With the new year comes a new start or a fresh impetus to look at what’s working and what isn’t. Is this the year you get on top of any menstrual or hormone health issues you’ve been experiencing?
Understanding what’s really normal and what isn’t can help you understand what you’ve been accepting and what you can change when it comes to your menstrual health.
In my next four posts, I’ll talk about each of the four phases of the menstrual cycle – what’s normal and what isn’t. My hope is that you can use this information to make the shift towards understanding how to work with your entire cycle and how to make the connection with your energy, mood, cognitive state, desire to exercise and more.
Let’s start with the first phase – menstruation.
The menstrual phase or inner winter is typically 3 – 7 days or the duration of your period.
This is the time in our cycle when we may feel at our lowest ebb.
Our estrogen (the feminising hormone that supports our energy levels) and progesterone (our calming hormone that we produce after we ovulate) are at their lowest points and this can have an effect on our mood, causing us to turn inward and become more introspective and analytical. These changes in our hormones also mean that we may feel more tired and want to go a little slower, even if it’s just by 1%.
During this phase, we’ll be shedding the lining of our uterus (which is made of more than blood – it’s also cells, bacteria, mucus and more!) – a very energetic process. This also why we may feel called to slow down and hibernate, especially on the first 2 days of our periods. For many of us, this shedding can be painful to varying degrees, especially with an existing condition such as endometriosis, fibroids or adenomyosis.
In terms of what you see during your bleed, this can vary as well. We ideally want to see bright red blood, with very few clots, although dark red blood is also normal. If you see brown ‘blood’, this can be a sign of old oxidised blood that wasn’t pushed out of the uterus during the last period, or a sign of low progesterone levels. Grey or orange blood can be a sign of bacterial vaginosis, a type of infection and very pink blood can be a sign of low estrogen levels.
When it comes to movement, this is a great time to really tune into what your body needs. You shouldn’t necessarily expect to lift your heaviest or run your fastest, but if you have the energy to move your body, it always helps, especially if you’re doing it in a really intentional way.
What’s normal during the menstrual phase? Lower energy, a feeling of turning inward, slight discomfort, changes in your appetite, feeling more reflective.
What isn’t normal? A very light period that last less than 3 days or more than 2 weeks, a heavy period that lasts longer than 7 days, losing more than 80mL of menstrual blood per cycle, flooding (changing your pad / cup / tampon / underwear every 1 – 2 hours of more), very painful periods, large blood clots, headaches, migraines, nausea, mood swings, a complete loss of appetite.
Looking at this list, what have you accepted as normal during your period that isn’t? Tell me more in the comments.
Le’Nise Brothers is a yoga teacher and registered nutritionist, mBANT, mCNHC, specialising in women’s health, hormones and the menstrual cycle. She is also the host of the Period Story Podcast, which aims to break taboos around menstrual health and hormones.
Le’Nise has helped hundreds of women improve their menstrual and hormone health through her private practice and group programmes, talks and workshops for the likes of Stylist, Channel 4, Boden, Ebay and TikTok and her Instagram page. Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating. They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause.
Her first book You Can Have A Better Period will be released in March 2022.
Her mission is for women to understand and embrace their hormones & menstrual cycle! If you’re looking for support with your hormone and menstrual health, click this link to book a 30 minute health review to talk about working together.