What happens during your menstrual cycle?

A menstrual cycle is simply the recurring process of preparing your body for a possible pregnancy. Possible being the word of importance here.  

It actually starts on the first day of your period and ends when your next one comes. A cycle usually lasts about 29 days on average but we are all unique and so is every cycle. Which is why it’s great to keep track of yours with Natural Cycles – you’ll know exactly how long your cycle is and it detects variations, no matter how small or big those might be.

Your cycle has two main phases, the follicular and luteal phase. These phases all drill down to hormonal changes in your body. Hormones are chemicals that pretty much control a lot of things in your body and its’ functions; from complex things like determining when you can get pregnant or not to whether you’re feeling particularly hungry or not.

What happens during the cycle phases?

Phase 1: ‘the follicular phase’.

This is when your body is preparing to ovulate i.e. release an egg from your ovaries. The days leading up to ovulation are your most fertile days and the risk of pregnancy is relatively high. Which is why they will always be red days in the app when you are preventing a pregnancy.

The follicular phase starts on the first day of your period, and ends when you ovulate. Your body temperature will remain lower during the first phase of your cycle. Which is one of the main indicators for the app to know what phase of your cycle you are in and why you have to measure your temperature every morning.

Phase 2: ‘the luteal phase’

This phase begins once you have ovulated. The egg survives 12-24 hours from the time it has been released. At the same time, a reproductive hormone called progesterone is released, which causes your temperature to rise. Your temperature will be higher in the second phase of your cycle.

Temperature is the main indicator Natural Cycles uses to detect that you have ovulated, but there are some other signs you are ovulating you might notice too.

If the egg is not fertilised by sperm, which can live for up to 5 days in the body, your progesterone levels will drop again. (An easy way to prevent the sperm from meeting the egg, is to use condoms.) The dropped levels of progesterone will also cause your period to arrive, and so your next cycle begins 😉

 

We are very excited to go into depth into the topic following months, so do go ahead and comment with any feedback you might have and let us know what you would like us to talk about more.

We’re all about educating because the knowledge that lies behind the menstrual cycle not only allows you to truly understand and believe in how Natural Cycles works but it gives you control.

So help us with this movement, go ahead and share this blogpost! #yourcyclematters

The importance of understanding your body and menstrual cycle #yourcyclematters

Over the past few years, we have learned that when it comes to reproductive health there is simply a knowledge gap and some myths floating around.

We believe it’s time to change all that. Because no matter whether you want to prevent or plan a pregnancy, everyone should know how their body and cycle works. By understanding your menstrual cycle, you truly know just how Natural Cycles works and why it’s an effective method of contraception.

Your menstrual cycle also plays a huge role in your health and by getting to know it you can make more informed decisions and take control. Which is why it’s our mission, to close this knowledge gap and educate, now more than ever.

Natural Cycles is not just about contraception, it’s about so much more. We hear that from our lovely Cyclers every day and their inspiring stories keep us pushing forward. They reflect that Natural Cycles is a powerful tool to get to know yourself, your body and menstrual cycle better.

From now on, we will be taking things back to basics and start openly talking about all things reproductive health so everyone can learn about it.

Sure we all have a period, but what about the stuff that goes on and we don’t see? Ovulation, cycle phases and hormones – we want you to understand it all so you can take control of your future.

So keep your eyes and ears peeled for the useful and fun knowledge we will be sharing on our social media channels, on the blog and in newsletters.

It’s time to start talking about reproductive health, fertility and the female body openly, start busting some myths and spreading the word to all women out there because #yourcyclematters.

How your cycle can affect your skin

Us ladies don’t always have it easy do we? Along with hormonal changes, mood swings, PMS and periods – turns out your skin tends to change over the course of your cycle too. This goes hand in hand with your monthly menstrual cycle and changes in hormones.

You might have already noticed some of these changes, but here’s a complete guide on what you might expect during the different phases of your cycle and how you can adapt your skin care a little to help compensate these changes. Of course everyone is different but you can take notes in the Natural Cycles app to keep track of changes and maybe even tweak your skin care routine.

skin

Period: skin is dry

In the beginning of your cycle, which starts on the first day of your period (Cycle Day 1), your levels of both progesterone and estrogen are quite low. This can cause skin to feel drier and wrinkles might become more obvious.

Tip: Pamper your skin, use gently cleansers and products designed to plump and hydrate your skin.

Follicular phase: skin is stronger

Your ovaries resume the production of estrogen as your period ends, which plumps the skin and encourages collagen production. This gives your skin strength and it will look very plump and healthy. In fact, your skin is not as sensitive to pain during this time.

Tip: Carry out hair removal or skin peelings for dry skin patches during this time.

Ovulation: skin is healthy and plump

This is often the time of the month where you are at your best. You feel great and your skin is healthy and plump. Increased estrogen means collagen is high but it can also lead to some pimples for some women as spots in your skin can get oilier.

Tip: If your gonna get some passport photos taken, do it now 😉

Luteal Phase: skin is oily and prone to break out

Once you ovulate, your body starts producing the hormone progesterone. Which we know to cause the temperature rise and helps the app detect ovulation. Progesterone also stimulates the production of sebum, which is a thick and oily substance that acts a natural skin lubricant. Which can ultimately also cause pores to clog up and be the cause of breakouts.

Tip: Soak up excess oil on the skin surface with a purifying and detoxifying mask.

PMS: skin is puffy

Some women tend to retain water during this time and skin looks puffier. Also because you tend to crave junk food and sugary treats your skin might suffer.

Tip: Do your best to stick to healthy foods and keep water intake high.

 

Want to keep track of your cycle and take note of changes to your skin throughout? Natural Cycles will tell you exactly what stage in your cycle your at.

 

http://www.dermalinstitute.com/uk/library/76_article_Hormones_and_Your_Skin.html

http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/acne/features/period#1

http://www.empowher.com/skin-hair-amp-nails/content/5-ways-your-period-affects-your-skin?page=0,0

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16433679

http://www.refinery29.com/period-skin-care

5 things that can cause an irregular cycle

One of the best things about Natural Cycles is that you get to know your body and your cycles. The more data and the longer you use Natural Cycles, the better the app gets to know you. We’re all a bit irregular but with Natural Cycles you will find out exactly how irregular your cycles are and how your cycles compare with other Cyclers. This is useful information for you to know because you will get a better overview over your cycles and mood, and at the same time you will know when your period will be due. If you want to plan a pregnancy in the future it might be even more useful to know more about your cycles and when you ovulate.

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Except for the natural irregularities that every woman has, we’ve listed 5 things that may cause an irregular cycle:

 

1. Stressful / irregular lifestyle

Hard training, significant weight loss or weight gain, stress and traveling can result in irregular periods.

 

2. PCOS

Around 5-10% of all women experience irregular periods due to polycystic ovarian syndrome. In women with PCOS, the ovaries make more androgens than normal, which affects the development and release of eggs during ovulation. Therefore, women with PCOS often experience anovulatory cycles where ovulation does not occur. This means that the hormone progesterone is not made and without progesterone, a woman’s menstrual cycle is irregular or absent. Read more about how you can use Natural Cycles with PCOS here.

 

 

3. After hormonal contraception.

If you have recently been on hormonal contraception, it is likely that your cycle will be out of balance and irregular. It is very individual for how long your cycles will be irregular but some of our Cyclers have experienced irregular cycles up to a year.

 

 

4. After pregnancy

Even though pregnancy isn’t the same as being on hormonal contraception, the hormones from the pregnancy have a similar effect on your cycle to start, it can be irregular a while before it stabilizes.

 

 

5. Endometriosis

Endometriosis is where the lining of blood is also found outside your uterus. Areas that are most commonly involved are your ovaries, bowel or the tissue lining your pelvis. 10% of women worldwide have endometriosis – that’s 176 million worldwide. What it can cause  is irregular and very painful periods. Read more about endometriosis here. 
Let us know if you have any questions and read more about irregular cycles and Natural Cycles!
Best
The Natural Cycles Team

Will quitting the pill disrupt your cycle?

I get a lot of concerned questions from women who are coming off the pill, or other hormonal contraception, and starting to use NaturalCycles as a birth control. How much will the hormones affect my cycle? Will NaturalCycles be safe and take the pill into account? How many green days (no need for condom) will I get? For those who are not familiar with NaturalCycles, it is a natural contraception, which analyses your body temperature, and optionally ovulation test data, to determine when you are fertile (red days) and when you most definitely are not fertile (green days).

Contraceptive pill

How much will the hormones affect my cycle?

The cycles of many women, although they had been many years on hormones, just directly go back to normal. Some women are only mildly affected, like for instance myself. I had the Implanon (the hormonal implant in the arm) for 10 years and after taking it out, my first 2 cycles were 5 weeks long, then a few cycles were 4 weeks and then back to 3.5 weeks, which is normal for me. Some women are unfortunately highly affected. The worst case I saw was a woman who quit the pill last summer and started measuring for NaturalCycles. Her first cycle was 108 days and since the time between ovulation and the next menstruation usually stays the same for one woman, she ovulated on day 97. Her next cycle was a bit shorter; about two months, and the one after that about 6 weeks. Basically it took almost a year until her cycle was back to normal.

The research that has been carried out on the subject has different conclusions, much depending on who was financing and/or performing the studies (one should not forget that the pharmaceutical industry has a very strong lobbying business). One interesting fact that I read is that the hormonal treatment that affects the cycle the most is the combined oral pill, which contains both progesterone and estrogen. For women using the combined pill, 50% got severely affected for the following year after stopping the pill. This was clear from a study performed on women quitting the pill in order to get pregnant and the majority of women who had been taken the combined pill had more difficulties to get pregnant. The good news is that after a year of being free of hormones more than 90% of the women had gone back to having regular cycles.

One conclusion to draw from this is that it is important to quit the pill quite some time before one plans to get pregnant. Not only due to the decreased chances of falling pregnant, but also to give the body a break for a while. It’s clear that being on a constant dose of hormones, is very disruptive and unhealthy for the body. If this is followed directly by pregnancy, which is an even stronger dose with lots of hormones, it might be even more difficult to find a balance again after the pregnancy and breastfeeding is over.

Will NaturalCycles be safe and take the pill into account?

Yes, definitely. When you set up your personal account with NaturalCycles, we ask you if you’ve recently been on the pill, for how long and when you stopped. NaturalCycles will then be extra cautious with your cycle and it knows that it’s very likely that you’ll start off with longer cycles, due to delayed ovulation, which will get shorter and shorter with time. So there is no need to worry, just be patient and confident that your cycle will eventually go back to normal.

How many green days (no need for condom) will I get?

How many green days you will get of course greatly depends on how much your cycle is disruptive by the use of hormones. If your cycle directly goes back to being somewhat regular, then no problem, you will get a nice amount of green days. If your cycle is very disrupted and you almost never ovulate, then the green days will be few. In that case, on the other hand, it is still very useful to monitor your cycle and confirm that it is slowly improving with time. The woman I mentioned above, who had a very disturbed cycle after quitting the pill, only had 25% green days her first year using NaturalCycles. 25% is still better than nothing and it’s nice for a couple to not have to use condoms 100% of the time, which is the other option when quitting the pill.

Overall, it is a big decision to quit the pill and to change birth control, and there is no guarantee that your cycle and body will just continue as nothing happened if you have been taking hormones for years. It’s nevertheless important to give your body a chance and to try to take the healthier path for the future.

Elina on the beach at sunset