Hooray! It’s time for your menstrual cycle to begin. That isn’t a sentiment you hear very often, but you should. Women are taught to dread their period, even to be ashamed and embarrassed by this vital part of the female experience. Many external influences have taught us not to honor our body and its natural hormonal ebbs and flows; as a result, we’re out of touch with our innate wisdom.
American women aren’t typically taught that their monthly cycle should be venerated for its wisdom and ability to create, nor do they know how to use it to their benefit. This guide will walk you through the 4 phases of your menstrual cycle and how to harness the power of each to help you better understand your body, womb, and sex life.
The 4 Phases of the Menstrual Cycle
The 4 phases of the menstrual cycle closely relate to the weather seasons – spring, summer, winter, and autumn. Understanding what happens during each season of your cycle is key to utilizing its energy.
Menstruation – Winter
Your cycle starts with menstruation, lasting roughly three-six days. This is when the actual bleeding happens. It is the winter season of your period, and just as in nature, your resources are low. Hormones such as progesterone dwindle as your body sheds its uterine lining, and you become more protective of your peace of mind and emotional life. Libido, energy, and the drive to be sociable are at an all-time low during this first phase of the menstrual cycle.
Follicular – Spring
The follicular part of your cycle starts when the bleeding stops and ends just before ovulation, lasting approximately six to seven days. There may still be a few blood spots, but it’s mostly gone by this point. Estrogen and testosterone levels steadily rise, and your energy, libido, and focus increase along with them. Mental and emotional health is typically at their best around this time.
Ovulation – Summer
The ovulatory phase is the shortest of all, lasting only two to three days. Estrogen is still rising and continues until the egg drops. The egg is released from the follicles into the fallopian tubes, where it waits to be fertilized. The egg will die off in 12–48 hours if left unfertilized. The continually rising estrogen helps keep spirits, motivation, and creativity high.
Luteal – Autumn
The luteal phase lasts around two weeks, during which the ruptured egg follicle left behind on the surface of the ovaries transforms into the corpus luteum and begins releasing progesterone and some estrogen. These hormones make the uterus lining thick and ready to support a fertilized egg. The egg withers, dies, and is flushed out of the body if no fertilized egg is present by day 22–28 of the cycle. Progesterone initiates a drop in energy, and this phase is often accompanied by headaches and bloating. The cycle begins again if there is no fertilized egg to protect and nurture.
Learning to live in alignment with your menstrual cycle instead of being ashamed and trying to suffer through it will change your life. The most important thing to be aware of is in which phases your strengths and talents are most vigorous and to align your work, social life, diet, and personal relationships to work in conjunction with each stage.
How to Best Use Each Phase of Menstruation
The female body goes through intense changes at every stage of menstruation. It should come as no surprise that it needs different kinds of support at each stage to stay healthy and functioning at its best. Here are the best ways to treat your body during each season of your period.
This is the time to go inward. Hobbies such as journaling, reading, and introverted activities will provide the most comfort. Keep exercises light, such as walking or yin yoga. Eat warm, nourishing foods like soups, stews, and slow-cooked meats.
Your body is energized in the spring or follicular stage, making it the perfect time to schedule important meetings and tackle big tasks. Your brain is hardwired to be much more flexible at this time, so take on some new learning projects. Eat lighter foods containing lots of nutrients, such as salads, fresh fruits, and warm proteins. Your body wants to be energetic and vital now, so engage in more strenuous exercises or more challenging yoga poses.
Summer is the ovulation part of the cycle when your estrogen is peaking, and so are your social skills, confidence, and sensuality. It’s the perfect time to spend with friends and family or go on a romantic getaway. Your body has the most energy at this time, so keep up those high-energy workouts. Fill your diet with more raw foods, organic juices, and short-cooked meals while you have the power to digest them easily.
The luteal phase is the autumn of your period and often the most challenging part of the month. The best practice during this time is to take it easy on yourself. Stick to light exercise and comfort foods full of healthy fats.
Move into a place of honor, curiosity, and alignment with what nature provides to harness the power of your menstrual cycle. Focus on the positive aspects of what each season brings and utilize its energy to fuel yourself.
Professional Advice to Harness the Power of the Menstrual Cycle at Any Stage
Each phase of the menstrual cycle is different and brings specific hormonal fluxes and symptoms. Dr. Karen Threlkel provides specialized care for every type of hormonal change. She is a naturopathic doctor serving primarily women in the greater D.C. area.
Dr. Threlkel provides a holistic approach to medicine that encompasses the whole human experience, mind–body–spirit. Her practice prioritizes natural-focused remedies for treating both symptoms and underlying conditions. Contact Dr. Threlkel to schedule a consultation for more information about a health topic or learn about natural remedies or treatments.
Your Menstrual Cycle. 2021 Feb 20 [accessed 2022 Aug 24]. https://www.womenshealth.gov/menstrual-cycle/your-menstrual-cycle
Oestrogen. 2022 Jan 17 [accessed 2022 Aug 24]. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/oestrogen