Common menstrual cycle imbalances
Updated: Sep 28
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In my work as a fertility awareness educator I see the same four menstrual cycle imbalances over and over again on client charts. The symptoms of these imbalances are so common in our modern world that I’ve noticed many women just write them off as a normal part of having a menstrual cycle.
Swollen or tender breast before your period begins?
Spotting before your period really starts flowing?
Not making a ton of cervical fluid?
These can all be signs of menstrual cycle imbalances.
What’s more is that even before a client tells me that they’re experiencing these symptoms, I see the signs of the underlying imbalance right on their cycle tracking charts - the very same charts that they’re using for natural birth control or pregnancy achievement.
Cycle tracking with fertility awareness methods like the sympto-thermal double check method that I teach here at Sauvage Wellness is about so much more than just birth control or pregnancy. This informative method of cycle tracking allows us to spot menstrual and hormonal imbalances that could be at the root of our most uncomfortable symptoms, period experiences, and fertility struggles.
Nearly every client who comes to me with period problems, fertility struggles, or is transitioning off of hormonal birth control is looking at one of four common cycle imbalances…
> luteal phase defect
> excess estrogen / low progesterone
> low estrogen and/or poor egg development
> delayed ovulation
So, today we’re talking all about how to know if you might be struggling with one of these imbalances, what that could mean for your periods & fertility, and how to bring your cycle back into better alignment.
Luteal Phase Defect
This is the #1 most common issue I see with women who have been trying to get pregnant and it’s just not happening.
Luteal phase defect is when the post-ovulation luteal phase length is shorter than 10 days. After ovulation has occurred we need at least 10 days from ovulation to the start of the menstrual bleed in order for a fertilized egg to attach itself to the lining of the uterus (implantation) and create a pregnancy. That means that, yes, sperm and egg can meet, fertilization can happen, and we can still not get pregnant if the luteal phase is too short.
An ideal luteal phase length is 10 to 16 days. So, what causes a short luteal phase? In short, not having enough progesterone compared to estrogen after ovulation.
Progesterone is responsible for holding the uterine lining in place following ovulation so that it can both continue to thicken and remain intact long enough after ovulation has been achieved to support implantation. When we’re not making enough progesterone or there’s an excess of estrogen overpowering healthy progesterone production, we’re often left with a short luteal phase.
The most common signs of luteal phase defect include less than 10 days of elevated waking temperatures often accompanied by low postovulatory temperatures, spotting prior to the start of the period, PMS, and short overall cycle lengths. Though the truest sign is the less than 10 days of elevated waking temperatures.
The good news? This imbalance is super easy to spot on a cycle tracking chart.
The other good news? It’s pretty easy to fix using tailored food, supplements, & lifestyle shifts and most women go on to have much better periods and to conceive naturally after implementing these shifts.
So far, every person I’ve ever worked with who showed signs of luteal phase defect has been able to correct it naturally by changing their diet and adding in a few supplements.
Excess Estrogen and/or Low Progesterone
This is the #1 most common cycle imbalance that I see across the board with my clients from all over the world. It’s similar to luteal phase defect in that this imbalance is often a driver of luteal phase defect, BUT even folks with 10+ day luteal phases can struggle with excess estrogen and/or low progesterone in their luteal phase.
Why? Because our modern lifestyles fuel this hormonal imbalance.
Chemical estrogen mimicking compounds call xenoestrogens that are said to be up to 10 times stronger than our own natural estrogen are lurking in environmental pollution and many common household products, like scented candles, body lotions, perfumes, sunscreen, laundry detergent, makeup, and more.
In addition to this, stress can impact progesterone production and create a breeding ground for unopposed (aka excess) estrogen. And, if there’s one word most modern humans use to describe their lives, especially their jobs, it’s stressful.
And lastly, though I could go on for hours, many of us have spent years if not decades on hormonal birth control and are just not that good at ovulating naturally once we transition off of the synthetic hormones. It can take a while for the body to become efficient at ovulating naturally again and often takes diet and lifestyle changes in order to really nourish the cycle back to its optimal state. The issue here is that ovulation is how we make progesterone. The better you ovulate, the more progesterone you make. The healthier your ovarian follicles are, the more progesterone you can make. So, if you want to make more progesterone, you’ve got to ovulate better.
The most common signs and symptoms of excess estrogen and/or low progesterone in the luteal phase include heavy periods, long periods (5+ days), uncomfortable PMS, premenstrual breast tenderness, low postovulatory temperatures, wet cervical fluid following ovulation. and more. This imbalance can also hinder ovulation by creating luteal phase defect.
The good news? It’s also pretty easy to spot this imbalance on a cycle tracking chart.
The other good news? I literally watch clients correct this imbalance naturally using food, supplements, & lifestyle shifts every single day. In fact, I had this cycle imbalance years ago and it’s my own healing process that inspired me to launch my work here at Sauvage Wellness!
Low Estrogen and/or Poor Egg Development
This is an imbalance that I see less often, but still on a weekly basis. Low estrogen levels and poor ovarian follicle development go hand in hand because it’s the growing ovarian follicles in each menstrual cycle that are responsible for making most of our estrogen each month. This hinders egg quality because it’s also the ovarian follicles that house your eggs.
This imbalance often comes with delayed or irregular ovulation and can create fertility challenges and irregular periods.
The most common signs and symptoms of low estrogen and poor ovarian follicle development include irregular periods, low cervical fluid production, delayed cervical fluid production, delayed temperature rise, delayed ovulation, missing ovulation, and more.
The good news? This one is also easy to spot on a cycle tracking chart when we’re tracking both cervical fluid and temperature.
The other good news? It’s often easy to confirm this imbalance with lab testing. And, the solution is always the same… support ovulation! We can encourage ovarian follicle growth and estrogen production with zinc-rich foods, healthy fats, and other simple food-based shifts.
Okay, so this one is a symptom of low estrogen and poor ovarian follicle growth, but I see it so often that it’s worth calling out on its own. Can low estrogen production cause delayed ovulation? Absolutely. Is it the only thing that causes delayed ovulation? Not at all.
Other common things that can cause delayed ovulation include high stress lifestyles, overexercising, poor diet, rapid weight loss, intense illness, blood sugar and insulin issues, and more.
Anything that triggers high stress in the body, creates lots of inflammation, and/or makes the brain think that there are not enough nutrients coming in and staying in to support a pregnancy can delay ovulation.
The brain doesn’t want you to ovulate if it doesn’t think that your body can sustain a healthy pregnancy. If we’re undereating, losing weight rapidly, or exercising A LOT the brain goes “Woah, we’re using a lot of energy and nutrients on a daily basis and there may not be enough left to support a baby.” So, the brain delays ovulation until it feels we have enough nutrients to support pregnancy.
If we’re chronically stressed and operating at our maximum capacity each day as a single, nonpregnant person the brain can also delay ovulation. The primal parts of the brain don’t know the difference between you working 18 hour days under debilitating stress and you being chased by a tiger every day. Obviously, if the brain thinks you’re being chased by a tiger on the regular, it's not going to think you’re in any position to safely support a pregnancy.
And lastly, if you’re super sick - think the flu, covid, pneumonia, etc - the brain can tell that your body is working really hard to fight off an invader. It wants your body to prioritize the immune response so that you can get better. It doesn’t want you to prioritize ovulating while you’re trying to fight off an immune attack. And so, the brain sends signals to delay ovulation until you’re healthy enough to prioritize a pregnancy. This is why many women will report having a longer cycle or late period after getting really sick.
Common signs and symptoms of delayed ovulation include all of the above from the low estrogen and/or poor ovarian follicle development in addition to multiple cervical fluid build ups and multiple positive ovulation test strips (for more on why that happens check out this post here - Why ovulation tests can be misleading). This imbalance can create irregular cycles, as well as fertility struggles because it can be challenging to predict or identify ovulation when it doesn’t occur on a regular basis if you’re not tracking cervical fluid and temperature.
The good news? It’s super easy to spot on a cycle tracking chart.
The other good news? I help people create more regular ovulation naturally each and every day. In fact, I’ve seen clients go from 70 day cycles to 35 day cycles in just a few months using only food, supplements, & lifestyle shifts!
So, why am I sharing all of this with you?
It’s incredibly important to be able to better identify and understand what is at the root of our period and fertility struggles so that we can design a healing protocol that is tailored to our exact cycle needs rather than trying to navigate healing with generalized solutions like “Birth control is your only answer,” or, “Just try for 12 months and if you’re still not pregnant we can give you clomid and pursue IUI or IVF.”
The truth is that if we know WHAT may be causing our cycle struggles, we actually have a lot of options for support beyond just birth control and fertility drugs.
There are many simple, yet immensely powerful food-based shifts we can make to better nourish our cycles and support our fertility.
There are many natural herbal and vitamin supplements that can uniquely support menstrual cycle imbalance and fertility struggles.
And there are some powerful lifestyle practices like brain retraining, yoni steaming, and castor oil packs that can transform our cycles.
BUT, first, we need to understand what’s out of balance so we can apply the right tools. That’s where cycle tracking comes in!
The cycle tracking method that I use and teach here at Sauvage Wellness is essential in helping us better identify menstrual cycle imbalances and fertility challenges so that we can seek out the healing support that is tailored to our unique needs.
Without cycle tracking, we’re often just taking a stab in the dark.
If you’re ready to finally get to the root of your cycle imbalances and fertility struggles and want to use cycle tracking to get you there, then I want to show you the way!
Ps. This post is not meant to serve as medical advice, but rather an educational resource to help you better understand your menstrual cycle and fertility. Please always consult with your doctor when you suspect menstrual health or fertility struggles and when considering changes to your diet, supplement, or lifestyle routine. As a fertility awareness educator, I do just that - EDUCATE. For medical and health needs, please seek out your physicians. In fact, when working with my clients to improve their periods, menstrual health, and fertility I am almost always working in collaboration with their doctors and health care providers.
Disclaimer: Brandy Oswald, Sauvage Wellness LLC, and her employees are not doctors, nurses, physicians, psychotherapists, or in anyway licensed medical practitioners and information presented here is to serve as an educational resource and not to be interpreted as: (1) medical advice; (2) a 100% effective birth control or pregnancy achievement options or (3) nutrition or health guidelines. By reading this you acknowledge that you understand that as a specialized form of consulting, fertility awareness education is not the same as professional or licensed therapy or medical advice and intervention; and recognize that it is your responsibility to seek such services from a licensed professional. Brandy Oswald is not a medical provider and cannot give medical advice. All information provided by Sauvage Wellness LLC and Brandy Oswald is of a general nature and is intended only for educational purposes to help with your personal health improvement goals and should not be relied on as medical advice. Always consult a physician with any health concerns and prior to changing your diet, lifestyle, supplements, birth control, fitness, or prescription medicine routine. Should you choose to use the information provided by Brandy Oswald it is of your own volition and you recognize that neither Brandy nor Sauvage Wellness LLC is not held liable for any intended or unintended outcomes.
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