Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Ovulation is a hot topic, but….

July 23rd, 2015 by Laura Wershler

This graphic, courtesy of Justisse Healthworks for Women, shows the ebb and flow of estrogen and progesterone during an ovulatory menstrual cycle. Neither ovulation nor this cyclic hormonal activity occurs while using hormonal contraception.

Everybody seems to be talking about ovulation these days in one context or another.

ScienceDaily reported that women’s faces get redder when they ovulate, but it is imperceptible to the human eye.

The Pharmaceutical Journal reported on a small study that showed the use of  non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain killers (NSAIDs) may prevent as many as 75% of fertile women from ovulating.

And over at Bustle we can read about 6 Strange Ways Ovulation Affects Women in an article that does what so many articles about ovulation do, imply that all women ovulate by failing to mention that women using hormonal contraception–i.e. the pill, patch, ring, implant or shot–DO NOT OVULATE.

Why does it matter? Because many women do not know that they DO NOT OVULATE while using hormonal birth control.

So, kudos to Jody Smith who wrote 10 Interesting Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Ovulation for EmpowHer. Fact No. 9 states: Contraceptive pills stop the process of ovulation.

Calling all writers and editors, if you write or publish a story about ovulation in any context, please include this proviso: Women who use hormonal contraception of any kind DO NOT OVULATE. 

Menstrual-Related Weekend Links: By the Numbers

July 11th, 2015 by Laura Wershler

1.   Naturopathic Doctor Lara Briden explains 4 Causes of Androgen Excess in Women on her Healthy Hormone Blog this week. If you are experiencing hair loss, facial hair (hirsutism) or acne, or have been diagnosed with PCOS, you’ll want to check this out for a better understanding the hows and whys of too much androgen.

2.   Over at Forbes.com Emma Johnson, who writes about women and money, discusses 7 Businesses Revolutionizing the Way We Think About Women’s Periods with this lead in:

Business, art and technology are addressing the biological event happening every single month (to) half the world’s population of child-bearing age. Cool things are happening. Social change is afoot.

Several menstrual cup companies get a mention, as does SCMR member and menstrual designer Jen Lewis as an art and media reference.

3.   In 9 Fascinating Facts About InfidelityAlterNet writer Kali Holloway admits, “We’re not championing infidelity, but we are saying it’s a reality, and aspects of it are fascinating.” Fact No. 1? Women are most likely to cheat when they’re ovulating. Also, apparently, women are cheating more than ever and are better at not getting caught than men.

 

Image by Beauty in Blood

Ms. December: Landscape, Cycle: January 2013, Cycle 2, Menstrual Designer: Jen Lewis, Photographer: Rob Lewis

Use Your Period To Help You Pole Dance

February 2nd, 2015 by Saniya Lee Ghanoui

Guest Post by Dana Michelle Gillespie

Editor’s Note: This blog cross-posted from Pole World News.

Pole dancing has quickly become one of the most internationally sought after fitness, sports, and art forms in the world. The pole movement craze is a rapidly growing industry where whole multi-million dollar enterprises and careers have successfully been built. Pole dancing is no stranger to media attention either. The 2010 IPDFA Championship Competition was covered by more than 4000 media outlets in over 120 countries. And it’s celebrity following is similar to that of a female Golden Globes party: Oprah, Marisa Tomei, Cindy Crawford, Heidi Klum, Teri Hatcher, Carmen Electrica, Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus, Lana Del Rey, and Britney Spears — just to name a few.

The love and lure to this beautiful and physically demanding activity can not only bring some bruises and strains to the body but can also be challenging on an emotional and mental level as well. Ask most any pole dancer and you’ll hear an almost addiction type response to their love and enthusiasm of pole dancing. As a female pole dancer — knowing your body is not only an asset but a necessity. And knowing what phase of your female hormonal cycle you’re on can greatly increase your capacity to move and perform at your best, at all times. In the past — the female hormonal cycle was commonly associated with “I’m pms-ing” and maybe “I’m on my time of the month.” Quite often, females felt these two phases on some level with regret and frustration as to the supposed limits they imparted. As women continued to soar in not just the pole community, but the world at large — having every available asset to help us soar with grace and ease — was and is essential. The demand on the female body to perform and feel the same way every day is not only quite limiting, harmful, and invalidating — it’s actually a male thought-form and not conducive to our female well-being; especially when you want to live in balance with your own body and allow it to function at it’s highest potential. Expecting it to feel the same way every day is similar to demanding the earth to have only one season, like winter — every day — all year round. If we didn’t have all the seasons to till and prepare the soil perfectly, healthy food would be very challenging, if not unlikely to grow at all, and survival next to impossible. Females have exclusive access to this amazing ever-changing energy cycle that allows us to effortlessly create and give birth naturally. Birth to babies, businesses, dance performances, better relationships — there is no limit to what a female can give birth to.

It just helps knowing and using your own bodies cycles to create it with more effortless ease. As females both individually and collectively are tapping back into their own body cycle’s inherit smartness, now more than ever, women everywhere are beginning to see their female cycle as giving them access to the different, almost ‘super powers,’ throughout the month. Knowing your phases and what phase you’re on cannot only give you a richer, more loving and fulfilling relationship with yourself, it can also give you your best advantage in life. There are 4 phases of the female hormonal cycle. In medical terms they are recognized as: Menstrual Phase, Follicular Phase, Ovulatory Phase, and Luteal Phase. Commonly they are referred to as: Menstruation/Sage Phase, Pre-Ovulation/Maiden Phase, Ovulation/Mother Phase, and Pre-Menstrual/Enchantress Phase. Once you recognize the strengths and abilities of each phase for yourself — it can propel your life forward. There’s no limit to what you can create and enjoy in your life.

Pre-ovulation/Maiden Phase is a time of physical body lightness and dynamic activity. This phase begins when bleeding ends. The mind is ready for creativity and going out into the world and the body is ready for physical stamina. The chemicals and flow of energy in the body have set up this time to be the best time to organize, plan, create, and be sociable, yet get things done. It’s a great time to plan your dance routines, travels, business endeavors, and test new challenging pole tricks and routines. You’re light and outgoing during this phase, like a maiden, and you like to get s*#t done! A Wonder Women cape would be easily acceptable during this phase.

How to Make Sure Your Period is Never “Late”

November 20th, 2012 by Kati Bicknell

Have you ever been concerned because your period was late? I know I have. But I’m not anymore! And you don’t have to be either! And since I’m sure you’d rather not spend several days every month nervously pacing and counting dates backwards on your hands while glaring at the general vicinity where you guess your uterus is, I’ll tell you how.

It’s simple:

LEARN ABOUT YOUR BODY!

Your period is not a Rolex watch; it was not specifically crafted in Switzerland to accurately tell time. A woman’s reproductive system is designed to … wait for it … reproduce! It takes into account all kinds of things when determining whether or not “now” is a good time to try and have a baby, and not ONE of those things is what day it is.

“Oh rats! I’m late for … uh … me ….”  This is something your period will never say. Think about it for a second. Your period is late? For what? For itself? Do you see how insane that is?

Whether or not, and when, a woman gets her period each cycle depends on a slew of hormonal events, which can be influenced by many things, such as diet, environmental and emotional stress, and on and on.

So let’s take things from the top and see why you think your period is “late,” shall we?

To begin, there is a theory that all women used to cycle with the moon. They would ovulate at the full moon, and they got their period with the new moon. But there is some evidence that suggests that the amount of ambient light in your bedroom while you’re sleeping at night can influence your cycle, in the same way that the moon supposedly did.

So if we are basing the notion of a “standard 28 day cycle” off when we used to cycle with the moon, we’re all pretty much screwed! Think of your bedroom — your alarm clock, a charging cell phone, a streetlamp, a light from under the door because your roommate is on another ‘Friday Night Lights’ bender: most of us do not sleep in a room where the only light is moonlight.

To further confuse matters, women who are on the pill “get their period” at around the same time every month, but anyone who knows anything about the pill knows that is not an actual period. It’s a bleed caused by the body’s withdrawal from progesterone on the week of placebo pills.

So we’ve got these two things that mislead women into thinking that their cycle should be 28 days.  One of my colleagues who has been teaching the Fertility Awareness Methodfor years says that she’s never had a client whose cycle was the same exact length every single time.

Sample chart for Example 1
© Kindara, used with permission


Period not arrive when you thought it would? Let’s take a look at your chart, it could be several things:

If you actually learn about what is going on in your body each cycle, and chart your fertility using the symptothermal method, you will be able to see and understand what is actually happening with all your heretofore “mystery bits.”

1. You haven’t ovulated yet, which means that a period is a ways off.  You might experience breakthrough or withdrawal bleeding later, but this would not technically be a true menstruation.

 

Sample chart for Example 2
© Kindara, used with permission

2. You ovulated and are currently in your luteal phase, which appears up until now, to be of a normal length.  Depending on how long your luteal phases typically are, you could have a better idea of when to expect your period, and if that day passes with no period, let’s see what’s behind door number 3.

 

 

 

 

3. You ovulated and are currently in your luteal phase, which appears to be longer than normal, which could indicate pregnancy.  (Or in very rare cases, a luteal cyst.)

Sample Chart for Example 3
© Kindara, used with permission

You see, there is always a reason that your period has not come yet, if you’re waiting on it. Certainly, you could say I’m just arguing semantics, but the truth of the matter is that your period is never “late,” it is doing exactly what your body is telling it too. The trick is to understand your body, rather than blame it and stare wistfully up at the moon, hoping it will work its sweet, sweet magic on your uterus.

 

Chart your cycle, and you’ll always know what the deal is.

Doooooooo it.

Editor’s note: Click on images to view at full size.

Bring on the Fat!

July 31st, 2012 by Kati Bicknell

I’ve been doing research on my own menstrual cycle for almost four years, charting my cycle using the Fertility Awareness Method.

 

Photo by Pete&Brook // CC 2.0

My cycles have always been wacky. I got my period when I was 11  but bled only a couple times a year, until, at my doctor’s suggestion, I went on the pill at 18, to “regulate” my cycle.  At 26 I learned that the birth control pills didn’t actually regulate my cycle, they just covered up the real issue.  I was determined to let my body find its own natural cycle, so I went off the pill. I wanted the option to have my own children someday, and with my dubious state of fertility, I needed to give myself a head start on having a healthy cycle.

I didn’t find much information about cycle health for a while, but when I was finally introduced to Toni Weshler’s book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility, I felt that  I had found the key!  I was fascinated to learn that with just a few simple actions each day I could get a clear picture of my cycle health. I started charting right away and did my best  give my body a shot at having a “normal” healthy cycle, exercising, eating healthy, trying different herbs and foods. But nothing seemed to make a lasting difference.  I would still only get around four periods a year.

This year in February I went to China, so Kindara could take part in the Haxlr8r start-up accelerator program. I was shocked when within two weeks of arriving in China, I ovulated, after not having my period for six months. I don’t generally ovulate in the winter, so I thought maybe this was just the end of that drought, being as it was March. But then I ovulated again in April, and in May, and in June.

The only thing I could point to that I was doing differently from what I had ever done before was eating lots of weird meat. In China it seems that no part of the animal is wasted. I had countless meals consisting of mostly bones and/or animal fat. In fact the regular “meat” that I was used to in the States didn’t seem to exist.  Everything was either bones, organs, or fat. This was pretty unnerving to me at first, but I slowly got used to it. So I kept it up. When we came back to the states in mid-June I made an effort to eat meat at least several times a week, the fattier and weirder the meat, the better!  And that’s hard to find here. But my efforts seem to be working, I ovulated in July as well!  This makes five months of regular cycles, for the first time in my life.

This is incredible, and I never would have had such a front row seat on the action if I wasn’t charting my cycle. I seem to have cracked the code on what my body was missing. And this means that I should have an easier time getting pregnant, if and when I decide I’m ready. My procreative power is now in my own hands, and I love it!

Newsflash: Women threaten men

February 22nd, 2011 by Chris Hitchcock

The NYT article title reads The threatening scent of fertile women. I’ve felt it for years, and I still haven’t quite figured out why I react this way to this kind of article. Certainly it echos the age-old misogynistic discomfort of learned men for their own sexual urges, projected onto women. I’m trained in evolutionary biology, I believe that humans, like other animals, are subject to natural selection, and I believe that there are things that affect our behaviour that are not processed by our consciousness. But, for some reason, I feel a visceral reaction when I read discussions about the sex-related behaviours of women and men around ovulation.

Some of it is that I’m still annoyed that Nancy Burley’s American Naturalist article has been pretty much ignored. Yes, it’s well cited, but the fundamental conclusions seem to have been lost. In 1979, Burley proposed that so-called “concealed ovulation” is a mystery not just because it is concealed from men, but because it is also concealed from the ovulating woman. And she argued that the leading male-centred hypotheses did not account for this. Burley proposed that ovulation is unmarked because humans are smart and can count, and if they had a choice, many women would choose not to go through childbirth, or do so less often. She argued that natural selection acted to make it harder for women to know when to abstain from sex to avoid pregnancy. In other words, maybe concealed ovulation is not all about men, maybe it’s all about smart women.

How the Birth Control Pill Works: An Illustrated Guide

November 17th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

tumblr_pill_500


[Source: Jackie, Let's Be Honest]

My Cycle Made Me Do It

October 19th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

g2241hormonesThis morning, ladymag The Stir posted an article titled, “5 Weird Things Our Menstrual Cycles Make Us Do”. Over the weekend, science site Live Science featured an article about the recent surge in ovulation-related research (with the unfortunate title, “Booty Call: How to Spot a Fertile Woman”). As a quick perusal of re:Cycling archives will reveal, these are only the most recent mass media reports of research on how ovulation and female hormones purportedly determine women’s behavior. Recent research has linked hormones and/or ovulation to women’s preferences for masculine faces, why there are so few women sushi chefs, fluctuating cholesterol levels, chocolate cravings, and competitive bidding in online auctions.

I find myself increasingly weary of such stories, especially when they’re uncritically accepted and advanced.  I’m not so naïve as to argue that there aren’t any biological differences between women and men,* but in isolation, hormones explain very little about human behavior. Ovulation is part of a complex endocrine system, which is part of an even more complex body, which exists in a social world with complicated, byzantine, ever-evolving norms, rules, and consequences for our choices. Why are overly simple explanations so popular? Is the current embrace of biological determinism a marker of a new backlash?


*I will argue, however, that most of those differences aren’t as important as they’ve been made out to be.


Are You Too Physically Fit for Motherhood?

September 2nd, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

Image of slender white woman doing bicep curls with small barbell.The headline of a story at ABC news about infertility among female athletes is “Female Athletes Are Too Fit To Get Pregnant“. Many women athletes in their 20s, at peak performance levels and peak physical fitness by most measures, may find themselves unable to conceive. This is attributed to low percentages of body fat, which essentially shut down the hypothalamus, which then fails to trigger the H-P-O (hypothalamus, pituitary, ovary) hormone sequence necessary for regular menstrual cycles. About 12% of infertile women seeking treatment are athletes.

According to the article, even women who are not professional athletes (or training at that level) can experience infertility due to physical fitness:

It noted that recreational jogging — only 12 to 18 miles a week — can result in poor follicular development, decreased estrogen and progesterone secretion and absent ovulation.

Setting aside the seriousness of infertility, I’m intrigued by the tone of the article, and especially the language of the headline. In North America today, there is a strong emphasis socially and in mass media on the importance of exercise and being physically fit, and corresponding demonization of fatness as a personal moral failing. But amenorrhea and infertility as a result of thinness is reported without judgment and body-shaming. There are no quotations from experts about women exercising too much or advice to stop working out; instead, professional athletes are advised to freeze their eggs in their early 20s. When fat* women have trouble conceiving or have difficult pregnancies, it is frequently attributed to their weight, which is presumed to be a behavioral a matter of choice.


*I am following the practice of other advocates of fat acceptance and Health At Every Size (HAES) in using the term fat as a descriptive adjective, not a pejorative.

Hold the Eggs When Ovulating

August 11th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

Fascinating new research from the National Institutes of Health finds that women’s cholesterol levels correspond with cyclic changes in estrogen levels. Total cholesterol levels can vary by as much as 19% over the course of the cycle.

The researchers found that as the level of estrogen rises, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol also rises, peaking at the time of ovulation.

In a typical cycle, estrogen levels steadily increase as the egg cell matures, peaking just before ovulation. Previous studies have shown that taking formulations which contain estrogen — oral contraceptives or menopausal hormone therapy — can affect cholesterol levels. However, the results of studies examining the effects of naturally occurring hormone levels on cholesterol have not been conclusive. According to the NIH’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, high blood cholesterol levels raise the risk for heart disease.

. . . .


In contrast, total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels — as well as another form of blood fat known as triglycerides — declined as estrogen levels rose. The decline was not immediate, beginning a couple of days after the estrogen peak at ovulation.

These findings provide another reason for girls and women to learn to track their cycles, so their blood tests can be interpreted more precisely.

It also gives more weight to the frequent assertion of members of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research that menstruation matters — and is worthy of our study — in part because it is not an event isolated in the uterus and vagina, but a complex part of the endocrine system that has effects on health and well-being throughout a woman’s body.

Readers should note that statements published in re: Cycling are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Society as a whole.