Natural Birth Control & Fertility Awareness Education

Q&A ~ Charting Tips

Fertility Awareness charting tips, Q&A with Leilani, and all things holistic medicine and menstrual cycle health.

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On the Verge of Tears: Crying, PMS and Acupressure

Posted on December 7, 2018 at 8:35 PM


Weeping is a human behavior. It helps us relieve stress, communicate with others, and feel soothed. Crying can also feel overwhelming, embarrassing, or just “in the way.” Sometimes, it lets us know that our physical or mental health is out of balance. All of these things can apply to the teariness that is ever-present for some women in the days before their periods.


In most cultures, for generations, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/02/cry.aspx/" target="_blank">females have wept more than males. I remember many times as a little girl, sitting beside my mother or another grown woman, watching a movie, or maybe a well-crafted TV commercial, and seeing them tear up. It struck me at some point that not only didn't I cry at these times, but I didn't feel anywhere near crying. I remember noticing that I rarely saw a man cry while watching a film.


And then, in that adolescent phase of oh-so-many firsts, there came a First Time that I teared up during a movie. I was about 15 years old. I don't remember what I was watching, but I remember feeling like my tears were a sign of growing up, a milestone, even. As a younger girl, I'd already experienced strong emotions during stories. Vicarious fear while watching movies was familiar. But this was the first time that I was moved to tears. Was this because I was more mature in some way? My compassion and empathy a deep enough well that I could weep for someone else's story? My hormones swelling full enough to spill over in my tears? Could they be related?


Research has shown that emotional tears contain hormones, while reflex tears (like those in reaction to dust in the eyes, or chopping an onion) do not contain hormones. This has led many to speculate that tears themselves are a form of stress relief: we release excess hormones (especially the ones our bodies produce when under pressure) https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-freedom/201007/the-health-benefits-tears" target="_blank">through our tears. Perhaps this is why one of the times we most readily cry is when we are relieved – when a danger or a distressing event has passed, and we no longer need the high levels of hormones meant to help us respond.


Lots of popular articles discuss why crying is good for you, and why suppressing your tears is bad for you. There's also a fair amount of scientific research showing that the benefits of crying depend on who is crying, how they feel about crying, and how others respond to their crying. So how can we each understand it in ourselves?


Chinese medicine has described tears as “the fluid of the Liver network” for thousands of years. The eyes themselves have also always been associated with the Liver network. In the imagery of Chinese medicine, we can look at this network as a tree. The Liver organ is the root, the Liver channel spreads as the trunk and branches, and the eyes are its leaves. When I have treated patients who complain of dry eyes by using herbs or acupuncture for their Liver networks, lubricating tears have reliably returned.


The connection between the Liver and the eyes also aligns with the biomedical understanding that the liver processes hormones, including stress hormones, which we release in tears. Several hormones and biochemicals have been found to be involved in crying: levels of cortisol (a hormone associated with stress) decrease after weeping, and Nerve-Growth Factor is present in tears. Prolactin, primarily a breastfeeding hormone, appears to promote tears, which might be one of several reasonshttps://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/02/cry.aspx" target="_blank"> females cry more often than males.


One of my herbal medicine professors once half-joked that although Freud's idea of why a female might envy a male's body is nonsense, there could be reason for males to envy female physiology: their ability to more readily shed tears. “Crying envy,” he suggested, could be understandable, since females seem to have easier access to this form of stress relief and release.


Does this help explain why some women find themselves “always on the verge of tears” during their premenstrual phase? Between ovulation and menstruation (the second phase of the cycle), our estrogen and progesterone levels are at their highest. When PMS occurs, whether as breast tenderness, bloating, irritability, or easy weeping, very often I use herbs and acupuncture to treat my patient's Liver network – with quick, effective relief. When the Liver network is not able to efficiently handle high hormone levels, PMS symptoms occur, and this may be why hormones spill over in our tears.


From a Chinese medicine perspective, feeling teary also implicates the Lung network, which handles the emotion of grief and the experience of poignancy. An acupuncturist or herbalist who is treating you could address this – but you can check on it yourself, too, and use acupressure self-massage as needed. When the Lung is involved, often the point named Central Treasury (Lung 1) is tender. It will feel sore or sensitive when you press on it, as compared to other places around it. This point is https://theory.yinyanghouse.com/acupuncturepoints/lung_meridian_graphic" target="_blank">located on your chest, about an inch below the corner made by your collarbone meeting your shoulder. The Liver network lets us know it could use some help with tenderness at the point called Cycle Gate (Liver 14). This one is https://theory.yinyanghouse.com/acupuncturepoints/liver_meridian_graphic" target="_blank">in the 6th intercostal space – the space between ribs – directly below the nipple. If Central Treasury or Cycle Gate are tender, you can massage them directly, or massage points that will help treat their channels, such as https://www.yourcycledays.com/apps/blog/show/43801330-acupressure-for-cramps" target="_blank">Joining Valley (Large Intestine 4) or Great Surge (Liver 3).


Self-massage on acupressure points is an easy way to help balance your own body's circulation. It can relieve feelings of stress, tension, and pain. Practiced every day, it can help you regulate internal function as well, so your hormones stay in better balance.


If your teariness starts sometime in the two weeks before your period, and lifts away after your period starts, it can be called “premenstrual.” In that case, there is probably a hormonal aspect to it (in biomedical terms), or a Lung/Liver aspect (in Chinese medicine terms). But if teariness, sadness, or other signs of depression are present for you all the time, this may not be simply a hormonal issue. Likewise, if other excessive, uncontrollable expressions of emotion are a repeated experience for you, such as sudden laughing or anger, this could be related to a brain condition called Pseudo-Bulbar Affect (PBA). If your crying feels out of hand to you, I encourage you to look for help from a health care provider or mental health practitioner.


Alternatively, your tears might be perfectly healthy, and important. Central Treasury (Lung 1) and Cycle Gate (Liver 14) might not feel tender. Or maybe they do, but you don't feel like your teariness is a sign of imbalance. Could you be close to tears, or actually crying, because there's something to cry about? Maybe there's something (or lots of things) to cry about all the time – and premenstrually, it comes more naturally to let the tears flow. Maybe it's even functional to have a time that we weep more, a time that we release stress hormones, just as we release blood and excess iron during menstruation. I tear up pretty easily premenstrually – especially during the climactic scene of whatever movie my kids are watching. It doesn't bother me. Those scenes are moving, and my ability to be moved is close to the surface at that time in my cycle. It's important to trust yourself as the primary expert on your own body, and if your tears are not troubling you, simply letting them fall may be a healthy, healing thing to do for yourself.


I've gone through a few hormonal chapters since that first time I shed movie-induced tears. I've been pregnant, I've breastfed, and I've returned to cycling as a mother. In this phase of my life, I tear up during movies more often than ever. The poignancy of life feels that much closer. The power of relationships, of acts of solidarity, of life-changing events, all touch me quickly and deeply. During the post-ovulatory (pre-menstrual) phase of my cycle, it feels easier to reach the point of tears. The events or stories that bring me to tears, though, are the same things that would touch me any time. For me, this is part of what it feels like to be in balance. On the other hand, when I am extremely irritable, or someone's words that normally wouldn't hurt seem like cruel barbs, then I do feel like something is out of balance. Usually, it's my Liver network that could use support.


Our tears are important, healing, and informative. They are one of the many signs our bodies give about how we are doing physically, mentally, and emotionally. As natural as changes in the ocean, sometimes our own salt water rises like the tide, and sometimes comes in waves. After the tears crash and recede, we can find relief and insight in their wake.

5 Things Charting Can Do For You If You Have Irregular Cycles (Birth Control IS on the List!)

Posted on November 7, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Times are good for learning about your period and your hormonal health. Empowering truths about the menstrual cycle are replacing misconceptions in talks, articles, and everyday conversations. More and more people are discovering that they can choose to ditch the pill, the shot, and the IUD in favor of Fertility Awareness Based Methods of birth control (FABMs). But one major misunderstanding is still cropping up: the false idea that Fertility Awareness (or “tracking” your cycle) only works if you have regular cycles.


Every method of “natural birth control” relies on identifying days you can possibly get pregnant, and days you can't. With a Fertility Awareness method in which you check your cervical fluid and your Basal Body Temperature (your waking temperature every morning, a.k.a. BBT) every day, you can tell day by day whether or not you can get pregnant, that day.

There are some ways of identifying fertile/infertile days that don't work well if you have irregular cycles. If you use a method that relies on past cycle data – whether it's the old “rhythm method,” the newer Standard Days Method, or an app with a sophisticated algorithm – you are PREDICTING. And, let's be honest, we are not always predictable. Everyone has variation in cycle length from time to time. And some of us have a lot of variance, all the time.


So what can Fertility Awareness do for you if you have irregular cycles?


1. Let you know when to expect your period


Did you know that your period always follows ovulation by about 2 weeks? It comes between 9 and 16 days after ovulation. This length of time is called the “luteal phase.” For any individual person, the length of the luteal phase will stay consistent from cycle to cycle.


So let's say you personally have a 13-day luteal phase. In a 28-day cycle, you ovulated on Day 15. In a 64-day cycle, you ovulated on Day 51. Huge difference, right? And probably, if you have a wide variation in your cycle lengths, you spend a lot of time wondering when your period is going to show up. And you might get some messy surprises sometimes. If you keep track of your cervical mucus and BBT, you'll know when you ovulate – and then you'll know when to be ready for your period.


2. Help you avoid pregnancy naturally


Cervical mucus, the primary Fertility Awareness sign, tells you when ovulation is approaching. On a graph of your BBT, a shift to higher temperatures tells you ovulation has passed. In a long cycle, cervical mucus might come and go a few times, or it might show up only when you're about to ovulate.


Either way, the cervical mucus itself tells you when pregnancy is possible. It appears when your body is preparing for ovulation, a time when estrogen levels rise. Cervical mucus makes the vagina alkaline, and can support sperm life for up to 5 days.


So even though you can't predict fertile days based on past cycles, when you're tracking cervical mucus day by day, you can tell whether it's possible to get pregnant that day, or not. There are clear, specific rules you can follow to effectively avoid pregnancy – and they do NOT depend on regular cycles. Click https://justisse.ca/MediaGallery/HRHP%20Documents/Main%20Site%20Files/FABM%20Effectiveness%202007%20Hermann.pdf" target="_blank">here to read one of the most important research studies on the effectiveness of Fertility Awareness for birth control, even for women with varying cycle lengths.


3. Tell you about your reproductive health, and how to improve it


You might wonder WHY your cycles are so irregular. Maybe they always have been, or maybe they used to be like clockwork. There are many possible reasons for irregular cycles – hormonal, nutritional, immune system-related, and so on. Sharing your cervical mucus and BBT chart with a healthcare provider knowledgable about Fertility Awareness can shed light on what is going on with your body. This can help you find your way back into balance.


4. Help you get pregnant


“Ovulation happens around Day 14” – false! It can, but it often doesn't. If you're trying to conceive and your cycles are irregular, it's hard to know when intercourse is most likely to result in pregnancy. Again, charting cervical mucus will really clear this up for you. (And, if you choose to also use LH tests, it will help you target when to use them, so you don't have to go through so many!)


5. Empower you to make informed decisions


When it comes to hormonal, menstrual, and sexual health, my hope for each person is fully informed, free choice. Personally, I prefer Fertility Awareness - but it's not for everyone. If you understand the risks and benefits of hormonal birth control, understand the other options available, and then decide hormonal birth control is best for you – that's terrific. That's you making a free, informed choice for yourself.


Body literacy lets you make informed decisions about other things, too. You'll recognize cyclical correlations to your food cravings; moods; interest (or lack of interest) in socializing or in sex – and you'll be able to take better care of yourself. If you're seeking holistic care for your menstrual health or fertility, your charts will help you know what you need. Your charts can help you understand what days are best for certain tests or procedures.

Personalized instruction makes a world of difference if you want to rely on Fertility Awareness charting for birth control or improving your health, especially when your cycles are irregular or otherwise don't match what you might read about on your own. Get started with my online course https://www.udemy.com/fertility-awareness-for-natural-birth-control-and-pregnancy/" target="_blank">here (use the promo code YOURCYCLEDAYS10 for 10% off!), or visit the Association of Fertility Awareness Professionals site to see if there's an educator near you.


Using Apps vs. the Justisse Method When You Have Irregular Cycles

Posted on October 8, 2018 at 2:50 PM

Why can't an app work for birth control when you have irregular cycles, but Fertility Awareness can?


(Read on, or if you'd like to hear me explain in a video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTB09qOjHz8" target="_blank">click here.)


The answer has to do with relying on prediction, versus real-time information. An app that calculates fertile days based on past cycle lengths and current Basal Body Temperature (BBT) – even one that uses a sophisticated algorithm – relies on some PREDICTABILITY to the menstrual cycle. This is also true of any natural birth control method that uses calculations, such as the Standard Days Method, or the old rhythm method.


If you're using a Fertility Awareness method that follows day-to-day changes in cervical mucus, it doesn't matter whether your cycle looks anything like the cycles you've had before.

 

Remember that cervical mucus tells you ovulation is APPROACHING. Sperm can survive in that cervical mucus, waiting for ovulation. BBT shift (your temperature rise) tells you that ovulation has PASSED.


Once you learn how to check for cervical mucus AND know what to pay attention to about your cervical mucus, you can always be confident about which days are fertile and which days are infertile – no matter how long your cycle is, and no matter how many times in one cycle cervical mucus comes and goes.


(I know there can be a lot of confusion about cervical mucus, other vaginal discharge, and what changes in cervical mucus you need to track. The Justisse Method is terrific about making this all clear.)


Remember that an app relying on past cycle lengths and BBT data PREDICTS when you are going to ovulate. Before ovulation, it can only calculate your LIKELY fertile days based on past data. Only after your BBT rises can you be sure you're not fertile.


Those apps can be pretty accurate while your cycle is regular. But please also remember that every woman has some variation in her cycle length from time to time. It's common to have shorter cycles than you're used to during perimenopause, which usually begins when you're in your late 40's but can begin much earlier, sometime in your 30's.

 

When a cycle is shorter than you're used to, your fertile days come EARLIER than you're used to. This is a time when a form of natural birth control that relies on predictability could fail you. (Those are still fine options for you, of course, if that's what suits you best! I'm all about FULLY informed choice, so I want to make sure you know what you're choosing.)


Cycles can also be longer than you're used to, especially during a time of hormonal change. At those times, your app might consider many MORE days to be fertile than you really need to, which isn't the best if you're waiting for infertile days to have sex.

 

In fact, considering more days fertile than you really need to is the way apps can be accurate at all about irregular cycles.


The best way I know of to be confident that you're keeping up with any changes from one cycle to another is to track your cervical mucus in real time – whether you're used to regular or irregular cycles.


There's No Such Thing as a Late Period

Posted on September 10, 2018 at 6:55 PM



See this New Moon Note on Youtube: https://youtu.be/85lCx-LId9I


One of my favorite things about learning Fertility Awareness is the end of the confused anxiety, and confused hope, around waiting for a “late period”. This came up twice with my clients this month: One of them got her period 5 days later that she's used to, and was worried that she'd gotten pregnant accidentally. One of them is trying to get pregnant, and her period was 3 days late. She felt hopeful when her usual cycle length had passed and was disappointed when her period started.


So, I reviewed with both of them how there is really no such thing as a late period – there's ovulation that's later than you're used to, and that makes your entire cycle longer than you're used to. If you're charting your cervical mucus and Basal Body Temperature (BBT), you know from the time of ovulation how long your cycle is going to be.


Your cycle has two phases: pre-ovulation, and post-ovulation (also called the luteal phase). The pre-ovulation phase goes from the day your period starts until the day you ovulate. The length of that phase can be as short as a week, but sometimes months go by between someone getting their period and ovulating. The post-ovulation phase, which goes from the day after you ovulate until the day before your next period starts, does NOT vary in length very much. It might change by a day or two during a cycle where you've had some kind of stress or illness or change in health – but it doesn't vary much.



These 3 lines represent 3 different cycles, a short one, a medium one, and a long one. The vertical red line represents ovulation. See how the pre-ovulation phase can be any length, but after ovulation, the number of days until you get your period is set?


This means that if you know when you ovulate, because you're charting your cervical mucus and your Basal Body Temperature, you know when to be ready for your period. And if you're looking to conceive, then it's good to know that seventeen high temperatures indicates that you're pregnant. (A luteal phase can last 9-16 days. Seventeen high temperatures indicates that you are pregnant.)


Okay, so, to recap: there's no such thing as a late period, there's only a cycle that was longer than you're used to. The part of it that's lengthened is the PRE-OVULATION phase, so if you're watching your cervical mucus and charting your BBT, you will be clear about when ovulation happens, and when to be ready for your period.

What Your Cervix S.H.O.W.s

Posted on March 2, 2017 at 6:20 PM

I’m curious. How many of you are listening for what your cervix is saying?

It’s a fertility sign I usually don’t talk about until the second or third follow-up consultation. It’s in the Justisse Method Guidebook, and Taking Charge of Your Fertility, but it’s “secondary” to cervical fluid and BBT – so who’s using it? Comment or email and let me know!

I check cervical position, but I didn’t for years. I started relying more on this sign when I started breastfeeding my first child, and taking my BBT became impractical.

If you haven’t been checking cervical position and want to, here’s what you need to know:

Your cervix changes position, openness, and softness throughout your cycle – in response to the exact same hormonal changes that make you change between having cervical fluid, and being dry.

When you have cervical fluid, your estrogen is rising, ovulation is approaching - and your cervix becomes more SOFT, HIGH, OPEN and WET ("wet" refers to the presence of cervical fluid): S.H.O.W.

After ovulation passes, and cervical fluid dries up, your cervix becomes more FIRM, LOW, CLOSED and “DRY” (though the vagina is never totally dry, your cervix isn’t wet with cervical fluid).

Check your cervical position by reaching all the way back in your vagina with one finger. (Wash your hands first!)

It’s best to do this while squatting on the floor, or with one leg raised on a chair. (Just use the same position every time.)

Your cervix is the little donut-shaped thing you’ll find back there. Feel how high it is, or how close it is to your finger. “High” is sometimes better described as “further back,” further away from the vaginal opening and your reaching finger.

Check how soft it is. Press on it. You’ll have no way of knowing what the difference is between “firm” and “soft” until you check your cervix throughout an entire cycle, but if you do check every day, you’ll notice the texture change. (It’s a subtle difference, like the difference between pressing on your lip, and pressing on the flesh over your chin.)

How open is it? Check the width of the hole in the middle. If you’ve delivered a child vaginally, “closed” will always be a little bit open – but “open” will be even MORE open! Again, you figure out the difference between “closed” and “open” by checking every day and feeling the change.

Don’t worry about checking for wetness at the cervix. Continue to use your toilet paper checks to check for cervical fluid. But the “W” in S.H.O.W. reminds you that “soft,” “high” and “open” go with “wet”.

So, your cervix shows your estrogen is rising (or at its highest) when it’s Soft, High, Open, and Wet (S.H.O.W.), and that progesterone as taken over (and ovulation has passed) when it goes back to Firm, Low, and Closed.

Your cervix is being very helpful by showing you all this, if you check what it’s doing! It’s especially helpful if you have double peaks, or irregular cycles, or you’re breastfeeding, because it will S.H.O.W. much more when you’re really at peak levels of estrogen, and, if you're avoiding pregnancy, it will give you that reassurance that your fertile phase has passed when it goes back to firm, low and closed.

Remember, though, it’s cervical fluid that tells you whether you could conceive or not on any given day, and always include a Count of 3 after Peak Day! Cervical fluid determines Peak Day, not cervical position.

Sensational Sensations

Posted on January 7, 2017 at 11:40 PM

Your cervical fluid tells you what you need to know in three ways: what it feels like when you wipe (“Sensation”), how far it stretches (“Consistency”), and what color it is (“Color”). I think most of us easily take note of Color and Consistency, but I want to remind you of the importance of Sensation.

First, a little review: Check Sensation when you are wiping with toilet paper. Pass the toilet paper over your vaginal opening and then over your perineum. Notice the sensation when you pass the tissue over your perineum – it will feel Dry (like nothing is helping it slide along), Smooth (like there is a little lotion on the tissue), or Lubricative (really slippery).

You can get a Dry or a Smooth sensation at various times, when there may or may not be cervical fluid that you can pick up and finger test. If there’s cervical fluid, you’re fertile that day; if there’s none all day, you’re not fertile that day.

But with a Lubricative sensation, you are fertile, regardless of whether you can pick up any cervical fluid. Peak-Type cervical fluid can give a Lubricative sensation, but be high enough in water content to soak into the tissue, so you can’t pick anything up. Or, it can give a Lubricative sensation without being stretchy, and without being clear in color (which is to say, it doesn’t always look like “eggwhite”.)

This is why it’s so important to check for Sensation. Not only does a Lubricative sensation mean you’re fertile, but it also tells you that you have Peak-Type mucus. Your Peak Day could be marked by a Lubricative sensation alone – there might be little or no cervical fluid to pick up.

There’s one other type of “sensation” I want to mention: the feeling of wetness, or of cervical fluid flowing out of you. Many women notice that they feel the wetness of cervical fluid throughout the day when they’re fertile, or feel the fluid descend at some point during the day, almost feeling like a little bit of menstrual flow. This “sensation” might be an important indicator for you of your fertile phase.

You should still check Sensation when you wipe, and note that on your chart, but by all means also note any sensation of wetness or flow as a secondary sign. It can be a very helpful one, just like mittleshmerz (ovulation pain), breast tenderness, mood changes or any other cyclical signs your body gives.

 

Questions for Me, Questions for You

Posted on December 1, 2016 at 3:45 PM

On this New Moon in early winter, as we enter a time of reflection, I’ve got a few questions. Three of them I'd love to hear your answer to, and four are for you to reflect on.

My questions for you are:

- Are you still charting your cycles, using the Justisse Method, or another method of Fertility Awareness?

- If you aren’t, why not? Do you still find yourself “aware” of your fertility signs throughout your cycle, even if you aren’t writing them down?

- What might help you now, to better understand your cycle, feel more confident charting, or feel better about your reproductive health?

Leave your answer in the comments, or email me at info@yourcycledays.com. I'll read and reply to every answer!

And a few questions I invite you to ask yourself:

- How does having this “body literacy” affect how you relate to your period, your moods, your hormonal symptoms, your sexuality?

- How has charting your cycles affected your sexual relationships?

(A recent study found that more than 70% of couples feel Fertility Awareness has had a positive impact on their relationships. I’ve also heard heterosexual couples who are avoiding pregnancy say that they’ve loved finding new ways to be intimate, because on their fertile days, intercourse isn’t an option. And, I've also heard from couples who stopped using Fertility Awareness for birth control because avoiding unprotected intercourse during fertile days was too difficult for them. ... What about you?)

- If you have a particular intention with charting, whether to avoid pregnancy or to get pregnant, how committed are you to that intention? What about your partner?

- Do you understand as much as you want to about your cycle? Does your partner understand as much as you’d like him or her to?

I could go on… but that’s all for now! Thanks for reading, and for writing back!

Morning After Mix-Up

Posted on September 30, 2016 at 11:50 AM


After you have unprotected intercourse, at some point, seminal fluid will come back out. Maybe later that day, or the next day, or even two days later. Maybe in your underwear or maybe while you're using the restroom.


If you're used to checking for cervical fluid, you've likely noticed that it's usually slippery, stretchy, and somewhat translucent. In other words, it looks like Peak-Type cervical mucus!


So, that can be confusing. Truthfully, it doesn't look, smell, or stretch exactly like cervical fluid, but close enough that you could get confused, especially pre-ovulation.


And that's why we have the SEMEN ELIMINATION TECHNIQUE. (Doesn't that sound like it should be in all caps?)


We abbreviate it S.E.T., and here's how it works:


1. Within an hour after intercourse, go pee. (Important good hygiene anyway, as it helps prevent UTIs. If your goal is to get pregnant, you can wait 30 minutes before urinating and doing S.E.T., to allow sperm plenty of time to get into the cervix. S.E.T. will just get rid of the remaining fluid, so there's no confusion later.)


2. While you're peeing, stop the flow (by squeezing, or "doing a kegel") and wipe.


3. Then, pee a little more, stop the flow again, and wipe.


4. Repeat: pee, stop, wipe; pee, stop, wipe... until you wipe and get a Dry sensation. (If you don't have to pee anymore, but your last wipe still got some seminal fluid, keep squeezing and wiping until the sensation while wiping is dry.)


Then, seminal fluid should be out, and from then on you can chart any discharge you see, just as you see it.


Have you been using S.E.T.? Is it working for you? Comment or email and let me know!

Unusual Bleeding is Unusual

Posted on September 1, 2016 at 4:25 PM

New Moon greetings! This month, let’s clear up the idea of “unusual bleeding,” or bleeding that isn’t a true menstrual period.

We always consider days of “unusual bleeding” to be fertile, because bleeding that isn’t a true menstrual period can be associated with ovulation. But how do you know if a bleed is “unusual”? It’s up to you, really – trust your awareness of your own body, your own experience.

When you have bleeding or spotting that is not like your usual menstrual period, you know. It might be heavier, or lighter, or only spotting. It might be brownish, nearly black, or an unfamiliarly bright red. Sometimes it’s thicker and more sticky or pasty than menstrual flow.

Bleeding or spotting associated with ovulation often shows up in the form of a red, pink, or brown tinge or streak in your cervical mucus. Ovulatory spotting or bleeding can also happen just after cervical mucus has disappeared. This type of bleeding is associated with the rise and fall of estrogen when you’re ovulating, and it’s the main reason we consider days of unusual bleeding to be fertile.

Some women typically have spotting on the days just before or at the end of their menstrual periods. This wouldn’t be “unusual bleeding” if it’s normal for you (though if it does consistently happen, it’s worth looking into whether you might have some hormonal imbalances going on). It would be unusual bleeding, though, if your typical spotting has stopped, and then you have spotting again after a day or more without any.

“Unusual bleeding” might happen at any time in your cycle, pre- or post-ovulation. It might happen after intercourse or a gynecological procedure. Though sometimes it’s not associated with ovulation, it very often is. So, in the interest of not missing any fertile days, we consider all days of unusual bleeding to be fertile and do a Count of 3 more fertile days after the bleeding has ended.

If you are having unusual bleeding in many of your cycles, talk to your gynecologist to rule out any serious conditions. The 2015 edition of Toni Weschler’s book Taking Charge of Your Fertility has a helpful chart in Chapter 19 on the potential causes of unusual bleeding.

Your Happy Cervix

Posted on July 4, 2016 at 4:05 PM

 

"There's always something there." Many women tell me that there's always some discharge when they check for cervical mucus: "I never have a Dry day." Maybe it's pasty and white, or maybe yellowish and gummy. Figuring out your "Basic Infertile Pattern" so you can still tell your infertile days from fertile ones is always possible - but if you're getting yellow discharge every day, we should ask some other questions about reproductive health.

Daily yellowish discharge can be a sign of a less-than-happy cervix. If you've been on the pill, your cervix might be vulnerable to irritation or abnormalities because of a lack of Folic Acid (folate). Hormonal contraceptives deplete us of this essential B vitamin, one the cervix especially needs. Lots of women who are coming off the pill can benefit from taking a multivitamin with at least 800mcg of folic acid. And, eat folate-rich foods, like leafy greens, legumes, asparagus, broccoli, oranges, root veggies, and whole grains. Lara Briden's Period Repair Manual has more great info on nutrition when you're coming off the pill.

If you haven't had a Pap smear in a while, you should get one. Rule out any abnormalities of your cervical cells. If you do have any atypia or dysplasia, know that there are natural treatments you can consider. Dr. Tori Hudson's book, Women's Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, is one good resource for treatments.

Thanks for reading, and as always, I'd love to hear your questions or comments, on https://www.facebook.com/yourcycledays/" target="_blank">Facebook or by email!


Mood Matters

Posted on March 8, 2016 at 3:05 PM

It's the New Moon, and International Women's Day! One special event: Zahra Haji of Yoga Goddess’s ‪#‎notpsychoperiod‬ webinar party. Check it out by clicking here.

In keeping with Zahra’s theme of embracing and working in harmony with our hormonal cycles, I’d like to encourage you to note your mood on your chart. In the Justisse Method we have a neat little coding system for every possible detail of cervical mucus – sensation, color, consistency, quantity – and even codes for intercourse – but we don’t have codes for different moods.

Nor should we. Find the words that suit what you’re feeling each day – and jot down a note. It might amaze you to see how your mind and heart are cycling along with your ovaries, your uterus, and the hormones flowing through your body.

For inspiration, here’s a collection of the words I’ve used myself and seen on charts to tell the mood / emotion / state of mind story of a cycle:

Inspired

Irritable

Furious

Joyful

Outgoing

Loving

Open

Horny

Reflective

Lonely

Sad

Quiet

Depressed

Private

Restless

Exhausted

Connected

Intuitive

Mopey

Lots of dreams

Deep sleep

Energetic

What else? Take notice, take note, and ride the flow of your moods and emotions with more awareness and compassion for yourself. You may find that at different times of your cycle, you feel more drawn to creative work, to having time to yourself, to big social gatherings, to major work projects – and lots of other possible ways to live your moments. If you can, you might start crafting your days in harmony with how you’re most ready to engage during each phase of your cycle.

And, remember that extreme mood changes, or even ones that just make it harder to get through your day - like bigtime PMS irritability - are NOT an inevitable part of having periods. You can absolutely improve your hormonal health for a smoother ride.

Acupressure for Cramps

Posted on February 8, 2016 at 7:00 PM

Do you write "Cramps" on your chart every month?

I know many of you do. This New Moon I'd like to talk about something you can do yourself to get natural relief from painful periods: acupressure.

"Acupressure” is massaging or pressing on acupuncture points. Massaging these points throughout the month will be the most effective, because this can help prevent cramps. You can also massage them during your period for pain relief. If you work on these points every day of the month, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised when your period comes. If you're already having cramps, go ahead and work these points several times a day.

Find the points by pressing around in the right area until you feel a spot that’s “tender,” or sensitive or sore. Then, massage the point in small circles, or by holding pressure on it, for a minute or so.

Here are the points:

Large Intestine 4. It’s a sensitive spot in about the middle of the fleshy area between your index finger and thumb. (Note: if you're trying to conceive, skip this point from Peak Day until you get your period, if you get it.)


Liver 3. This point is a “mirror” of Large Intestine 4, but on the foot. It’s in the space between the big toe and second toe. (Note: if you're trying to conceive, skip this point from Peak Day until you get your period, if you get it.)


Stomach 36. This point is in the muscle to the outside of your shin bone. It’s below your knee, about as far as the width of your hand. It’s about one finger-width away from the sharp line of your shin bone.



Spleen 8. On the inside of your lower leg, you’ll find a spot in your calf muscle that’s usually very sensitive if you have menstrual cramps. I like to find it by starting low on the ankle, in the middle between the ankle bone and the Achilles tendon. Then, slide straight up the leg to this sensitive place in the calf muscle. If you measure down from your knee using the width of your own hand, it’s a little less than two hand-widths below the crease of your knee.


The best way to find these points on yourself for pain relief is by finding a sensitive spot in the right neighborhood. Trust your feeling!

Tampons and Fertile Days During Menstruation

Posted on January 7, 2016 at 6:15 PM

Question: If I use tampons during my period, can I still consider my first 5 days infertile?


Answer: Remember that it's not always all 5 days at the beginning of your cycle that are infertile. The days of Heavy and Moderate flow, when you know that you are having a true menstruation, are infertile. (In a true menstruation, the bleeding appears normal to you, and you saw all your normal signs of ovulation 9-16 days before it.) When you have days of Light or Very Light bleeding, you check for cervical mucus as usual, and when there isn't any, that day is infertile.


Tampons prevent you from checking for cervical mucus. If you're using them on days of Heavy and Moderate bleeding of a true menstruation, you should be fine to consider those days infertile. If you're using them on Light or Very Light days, I'd advise you to consider those "days of doubt," since you don't know whether cervical mucus has begun appearing. You'd call those days fertile and follow them with a Count of 3 more fertile days. If you're charting for birth control and hoping for the maximum number of infertile days in a cycle, it's nice to use pads or pantiliners on days of Light or Very Light bleeding.

When to Expect a Double Peak

Posted on December 9, 2015 at 2:35 PM

Sometimes I’m asked when to “expect” a Double Peak. Really, you always want to be alert for this possibility, especially if you’re avoiding pregnancy. It’s more likely during times of stress, illness, or hormonal change, but don’t count on those to be the only times. (If you want a reminder of what a Double Peak is, scroll to the bottom of this post.)

If you’re following the Observational Routine and the rules for telling infertile and fertile days apart, Double Peaks don’t cause you any trouble. But, it can catch you by surprise if you pass a Peak Day and think you’ve ovulated, and start letting some of the Observational Routine slip – and then find cervical mucus has returned!

Double Peaks are more common during times of stress and times of hormonal change, but they happen other times, too! Times when you don’t have any particular explanation for why your cycle would vary from what you’re used to. That being said, there are a few times you might be especially on the alert:

- When you have a Peak Day that isn’t accompanied by a BBT shift. Your BBT shift is your confirmation that ovulation has passed. If cervical mucus dries up but your temperature stays low, very likely you haven’t ovulated yet and will see another mucus patch at some point.

- When you see something unusual. For example, unusual bleeding. If you see some spotting that’s not part of your period, there’s something unusual happening! (Usually a “withdrawal bleed,” meaning hormone levels are dropping, or a “breakthrough bleed” in a long cycle.) Likely cervical mucus is coming up again at some point.

- When you’re used to a Basic Infertile Pattern (BIP) of some sort of mucus after ovulation. Don’t get too comfortable with the idea that discharge after ovulation is just normal for you! Still watch what it looks like – still note sensation, color, and consistency – so that you can see if you have a return of cervical mucus.

- And the usual suspects – times of stress, illness, or hormonal change.

(So what is a Double Peak? A Double Peak is when you have more than one Peak Day in a single cycle. And it might not be only “double” – you could potentially have three or more. Of course, you only ovulate once per cycle. But, you can have cervical mucus appear for a day or more as your body moves toward ovulation, and then, for one reason or another, your body backs off of ovulating, and your cervical mucus dries up. This can look a lot like what you see at ovulation. (As always, you’re fertile on the days of cervical mucus, and after a Count of 3, you’re infertile.) Then, when your body is ready to start working up to ovulation again, cervical mucus shows up again. This time, you build up to another Peak Day, and you ovulate. Cervical mucus dries up again, your temperature goes up, and after a Count of 3, you’re infertile. In 14 or so days, you get your period.)

 

Fertile Mucus Does NOT Always Look Like Egg-White

Posted on November 20, 2015 at 4:50 PM

 

We often hear about “egg-white mucus” for identifying the fertile phase and ovulation. Peak-type cervical mucus often does look like egg-white, BUT not always.

All cervical mucus is fertile. If you see cervical mucus, you know that your “gate” is open, an egg is developing, and your body is preparing to ovulate. You might see something pasty and white, or smooth and creamy, or like egg-white, or simply feel a slippery, lubricative sensation when you wipe yourself but not see any substantial mucus at all. All of these would identify a fertile day. 


The differences between them are important to note only because you want to decide whether you’re seeing “non-peak” or “peak-type” mucus, so you can do things like identify Peak Day, know when to do a Count of 3, and assess reproductive health.


(Of course, if you have some discharge every day of your cycle, you’ll want to routinely use the “Essential Sameness Question” and identify your Basic Infertile Pattern. See this post: http://www.yourcycledays.com/apps/blog/show/32668515-where-are-my-dry-days-continuous-cervical-mucus-and-bip)

 

PMS Headaches

Posted on November 13, 2015 at 5:40 PM

Question: Turns out my worst headaches are all after ovulation. They're not every day post-ovulation, but most. Always in my temples. So is it hormonal? What do I do about it?
 
Answer: Sounds like it's hormonal! Pre-menstrual headaches are common, and often related to the liver having trouble dealing with higher levels of hormones post-ovulation. The temples are a classic location for these PMS headaches due to "Liver Qi stagnation" (in Chinese medicine terms).
 
If you were my patient, I'd go over your diet with you to make sure it's supporting good liver health and hormonal balance. I'd also use acupuncture for a cycle or two, and potentially an herbal formula like "Xiao Yao San" ("Free and Easy Wanderer"). Every woman is different, and no formula is right for everyone - but, that's a classic formula for PMS symptoms when they're due to Liver Qi stagnation. I've seen it work wonders when headaches, breast tenderness, or irritability and feeling teary crop up post-ovulation.
 
You could also do some self-massage on the points Large Intestine 4, Liver 3 and Gall Bladder 41. Press around the right zone to find the tenderest spot, then massage in small circles or press in and out. Massage the points on both sides - your headache should reduce! Do this for a few minutes every day post-ovulation, and all your PMS symptoms could improve.

Cervical Mucus on Light Days of Your Period

Posted on October 17, 2015 at 1:20 AM

Charting tip: On your “Light” and “Very Light” days of true menstruation*, you can check for and chart cervical mucus the same as any other time of your cycle. During days of “Heavy” or “Moderate” flow, you won’t be able to tell whether cervical mucus is being discharged. But on those days when your menstrual flow is light enough that you CAN check for cervical mucus, DO!

 

Likely you will have a “B” for brown or “R” for red, since you’ll see the color when you wipe, but as long as you don’t see cervical mucus, these are infertile days.

 

(*If you don't know what a "true menstruation" is, make sure you find out, before you consider any days of bleeding infertile.)

Beware of Calendar Methods Predicting Ovulation / Fertile Days

Posted on October 5, 2015 at 7:00 PM

Fact: On most days of every cycle, you can't get pregnant.


Myth: You can predict which days these are ahead of time.


Beware of methods that tell you which cycle days will be fertile and infertile ahead of time. This includes the Rhythm Method, the Standard Days Method, and some of the Fertility Awareness apps that are available. If you use the Justisse Method, or another Fertility Awareness Based Method (FABM) that relies on signs your body gives every day to tell you whether or not you are fertile, you have highly reliable natural birth control (99.6%). But, looking ahead on your calendar, or your string of beads, to tell which days you could get pregnant, leaves a lot more room for error.


Why? Because your cycle lengths (the number of days from the start of one period to the start of the next) can and will vary at some point. The statistics used to predict fertile days can be accurate a lot of the time, for a lot of women, but I personally know multiple women who used to rely on the Rhythm Method or the Standard Days method, until they had an unplanned pregnancy during their breastfeeding years, as they entered perimenopause, or during a time of stress.


It’s healthy and normal to ovulate earlier than usual, or later than usual, sometimes. You can be almost sure of timing variations during times of stress (physical, mental and/or emotional) and times of hormonal change – postpartum, breastfeeding, perimenopause, or when you have thyroid or adrenal issues, to name a few. But at all of these times, your cervical fluid, Basal Body Temperature, and cervical position will keep you posted as to when you are and aren't fertile.


Fertility Awareness can also be a lot more empowering. Instead of relying on mathematical averages and counting of days, it relies on a woman’s intimate understanding of her body’s cycle and her body’s language. So get to know yourself, not just statistics.

 

 

 

BBT Rise 6 Days after Peak Day

Posted on August 26, 2015 at 12:10 AM

Question: If my BBT doesn't rise until 6 days after my Peak Day, when do I start considering myself infertile?

 

Answer: If you are doing all your cervical mucus observations and you confidently identify Peak Day, you can consider yourself infertile after your Count of 3. That is, infertile starting on Day 4 post-peak, as determined by cervical mucus. (This is presuming you've been charting for at least a few cycles and are confident about what you're observing and charting.)

 

Your delayed rise in BBT is more of a reproductive health question than a birth control one. Cervical mucus is reliable for determining fertile vs. infertile. But, when your hormones are in balance, your BBT will rise closer to Peak Day.

Food for Cervical Mucus and Kidney Jing?

Posted on July 29, 2015 at 6:30 PM

Question: I don't have a lot of cervical mucus, and my acupuncturist said it's because I don't have enough Kidney Jing. Any food advice?

 

Answer: "Jing" is a Chinese medicine term referring to "reproductive essence." We inherit it, and we can nourish it. Seeds, sprouts, nuts, and eggs are great choices (they support the "babies" of their species!). Also, seaweeds and algae. Being ocean foods, they're great for the Kidneys. And a special mention for Goji berries and flaxseeds.


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