the menstruation. We can use this information to learn how to best use herbs and therapies to help create a healthy, balanced cycle.
Length of a Healthy Cycle
Hormone levels and ovulation create the regularity of your cycle. Failure to ovulate will effect hormonal levels and hormonal imbalance will effect/inhibit the secretion of hormones that stimulate ovulation.
There are many factors that can effect the hormonal balance and ovulation. Stress being one of them. Learn more about stress and fertility here .
Below is given as a list of associations, not in any way a diagnostic tool. My goal is to help you read your body and listen when it is telling you something is out of balance. The menstrual cycle is one of the best ways the body communicates about your fertility. The details of your menstrual cycle can be used as a window into your fertility. Telling you just what is going on, where an imbalance my lie, how your reproductive circulation is, if there is a hormonal imbalance, etc.
Missing a period
Another important vitamin, vitamin C, has been shown to help reduce heavy bleeding by strengthening the capillaries, helping to reduce their fragility. One study showed an 87% success rate in reducing of heavy bleeding with vitamin C.
Slow Flow is the best herbal and supplement blend I have seen to help with heavy menstruation. It contains herbs that are astringent (helping to slow blood flow) and nutrients such as vitamin A, C and K. In addition vitex and liver supporting herbs have been found to be helpful.
Light menstruation with strong cramping
Bright Red Blood
Dark, brown or thick blood
Pale Blood, Watery or thin menstruation
Spotting and bleeding between periods
Since the lining of the uterus is not being shed, it is very important to clear out the old blood and establish a healthy cycle again. This can be done naturally and effectively with herbs and nutrition. I have talked with many clients who have been offered synthetic estrogen to get there periods going again… taking synthetic estrogen for this issue is like using a sledge hammer on a thumb tack.
Depending on each situation, the herbs and therapies may be different, but in addition to a specific herbal, supplemental and therapeutic protocol. here are 4 steps every woman can take to promote a healthy menstrual cycle.
1. Hormonal Balance
In addition, the 3 other steps below also help to support hormonal balance.
2. Liver Health
3. Nutrition and hydration
You can learn more about eating a diet specific for fertility here…
Hydration is also important. In many cases of stagnation (such as blood clots or dark menstrual blood) dehydration is a contributing factor. In order for the menstruation to FLOW from us, it needs to have a liquid consistancy. Not a sticky, thick consistancy.
Drinking plenty of water and fresh squeezed juices is important for a healthy flow. Starting your day with a quart of water (with lemon if you like) is a great idea. Making sure to get another quart throughout the day. In addition add at least 1 quart of fresh juiced vegetable and fruit juices and you are on your way to abundant health.
4. Stress reduction
Recent research tells us that stress boosts levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, which inhibits the body’s main sex hormones GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone) and subsequently suppresses ovulation, sexual activity and sperm count.
Supporting the adrenal gland is also helpful for hormonal balance as it can get burned out from too much stress for too long and negatively effect the endocrine system.
There are many ways to begin to reduce the amount of stress and alter your reaction to stress such as:
Maca helps to stimulate and nourish the pituitary gland, acting as a tonic for the hormone system. When the pituitary gland functions optimally, the entire endocrine system becomes balanced, because the pituitary gland controls the hormone output of the other three glands.
1. Trickey Ruth. Women, Hormones and The Menstrual Cycle, 2003