My mom has given me a lot of great advice throughout my life, and tracking my menstrual cycle was one of them. Granted, there weren’t fancy apps in the early 90s, so my primitive tracking consisted of circling the days on a calendar that I had my period and then underlining the day of my projected next period. Not only did this help me get to know the length of my cycle, but it also helped me prevent an unexpected period and potential embarrassment. Little did I know, I’d be tracking my cycle as an adult with a whole new understanding of my body.
After years of painful periods, missed periods (hypothalamic amenorrhea, anyone?), labs showing rock-bottom estrogen and progesterone levels, and doctors pushing me to take birth control pills to “regulate” my periods (aka fake bleed, still not ovulating), I got myself a new OB-GYN and she introduced me to natural family planning to improve my hormone health. The particular method I used (and still use), is the Creighton Model FertilityCare System. This natural family planning or fertility awareness method teaches you how to monitor and record your fertility signals throughout your cycle, namely menstruation days and cervical mucus, in order to have a better understanding of your hormone health.
The reason why tracking the quality of your cervical mucus production is important, is because cervical mucus is a key element in fertility (along with the egg and sperm of course, group effort here). About a day or so before ovulation (when the egg is released from the ovaries), estrogen is at its highest level and estrogen is the mucus-maker. Ovulation occurs one day per cycle, and the egg only lives 12-24 hours if it’s not fertilized. This is where cervical mucus plays a vital role in us reaching our goals of pregnancy or no pregnancy, since men are potential fertile-myrtles 24-7. Type E cervical mucus (which stands for estrogen), extends the shelf life of the egg, because it keeps the sperm alive in order to fertilize the egg when it’s released. Without cervical mucus, the sperm would die within minutes or hours upon entry, but with cervical mucus, they can live it up for 3-5 days in the cervix. This party is cut short when the hormone progesterone peaks shortly after ovulation and inhibits the actions of estrogen, thus putting cervical mucus production to a halt. So whether you’re wanting to get your period back, reduce PMS symptoms, improve fertility, or avoid pregnancy, fertility awareness methods help you get to the root cause of your hormonal concerns (but it won’t prevent STD’s, so wrap it up ya’ll).
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With love, Steph
P.S. If you want to learn more about the Creighton Model FertilityCare System, visit their website or contact a practitioner (Shelly Meyer is who I worked with firstname.lastname@example.org). Their practitioners are so knowledgeable, plus you record and track with color-coded stickers, which I love! If you’re a visual learner like me, it’s so valuable in getting to know your cycle and decipher the root cause of your hormonal concerns.