From the moment our first period arrives, we are defined by our reproductive cycle. Yet beyond dealing with our period each month, most women don’t give much of a thought to how our hormones and cycle may define us. Perhaps a cursory thought that being tired, emotional and craving chocolate may be a sign your monthly menses are due, but that’s often it. With the UK average age to start your period at 12 years old and menopause starting at 51 years old, that’s over 4 decades of a monthly period.
We wanted to look at the monthly reproductive cycle, its connection to the moon and the phases of womanhood, how we are likely to feel throughout the month and how to make the most of the important life phases we go through as women, with the goal to encourage women not to lose themselves as they go on their life’s journey and to embrace their feminine energy.
The Vibrant Young Woman – the Maiden
From the time our periods begin until we either carry a child or go through menopause, we are growing in confidence in our womanhood. With only ourselves to truly be concerned about, being a young woman is a time of energy, life, optimism and learning as well as creating, doing, thinking and growing. We have a curiosity about the world and begin to find a purpose and place in it. We lay plans to contribute and flourish and prosper.
In terms of your menstrual cycle, it will likely settle into a pattern over the years but there are still many things which can affect it including stress (for example, starting a new job or ending a relationship) and birth control. If your cycle does change dramatically it may be worth getting it checked out to rule out any conditions which may affect fertility.
Learning to understand your own menstrual cycle will help you to feel truly empowered in your body. The hormones estrogen, testosterone and progesterone will naturally go up and down throughout your cycle, having an impact on your mood, energy, sex drive, willpower, motivation, sleep and appetite. There are several apps available to help track these symptoms as well as the length of your cycle. Over time, you will be able to connect your cycle to doing things which give better results at certain times of the month.
In general, the first two weeks of your cycle (based on a 28-day cycle) will see your energy levels get progressively higher as estrogen increases. This is a good time to start an exercise or healthy eating routine as your muscles build faster in this time and your appetite is slightly less. Increasing testosterone is also when you are likely to have a higher libido – a good time to put being a vibrant young woman to use!
The second half of your cycle is characterised by typical PMS symptoms – fatigue, irritability and low mood – as progesterone rises. This is also when your appetite increases as your body thinks there’s a possibility you may have become pregnant during ovulation. Now is a good time to undertake exercise such as interval training as you’re burning more fat and it will help with your mood. As you approach the end of your cycle, you may become more tired and anxious – these symptoms can be controlled to some extent by looking after your body with good, nutritious food, regular exercise and sleeping well.
You may have heard of the connection between the female cycle and the cycle of the moon – with both lasting approximately 28 days. Natural health practitioners understand the moon and its energy impacts on our menstrual cycle. They connect the full-moon with ovulation (‘wholeness’) and the new moon with menstruation (’emptiness’) and there is also something to be said for really taking the time to connect to the waxing and waning of the moon. During a new moon, look inwards and set intentions for the lunar cycle ahead. For the full moon, allow yourself to become expressive and take time to ‘moon-bathe’ – get outside for 15 minutes and soak up the moon’s energy.
The Good Nurturer – The Bodacious Mother
The Mother embodies the creative act. The ripening of life, the state of adulthood and parenthood. Sensual, sexual, fertile and strong, she’s the one who weaves the ideas, dreams, and desires, then gives birth to something tangible. She feeds and protects. Women experience this phase whether they choose to bear children. Every woman is every child’s mother. The energy of the Mother is often seen in her child. But the child doesn’t have to be human. The Mother’s devotion could be to an idea, a project, a cause, or a story. She is the Lady of the Dance. Her story is about fulfilment. We see her in the Full Moon. The Mother is usually of child-bearing years…but not always. Regardless of your age, if you’ve birthed a creation of any sort, give it time and tender loving care. Find a rocking chair. Feel the rhythm. Nurture with the Mother. The womb is our common denominator and why we are the gatekeepers for every child on the planet.
This phase of the reproductive cycle is especially affected by hormones which can take a long time to settle down after pregnancy and birth – therefore this is a time to be gentle with yourself. It’s easy to lose your former identities of playful child and vibrant woman when so much of your energy is consumed looking after others, especially when overall, we have less energy for our body and mind. And even though our heart and soul are growing day by day it’s also common to neglect our sexuality and sensuality throughout this time. Most women have a nurturing quality that can easily develop into self-neglect.
Finding pockets of time for some self-care is important when you are in the motherhood phase. Anything which focuses on you and your body will help increase your energy and therefore, improve your happiness around others too. We recommend meditation and other breathing exercises, stretching and moving and mobilising your body – even ten minutes a day or an hour a week to reconnect back to yourself and your previous identities can make the world of difference.
The Divine Seasoned Woman – The Wise Woman
The third aspect, the waning Moon, represents the Wise Woman. The wise woman, or Crone, whose name means crown, symbolises the achievement of Wisdom garnered from the experience of loving and nurturing that we learned at the full Moon. The more we fear old age, death, and the unknown, the more we fear this aspect of the cycle. But if we can accept this part of the cycle, we will find the treasure of wisdom that we’ve been seeking: the wisdom that sustains life, the wisdom to evolve our consciousness.
As your periods stop and menopause begins, we enter a whole new phase of life. If you have children, this is usually a time where they are no longer so dependent on you and you can begin to take back some of your previous phases again as the desire to be completely selfless diminishes. More hormones come into play around this time, helping to balance out the sex hormones that your body has relied on so far, with estrogen dropping. During perimenopause (the years before menopause i.e. when your ovaries stop releasing eggs), you can expect to experience several symptoms as these hormones all balance out. Hot flushes are the most commonly associated symptom, along with low libido, weight gain, fatigue and irregular periods. Again, the best way to help your body through these changes is sticking to a nutrient dense regime and making sure to engage in purposeful movement and exercises to support this phase.
This phase embodies creative transformation. She sees far beyond the last note of the dance. What was, is no longer. The Wise Woman, she recognises that death is only a change and that beyond death is life in a new form. She leads those going on that new path, and comforts those left behind. Her stories are about endings. We see her dark outline, an empty womb, in the waning Crescent Moon. The Wise woman is usually old…but not always. Regardless of your age, if you know, sense, or feel that it’s time to move on with a project, a job, a relationship, do it. Be bold. Cut the cord. Feel the grief. Walk away. It helps to remember that the Wise woman herself transforms…into the Maiden.
As you can see, having a better idea of how our monthly cycles fit into our overall life phases helps to encourage women to embrace our feminine nature and gifts. To not abandon ourselves as we move from one phase to another. That each phase has its value and they are meant to be built upon. Women have a unique and essential influence on the world that is unappreciated. It is time we embraced that and realise our power.