One common misconception about cycle tracking is that unless you’re using it for natural birth control or to help you get pregnant, there’s no reason to track your menstrual cycle. And, well, I couldn’t disagree more.
In fact, cycle tracking helped me personally spot a dangerous and painful hormonal imbalance even while doctor after doctor said I was fine.
One today’s episode of Menstrual Mastery we’re exploring why cycle tracking is an important hormonal health tool for all women regardless of birth control or fertility goals and how it can actually help you uncover hormonal imbalances in your cycle.
As you may know, hormonal imbalances occur when our natural hormones are not functioning as they should. This can happen for many different reasons including hormonal birth control use, stress, poor diet, chronic inflammation, and more. Hormonal imbalances can themselves cause a host of unwelcomed symptoms like pms, heavy periods, irregular periods, acne, hair thinning, dark hair growth, breast pain, and more and can even lead to more serious issues like fibroids, fertility struggles, and cancer if left unchecked. That’s why it’s so important to understand how your body works, spot hormonal imbalances early, and work to actually HEAL them rather than hide them with synthetic hormones like those in hormonal birth control.
When it comes to spotting hormonal imbalances cycle tracking is your new best friend. By using the sympto-thermal method of cycle tracking that I teach here at Sauvage Wellness you can uncover imbalances related to estrogen excess, estrogen deficiency, low progesterone, irregular ovulation, luteal phase deficiency, and FSH and LH imbalances. You can literally see signs of these hormonal imbalances play out on our cycle tracking charts month to month.
Let’s dive into HOW you can do this…
First, we’ll look at cervical fluid.
Cervical fluid is produced by the body under the influence of estrogen and is noticed primarily leading up to ovulation. It’s wet, slippery, and stretchy consistency helps sperm survive in the acidic environment of the vagina and safely reach the egg for fertilization. By tracking cervical fluid we’re not only able to know that we are nearing ovulation, we’re able to get an inside look at what’s going on with estrogen and the hormones needed to support ovulation.
Here are a few ways that cervical fluid can help us uncover hormonal imbalance…
>> If a cycle chart is showing poor cervical fluid build up prior to ovulation it may be a result of low estrogen levels which is inhibiting the optimal production of cervical fluid
>> If a cycle chart is showing ongoing wet cervical fluid after ovulation has occurred it may be a result of excess estrogen levels that are preventing the natural dry up of cervical fluid that normally occurs in this phase of the cycle
>> If a cycle chart shows multiple build ups of cervical fluid in one cycle, it is likely a sign of delayed ovulation which could be a result of imbalances with follicle stimulating hormone, estrogen, and/or luteinizing hormone.
Next, let’s take a look at temperature.
Basal body temperature is your temperature first thing in the morning before getting out of bed. Temperature tends to be a few tenths of a degree lower in the preovulatory phase of the cycle than in the postovulatory phase. This is because the hormone progesterone, which is made AFTER ovulation, triggers a slight rise in basal body temperature. Most people only thing of temperature as a tool for confirming ovulation, but it can also be helpful for spotting imbalances with estrogen and progesterone in the postovulatory (or luteal) phase of the cycle.
Here are a few ways that temperature can help us uncover hormonal imbalance…
>> a delayed temperature rise can be a sign of delayed ovulation which again could be a result of imbalances with follicle stimulating hormones, luteinizing hormone, and/or estrogen.
>> a low temperature rise compared to preovulatory temperatures can be a sign of excess estrogen and/or low progesterone.This is because there isn’t enough progesterone as compared to estrogen for progesterone to have a full temperature elevating effect.
>> no thermal shift, which is to say that there is no sustained temperature rise or that the temperatures after ovulation are not consistently higher than the temperatures prior to ovulation. This is often a sign that ovulation did not occur. This is because temperature elevating progesterone is made AFTER ovulation. If ovulation did not occur, there wouldn’t be progesterone present to elevate the temperatures. This can signify an imbalance with follicle stimulating hormone, estrogen, and/or luteinizing hormone.
>> Erratic temperatures after ovulation. If temperatures rise following ovulation but then begin to rise and fall erratically throughout the luteal phase of the cycle this is often a sign of excess estrogen and/or low progesterone. Again, there is too much estrogen in comparison to progesterone for progesterone to have its normal temperature elevating effects.
In addition to cervical fluid and temperature, the two main tracking signs of the sympto-thermal method, there are even more ways that our cycle tracking charts can uncover potential hormonal imbalances. Here are a few of the most common…
>> If a cycle chart is showing less than 10 days between ovulation and the start of the period. This means that the luteal phase of the cycle is only 10 days long or less, which is by many considered a short luteal phase. Short luteal phases are often caused by excess estrogen and/or poor progesterone production following ovulation. One important job of progesterone is to keep the uterine lining intact until your period begins. This is especially important for anyone looking to become pregnant because the fertilized egg must be able to attach itself to the uterine lining in order for a pregnancy to occur. This process is called implantation and is thought to take at around 10 days from conception to occur. This means if the luteal phase is shorter than 10 days it could impact a woman’s ability to become pregnant. Short luteal phases are often characterized by days of spotting prior to the start of the period, pms, and even heavy periods.
>> If a cycle chart shows long preovulatory phases known as the follicular phase, this could be a sign of hormonal imbalance involving the hormones that trigger ovulation namely follicle stimulating hormone, estrogen, and luteinizing hormone.
>> If a cycle chart is showing dark, almost purple blood during the period this can be a sign of estrogen excess, as well.
>> Another common sign of estrogen excess seen on a cycle chart is the recording of common clotting with period blood
>> Other common symptoms recorded on cycle tracking charts that can be signs of hormonal imbalance include acne, changes in sex drive, sleep struggles, heavy periods, light periods, and irregular periods
That’s a lot of imbalances that your daily cycle tracking practice can uncover! By now you’re probably wondering - What’s next? Gimme an action step.
I’m so glad you asked!
One of my all-time favorite things about cycle tracking is that you can bring your cycle tracking charts with you to your doctor visits and become an empowered advocate for your own health care.
You are no longer in the dark. You no longer have to suffer through doctors saying “you’re fine,” or “we don’t know what’s going on” and sending you home. With cycle tracking charts you can go into your doctor visits with more knowledge about your body than ever before and literally SHOW them what is going on in your body. No more guessing.
Cycle tracking gives you your power back!
When I, myself, was struggling with hormonal imbalance I was able to bring my charts to my doctor visits and clearly demonstrate to my physicians that I was experiencing issues with estrogen excess and progesterone deficiency. I had cold-hard facts. Instead of prescribing hormonal birth control for my heavy periods, steroid creams for my acne, and prescription drugs for my anxiety, I was able to design a healing plan that got to the root of my issues by balancing my hormones rather than temporarily spot treating each individual symptom. And ever since my heavy periods, cystic acne, and panic attacks have been a thing of the past!
That’s why today, I want to leave you with an action step you can take to start using cycle tracking to spot potential hormonal imbalances in your cycle too!
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 option or (3) nutrition or health guidelines. By reading this you acknowledge that you understand that as a specialized form of consulting, coaching 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, 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.