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Hormones in the menstrual cycle

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Introducing our brand new content series, The Drop. We’ve been working with a selection of experts to answer some of the most-searched questions around periods and reproductive wellbeing and today we are looking at hormones in the menstrual cycle.

Got a burning question about thrush? Want to get a better understanding of your hormones? Or maybe you’ve been searching why your period blood is brown. Whatever it is, we’ve got it covered in this series.

First up, Nutritional Therapist and Women’s Health expert Lola Ross is here to talk all about hormones in the menstrual cycle. Keep reading to discover how your hormones change throughout your menstrual cycle or watch the video below.

An overview of the menstrual cycle

There are three key players when it comes to the sex hormones that govern the menstrual cycle: estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. But, there also accessory hormones that play important roles in the regulation of the cycle too, such as luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone.

When we think of the cycle, we think of it as a four-phase cycle. We think of the four distinct phases that have distinct hormonal fluctuations, that direct the events that occur throughout the cycle.

Phase 1 – Menstruation

The first phase is menstruation. This is the first day of our bleed, which is triggered by low levels of progesterone. All of our three key player sex hormones are at their lowest levels at the beginning of our menstrual phase. What’s happening is there’s lots of signalling going on to our endometrium at this point. This is getting enzymes to help break down the endometrial lining which comes out as our bleed. Towards the end of this phase, our hormones are rising.

Phase 2 – Follicular Phase

Then we enter into our follicular phase, the second phase of our cycle. Our three key hormones are on the rise and peaking at the end of this phase. There’s also communication and signalling between luteinizing hormone, follicle stimulating hormone and the ovaries. This is basically getting the ovaries to be ready to release an egg at the end of this phase.

Phase 3 – Ovulatory Phase

When we reach the end of the follicular phase, it’s the ovulatory phase (ovulation). This is the time in the cycle when an egg is typically released from the ovaries. In a non-conception cycle (when no pregnancy occurs), what will happen is, if there is no fertilization, those three sex hormones will drop quite significantly, before rising again. During this time, those hormones are sending signals to the endometrium to start to prepare for the next menstrual phase.

Phase 4 – Luteal Phase

Then we move on to the luteal phase, which is the fourth and final phase of the cycle. During this time, our three primary sex hormones are on the decline and become at very low levels towards the end of this phase. It’s exactly at that point, when that progesterone is particularly low, that it triggers menstruation and so the cycle begins again.

A big thank you to Lola Ross for this super informative overview of how hormones change throughout the menstrual cycle. You can follow Lola on Instagram here.

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