How long is your menstrual cycle?
Growing up I always heard that a woman's cycle was 28 days.
I had no clue what that really meant.
Even when I was apparently a "gown-up" - I still didn't really get how to count the days of my cycle - or why there were a certain number of pills in my contraceptive pill pack .....it just didn't make sense to me.
And at that stage, I felt like it had gone on way too long - I was well past the point of asking the doctor what the 28 day thing was about.
So let me lay it out here.....
This is how you count the days of your cycle
- Day 1 - is the first day you actually start bleeding (not spotting or brown mucus in your underwear) but proper blood, that you actually have to do something about - like wear a tampon/pad/mooncup etc
- The last day of your menstrual cycle, is the day before you start bleeding.
So you simply count from day one, until the day before you get your period - thats how long your cycle is.
But there's some other tricky stuff to know......
Things like, not everyone has a 28 day cycle......
......28 days isn't some arbitrary number - if you read my last post - you'll know that women's cycles closely follow the moon cycle, in energetic nature, and in length.
Annnnnnd FYI, the moon cycle is 29.5 days long.
So we're like the moon, we cycle around, and around, from menstruation, to ovulation and back again.
Though not everyone has a regular cycle, or even a 28 day cycle.
The first thing you're gonna wanna do is, start tracking your menstrual cycle - and get a really good picture of how long it generally is - FOR YOU. Until you're writing it down on paper or have it in an app - it's really anyone's guess! Some of us THINK we know how long our cycles are - and it can be quite surprising to see what the reality is when we actually track it.
STEP 1 - the most important step (and the only one in this post).
Track your cycle - mark it on the calendar - download an app - put it in your bullet journal - use a paper chart - dear diary........whatever you do and however you like to do it, just get it somewhere you can actually see it, and see patterns!
Personally, I think all women should be taught to do this - right from the beginning - what woman alive hasn't been caught out by her period??
Ok now that you're tracking your cycle - you've got some data to work with.
So lets take a look at that.
Some women have cycles they can set the clock by, it's bang on every single month - but others (like me) have a cycle that's mostly the same - though can sometimes be a few days longer, or shorter, than what I expect it to be.
What I mean is - usually I have a 26-28 day cycle.
But then, for 4 cycles in a row, it was 30-33 days.
And now it's gone back to 26-28 days.
But there are some women who have very short cycles like 21 days, and others who have longer cycles like 35 days - this is considered to be the normal range - not everyone has a 28 day cycle, but whatever your cycle is, there should be a pattern and regularity to it.
ANNNNND there are women who have irregular cycles - this might be normal for them - but there will be a reason behind why they don't have a regular cycle.
There are so many reasons for why you may have a short, long, or irregular cycle - but here are a few of them - in no particular order.......
- When girls are going through puberty, their hormones are typically still balancing themselves out - it's like the body is practicing or warming up for the years ahead - it's not unusual for a young woman to take a couple of years to settle into a regular pattern.
- Low body weight, fluctuating body weight, or excessive body weight.
- Poor Diet - or diet lacking in essential nutrients.
- Lack of sleep.
- Lots of travel.
- Medication or surgical procedures.
- You may be coming off hormonal birth control - in which case things can take some time to get back into a rhythm.
- Disease processes like PCOS, Endometriosis, Fiboids, Cysts, or Polyps.
- Sometimes a women's body has several attempts at ovulation, this can take some time and cause a woman to have a much longer cycle than is normal for her - she may or may not achieve an ovulation.
- Sometimes women don't actually ovulate, this maybe after several attempts at ovulation - or after only one attempt. If there is only one failed attempt at ovulation - the cycle will be short.
- There may be hormonal imbalances - estrogen dominance, low progesterone.
- During the breastfeeding months (or years - we've all been there!) it's not uncommon for menstrual cycles to be irregular - your hormones can be a bit all over the show - this is a whole other post.
- During peri-menopause all sorts of things can happen, for alllllll kinds of reasons - again, thats a whole other post. The peri-menopause phase, is the years leading up to menopause. During this time women will notice all kinds of changes in their cycles.
- Maybe your body is syncing up with the moon cycle.
- You could be syncing up with your girlfriend - it's not uncommon for women to menstruate at the same time, especially if they're women who spend a lot of time together - mother's and daughters, good friends, running mates, colleagues....
Sooooooo why is this important?
When you know what's normal for you - you can start to notice what's not normal, or have an awareness of changes......The American College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology reccomend that a woman's menstrual cycle should be considered the 5th vital sign of health!
Tracking your cycle, you'll be able to pick up hormonal shifts and changes in your cycle. You'll know when you're moving into peri- menopause, (peri-menopause can start as early as 35,) and of course there are plenty of things you can do to support yourself better through that phase of life - it doesn't have to be terrible.
Every day things are shifting and changing hormonally, you're getting cues from your body, important information that's there to help you - not only from a physical perspective, but also from an emotional, mental and spiritual perspective too.
There's something incredibly grounding and strengthening that comes from connecting to your cycle - it can feel weird at first, but over time, it becomes part of you, part of what it means to be a woman - you can begin to plan your life in a much more logical way - according to your cycle, and as the authors of Wild Power point out - connecting to your cycle is the original spiritual practice of women.
Okey Dokey - now over to you
How do you plan to track your cycle? Do you already track it? What works for you - and why?
Let me know in the comments!
Loads of love
P.S. I've got a gorgeous Menstrual Chart, being beautifully crafted as we speak!
Initially I'll be giving these away......if you want one just leave a comment here - or connect with me via Facebook!
I can't wait for you to see them!