The title of this article indicate major life stages where hormones fluctuate, need change and your beautiful body can sometimes feel a little foreign. With a few tweaks here and there, you can confidently thrive through all of these chapters in life and find harmonious hormonal flow.
YOUR HORMONES DURING MENSTRUATION
A menstrual cycle starts with the first day of bleeding and ends with the start of the next bleed. A typical cycle is approximately 24 to 35 days; however, it is not abnormal for a woman’s cycle to occasionally be shorter or longer.
Your menstrual cycle can be broken down into phases: the follicular phase begins on day one of your bleed. Without conception, a drop of hormones signals the uterine lining to shed and blood and tissue to leave the uterus through the vagina. Estrogen begins to increase to build up the uterine lining and mature the eggs.
The ovulatory phase is usually days 10-16. Estrogen levels rise until they peak, triggering the most mature egg to be released from the ovary. Testosterone also rises, increasing your libido. Egg fertilization, marking conception, can only occur during this time.
The luteal phase begins the day after ovulation through your next bleed (or until pregnancy is confirmed). An egg can be fertilized if sperm are present during the 12-to 24-hour lifespan of the egg. If fertilized, the egg travels down the fallopian tubes to the uterus and tries to implant in the uterine lining. If the egg goes unfertilized or does not implant successfully, it will disintegrate, shedding along with the uterine lining during menstruation.
Progesterone appears post ovulation (if you successfully released an egg). Progesterone thickens the uterine lining, so it’s ready for a fertilized egg to implant. If the egg isn’t fertilized, estrogen and progesterone levels plummet, triggering the uterine lining to shed, and bleeding begins.
Ebbs and flows in hormones naturally occur during the menstrual cycle; however, the side effects of these fluctuations shouldn’t negatively affect your day-to-day life. Many women accept these side effects as normal when they’re common but not normal.
Signs that your hormones could use some extra love during menstruation:
•Painful or irregular periods
•PMS and mood changes
•Low energy, fatigue, burnout,
YOUR HORMONES DURING MOTHERHOOD
Sperm and egg meet, marking conception and the official start of your mamahood journey. Pregnant women experience sudden and dramatic increases in estrogen and progesterone — the primary pregnancy hormones. The increase in estrogen during pregnancy enables the uterus and placenta to create and form new blood vessels, transfer nutrients and support the developing baby.
Estrogen levels increase steadily during pregnancy, reaching their peak in the third trimester. The rapid increase in hormone levels during the first trimester contributes to the side effects many women experience during this time — nausea, bloating, constipation and
fatigue. During the second trimester, estrogen plays a major role in the milk duct development that enlarges the breasts.
Progesterone levels are high during pregnancy, because it’s essential for the viability and health of the pregnancy. Changes in progesterone cause a loosening of ligaments and joints throughout the body, making it essential for growing the uterus to accommodate a full-term baby.
Immediately following delivery of both your baby and placenta — whether via vaginal or cesarean birth — progesterone and estrogen levels begin to drop, leading to one of our first big hormone shifts post-birth.
When do postpartum hormones go back to normal? It’s safe to say that your hormones will begin to return to pre-pregnancy levels once you have your first postpartum period.
Signs that your postpartum hormones could use some extra attention and care:
•Postpartum hair loss that continues
beyond six months postpartum
•Severe anxiety or depression
•Inability to regulate moods
YOUR HORMONES DURING MENOPAUSE
As you age, your reproductive cycle begins to slow down and prepares to stop. As menopause nears, your ovaries make less of your female sex hormones and your ovaries no longer release an egg each month. Menopause is marked by the point in time when you’ve gone 12 consecutive months without a menstrual cycle.
Due to the slow and continual drop in hormone production, menopausal women can have some high highs and low lows; however, here are some signs that your menopausal hormones could use some support:
•Weak bones and bone loss
•Urinary tract infections
•Hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia
5 WAYS TO SUPPORT YOUR HORMONES THROUGH ALL LIFE STAGES
Supporting optimal hormone balance goes beyond looking just at your estrogen, progesterone and testosterone; there are many factors that can impact your hormone levels and overall health. Implementing small tweaks to your day-to-day life will help you thrive through the three major hormonal shifts women experience in their lifetimes and contribute to an improved quality of life.
DIET AND NUTRITION
Learning how to plan meals that uplevel your energy, keep you satiated and meet nutritional needs, while also keeping your hormones balanced, is all about building each individual meal at a time. Focus on real, whole, fresh food that you primarily cook yourself. Pick a rainbow of colors of vegetables, and eat a lot of them. Eat good fats and plenty of high quality, organic, clean protein — both from animal and plant-based sources. Enjoy raw nuts and seeds, a variety of spices and high-fiber, unrefined, unprocessed carbohydrates.
The main artery that supplies blood to our legs also supplies blood to your uterus, ovaries and vagina. At least 60 minutes of daily movement is usually the perfect amount to get your heart rate up, increase circulation to your reproductive organs and help maintain the delicate balance of your hormones.
When your body is able to get quality sleep day in and day out, it’s can detox, restore and nourish your hormone-producing endocrine system. Poor sleep quality negatively impacts fertility, immune function, hormone balance, mood and appetite. Go to bed early, get at least eight to nine hours, sleep in complete darkness at 68 degrees Farenheit or cooler, get an eye mask, get rid of the electronics from your bedroom and use sleep to, well, sleep.
Chronic stress can wreak havoc on your body and your hormones. It does this by messing with the communication between your brain and adrenals. Find a healthy way to manage your daily stressors through breath, meditation and mindfulness to help offset the negative effects of stress.
CLEAN UP YOUR ENVIRONMENT
We are exposed to more chemicals than ever before in history, and many of these chemicals are estrogen-based, meaning your hormone health is the first to suffer. Use cleansers, soaps, sunscreens and personal care products that are toxin-free to avoid disrupting your hormone health.
Originally published in Summer + Fall 2023 issue of Colorado YOGA + life.