I have decided to write this blog because I am increasingly aware of just how out of touch many women are with their moon or menstrual cycles. Perhaps they have never had the honour of being in touch. On a broader scale we are generally out of touch with the seasons and cycles of nature, so it is not surprising that we have temporarily lost the art of tuning into our own seasons and rhythms.
In a society where we are made to feel that periods are best ignored, controlled or hidden (painkillers, the pill, tampons), to my mind it is no wonder that we have a rising number of fertility challenges. We spend years (20-30 years*), ignoring our natural cyclical rhythms, trying to be the same every day, going at the same speed, burning the candle at both ends, not appreciating how important these rhythms are for our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing, not to mention our fertility. Then when we decide it is the right time to start having babies, it is commonly assumed that we can flick the switch of our cycles back on and ‘hey presto! Here comes a baby!’ Sadly this is not the case for the majority of women I see in my clinic. The heartache and frustration is palpable, yet I believe that by taking a step back and getting to know ourselves better this may make the journey easier.
This topic is huge and complex! Somewhere along the way I will mention the word ‘normal’ but I want to stress from the beginning that we are ALL different. What is normal for me won’t necessarily be normal for you, your sister, your mother or your best friend. There are apps and website galore where we can plug in our individual data (temps, mucous, cervix position – don’t worry all will be revealed!) and the app will give you a guide of, for example, when you will ovulate. But, guess what? YOU are actually the best judge of that once you start to understand your body on a deeper level.
There is also much anecdotal evidence that women can ovulate more than once per cycle. There are babies conceived when a period hasn’t even finished and similarly when it is very close to the next period. Conception is a miracle, so we can’t control it but we can tune into our rhythms and open ourselves up to the possibility and wonder.
Seeing as we are just emerging from winter, let’s start there…
Winter is a time of rest and hibernation, a time to go within. How perfect then, that our ‘winter moon’ is the time of bleeding. Have you ever noticed you feel more inclined to sleep and be less sociable just before and at the beginning of your period? GREAT! This is a true observation of what your body is asking for. Energy levels are naturally lower as we lose our monthly blood, which is perfect because if you heed your body’s signs you will rest more! This is not the time to be partying until 1am and then up again at 6.30am for work. It is a time to replenish nutrients – bone broths, warm foods, so that you don’t feel depleted after your period. Perfect exercise now would be walking in nature, yin or restorative yoga, nothing too demanding and definitely not upside down…! The energy of menstruation is downwards (apana in yoga), so do what you can to support the flow.
Important to note here is that about 2 days after the womb lining has started to shed, the next layer of lining is beginning to build up which is another good reason to take it easy and eat well, laying a good foundation for the next cycle. If you bleed heavily then consider taking a supplement like Floradix as well as your nutritious diet.
We can all feel the emerging energy of spring in the air right now, but there is still a sense of fragility: one day it is warm and sunny, then next cold and blustery. This is reflected in the menstrual cycle, spring is the season after bleeding when we are ready to emerge into the world again, leading into the pre-ovulation phase. It is important to pace ourselves now and make sure we have really replenished all our reserves, via sleep and nutrition and appropriate exercise. The womb lining is steadily rebuilding and the follicles are being matured in the ovaries. Oestrogen levels are rising and you may notice creamy or sticky discharge. By the end of your spring moon your energy levels will be rising too and you will most probably be feeling much more sociable, organised and outgoing.
Think warmth, relaxation, fun… this is the time around ovulation when you are generally feeling much more in the mood for a party! Summertime! Bring it on!! The ovaries have selected the dominant follicle by now and with an intricate interplay of hormones the follicle bursts open releasing the egg to the fallopian tube. If you are trying to conceive, hopefully there will be some sperm waiting for the egg and the fertilised embryo can make its way along the fallopian tube to the womb to nestle into the beautifully prepared lining. The empty follicle becomes the corpus luteum which is responsible for producing progesterone. This hormone raises the body temperature and maintains the lining for potential implantation of the embryo.
You may be more aware of smells and tastes (for the yoginis among you this is heightened energy in mooladhara and swadisthana chakras). If you notice discharge this is when you will see it changing to the stretchy egg white consistency as you lead up to ovulation. Even if you don’t see this externally, chances are there will be some sitting at the cervix waiting for the sperm – nourishing them and providing channels for them to swim through so they can reach their target! You may even feel fuller around your vulva and vagina as the blood supply here is naturally increased. Keep eating well and you can be more active without depleting yourself. It is still good to get to bed at a reasonable time, but if you are going to ‘burn the candle’ at any point of your cycle, now is probably the best time! Summer in our moon cycle lasts up to about a week past ovulation, the high energy helps the embryo make the journey to the womb.
As the air begins to chill in autumn, we naturally are inclined to gather inwards. If you can feel into this in your cycle this is great, it will mean that you enter the ‘Winter Moon’ without feeling exhausted. Progesterone levels remain high until the end of autumn, when either your next period arrives or you confirm you are pregnant. Sometimes the levels drop gradually which is associated with increased PMT signs like sore boobs, irritation, spotting. If this is the case for you pay extra attention in the autumn/winter and spring phases of your cycle so that you are really getting the right nutrition, sleep and not overly stressed. It will take around 3-4 full menstrual cycles to see the changes.
‘Autumn Moon’ is a time to turn again to warming, nourishing foods and keeping your feet and belly/back warm. If you had a few later nights in your ‘Summer Moon’ then be sure to get to bed by 10pm for a good night’s sleep! And it is time to revert to less strenuous exercise again. If you are preparing for conception and this is your lucky cycle, the same energetic shift is apparent in these very early weeks of pregnancy. Listen to your body’s signs asking to hibernate and rest and be well nourished.
I hope this seasonal approach to your moon cycle gives you some insight into your own rhythms and patterns. Take time to observe over the coming weeks and months and notice if your seasons are balanced or perhaps you have a longer ‘Winter Moon’ which will mean you need to take extra time rebuilding in your ‘Spring Moon’.
Your moon cycles are the microcosmic expression of your fertility cycles. Consider also that your fertility has seasons. Just as lambs are born in the spring, think also of friends of yours who have more than one child, all born at the same time of year..! Once you start to observe your cycles in this way, you may well become aware of your own peak season!
(* My own estimate: average number of years from menarche to wanting to start a family based on the women I see in my clinic.)