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Some days you wake up happy, some days you can feel a bit sad. Sometimes your skin is radiant and other times it’s really not. Energy levels vary and your libido too! These changes aren’t just random – your Menstrual cycle may have more to do with how you are feeling than you think!
Your menstrual cycle is a monthly chain of events which lead to your uterus preparing for a pregnancy and having a period if conception does not occur. What exactly controls your cycles and why are you feeling good some days and lethargic or irritable on others?
Your cycle is under the control of hormones released by your ovaries. The two main female hormones are called Oestrogen and Progesterone. There are two hormones released by the pituitary gland in the brain – FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) and LH (Luteinising Hormone) which help control release a healthy egg from one of your ovaries each month.
The cycle begins on Day 1 of your period and a healthy menstrual cycle lasts from 21 -35 days. Your Oestrogen levels are at their lowest day 1 and the few days before your period. Oestrogen makes you feel good so you can often feel lethargic and your mood may be lower just prior to and during your period.
Following your period, in the first half of the cycle (Day 5 onwards) Oestrogen levels start to rise which encourages the lining of the uterus (endometrium) to thicken in preparation for a pregnancy. As Oestrogen levels rise you may also feel more relaxed and your skin may start to glow.
At around day 14 (or 2 weeks prior to your expected period) your Oestrogen levels peak and an egg is released (ovulation) by one of your ovaries. Some women notice a slight sharp pain or lower abdominal discomfort at this time however some women have no symptoms at all. You may also notice an increase in libido at this time and some women feel more confident at this time. (You might notice increased clear watery discharge at this time also).
The egg released sits in the fallopian tube for up to 24 hours. There is a peak of Progesterone in the second half of your cycle and this coincides with sore boobs and bloating. This Progesterone prepares the lining of the uterus (endometrium) for an embryo to implant if needed.
After Day 21, your Progesterone and Oestrogen levels start to drop if the egg isn’t fertilised and some women experience symptoms of PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) which can make you feel sad or irritable. In the absence of hormones, the endometrium sheds. This is your period and the cycle starts all over again. The sudden drop of hormones can lead to mood swings, tiredness, headaches and difficulty sleeping.
Of course, if you are taking oral contraception this will change things and will usually keep things more stable throughout the month. However, during the ‘pill free break’ and period you may experience PMS-like symptoms such as headaches, mood disturbance and breast tenderness due to hormone withdrawal.
Dr Bronwyn Hamilton
Obstetrician & Gynaecologist