Let’s get into the final phase of our menstrual cycle, the inner autumn, otherwise known as the luteal phase. Click these links if you want to learn more about the menstrual / inner winter, follicular / inner spring and ovulatory / inner summer phases.
I like to think of the luteal phase as having two parts – early and late. Think of it like early autumn, September to mid-October. There’s still a bright energy in the air, with the leaves changing colours. Then we move to late autumn, mid-October to November. The nights are starting to draw in, there’s a cold crispness and all you want to do is stay warm and cosy inside.
In our early luteal phase, we still have lots of energy and our moods are still balanced. Then we move into our late luteal phase: estrogen and progesterone naturally start to gradually decline and we might find that we move a little slower. We also might get super focused on working through our to do lists as a way of getting as much as possible done as we move towards the end our menstrual cycle and get ready to start anew.
Let’s talk about our expectations for ourselves during this time.
You’ve heard of a little something called PMS, right? That’s premenstrual syndrome, a collection of over 150 different symptoms. I often hear women referring to how they feel as ‘their PMS’ or that they’re ‘PMSing’. If you simply chalk up how you feel to ‘PMS’, then you miss the opportunity to identify what’s really going on for you.
Is it premenstrual anxiety? Premenstrual bloating? Premenstrual headaches? Diving a little deeper into how you’re feeling instead of using a broad term like PMS gives you the chance to reframe the time before your period. It also helps us shift this cultural expectation that we’re supposed to put up with two weeks of feeling like crap (a week before our periods and the week of our periods).
If you’ve never heard anything like this before, explore how this new idea makes you feel. It can be hard to shrug off long-held views about how we’re supposed to feel, especially ones that have permeated the cultural landscape.
Before you say I’m being Pollyannaish, remember that it’s normal for our moods to change.
We can’t always chalk changing moods up to our hormones. We can have normal reactions to events, people and situations all throughout our menstrual cycle. They might be a bit heightened before our period (we have less estrogen and less serotonin and dopamine).
Here’s another way to look at it. Estrogen, being our feminising hormone, is also our hormone of tolerance. When it naturally declines in our late luteal phase, we may have less tolerance to things that we’ve been putting up with. I know I don’t want to deal with any nonsense right before my period and I don’t. Or I bite my tongue a little harder because I know what I say might be a little harsher.
How you do feel about the time before your period? 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.