Monitoring your menstrual cycle is not just about knowing when your period is due so that you can be prepared, it is about viewing your cycle as a daily hormonal fluctuation which influences you, both physically and mentally. Hormones vary during the different phases of your cycle and this has a direct influence on your behavior and appearance.
The hormones in our body are the body’s messengers for various different systems and processes, including the menstrual cycle. Hormone levels fluctuate continuously during the menstrual cycle not only triggering ovulation and menstruation but also influencing us physically and psychologically. Like most things in our body, hormones are regulated and dependent on balance and consistency. When this balance is disrupted, it can have a significant impact on other systems within the body. A hormone imbalance can therefore not only affect your period but also your skin, weight, mood, hair growth, sex drive and much more. Tracking your cycle and observing changes and symptoms will not only give you a better understanding of your body but can also give clues to possible hormonal issues or even flag potential health problems.
The physical and emotional symptoms familiar to most women as PMS are a good example of how our hormones can influence our physical and mental health. Mood swings, anxiety, depression, and fatigue are just some of the ways hormonal changes can have an influence on your daily life. And just ask any woman who is perimenopausal how the hormonal changes of the menopause are affecting her life and you will hear about a range of symptoms from heart palpitations, and brain fog to insomnia and weight gain – all caused by changing levels of hormones.
The 5 main reproductive hormones
There are three main sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone and testosterone which fluctuate naturally during a woman’s menstrual cycle. However, when these hormones are out of balance, or levels fluctuate excessively, then this will have an effect not just on your fertility but also on your daily life.
Estrogen is a key regulator of serotonin, the feel-good hormone, which stabilizes our mood and happiness and when levels of estrogen are low, we can feel emotional and overwhelmed. Your oestrogen levels change according to where you are in your menstrual cycle, they are highest in the middle of your cycle, around ovulation and lowest during your period.
Progesterone is a calming hormone which helps sleep and emotional and intellectual function. Disruptions in progesterone levels can cause irritability, depression and sleeping problems. The main function of progesterone is to prepare the lining of the womb for a pregnancy. If a pregnancy doesn’t occur, the lining of the uterus sheds during your period. If an egg is fertilized progesterone increases to support the pregnancy.
Testosterone. Although testosterone is more commonly known as the male hormone it is present in women in smaller amounts. Testosterone is another “ feel good “hormone which lowers stress and increases confidence and positivity. Excessively high or low levels can not only affect your sex drive but also increase anxiety and even cause memory loss.
Luteinizing hormone (LH) plays a key role in ovulation and the menstrual cycle. It is an important hormone for women’s reproductive health and is crucial in regulating a woman’s cycle. LH is the hormone which signals the ovaries to release an egg and prepare the uterus for pregnancy. A surge in LH levels triggers ovulation - the release of an egg from the ovary, which is why LH tests are often used to track ovulation.
Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain. It is an important hormone for normal functioning of the reproductive system. FSH helps control the menstrual cycle and the production of eggs by the ovaries. The amount of FSH varies throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle and is highest just before she ovulates.
Fluctuations in hormone levels during the menstrual cycle are perfectly normal and it’s not always bad news, for example, as oestrogen levels rise in week two your cycle your mood should improve along with your energy levels, making you more sociable and happier. It is a widespread myth that every woman’s menstrual cycle is the same. While the hormonal cycle might be the same for almost every woman, the variations in the length of the cycle, the day of ovulation and the fertile window varies, not only from woman to woman but also sometimes from cycle to cycle for each individual woman. In healthy women the cycle length can even vary between 25 and 35 days. So “ovulation always on day 14” is rarely true and vastly over simplified. A good first step to getting to know your hormones and their influence on your well-being is to download the femSense app and start tracking your cycle. If you want to know exactly when you ovulate you can order the sensor patches directly from the app or from the femSense website. Let us do all the hard work for you!