In Your Cycle on Stress: Part One, we covered:
- the effects of stress on your hormones
- what really happens with adrenal fatigue
- the relationship between your brain & ovaries
- common ways high stress or chronic stress can change your cycle.
If you haven't read that yet, start there! In Part Two, I’m sharing my personal experience with stress impacting my cycle, how I caught it, & tools that I use to better manage my cycle & stress.
My hope is that this informs you on how you can empower, self-advocate, & care for your body, even when life challenges you & causes changes in your menstrual cycle. As with all of my content, this is for educational purposes only. I do not practice medicine or give medical advice.
It’s easy for all of us to understand stress that has occurred over the last 18+ months… from all the stressors we’ve witnessed as a collective, to the personal struggles we’ve endured. Like many people, I have, at times, felt my life was turned upside down.
This year, I experienced a lot of stress. Some of it was outside of my control, but I managed with boundaries & healthy coping mechanisms, like exercise, watching funny TV shows, cuddling with my dogs, & talking with friends. Other parts of my stress honestly were in my control, but I intentionally took them on knowing that the outcome would justify the means (i.e. leaving my full-time job & being able to become a full-time, self-employed Women’s Health Coach!)
In May, I began to realize that the stress I was under was going to be unsustainable & that it was time to create a path out of it.
In June, I noticed on Day 22 of my cycle that I was still unable to confirm ovulation. I practice a Fertility Awareness Based Method & since my normal cycle range is 26-30 days (healthy & regular), I knew that something was off... If you’re not as familiar with a Fertility Awareness Method, here are a couple notes:
1) This is not a calendar method or rhythm method, which rely on the assumption that all women have 28 day cycles & ovulate on day 14. Fertility Awareness Method is an umbrella term for different methods that track biomarkers in order to determine the part of the cycle a woman is currently in. I use a proven, standardized method to track cervical fluid, basal body temperature, & sometimes LH strips (I did not during this cycle-- which is still ok!), which are all biomarkers that tell you about hormonal activity & whether or not you are fertile. They also allow you to track your cycle even if it changes…. Which is exactly what happened!
2) For curious minds: Becoming pregnant will not cause you to be unable to confirm ovulation. The method I use is 99.6% effective at preventing pregnancy, but will also be something I use when I try to conceive. Regardless of your intention with the method, you’ll be able to confirm that ovulation has happened after it does.
… as someone who charts basal body temperature daily, I knew that I was looking for a clear, sustained rise in temperature to tell me that ovulation has happened & that I was in my luteal phase. When that didn’t happen, the first thing that I did was take detailed notes comparing this cycle chart to previous ones. I did this so that I would be able to take it to my medical provider & better self-advocate, which is something I teach my clients about if they need it, too. Next, I ensured that the problem was not with my basal body temperature tracking device. I love & trust my TempDrop because it collects accurate data & doesn't rely on averages of past cycles, but I also know that sometimes glitches with technology can happen… so I double checked my theory of “delayed ovulation” with the help of Proov.
Proov is a testing strip that measures progesterone metabolites (called pdG) in your urine, which can only be detected after ovulation in the luteal phase. I knew that if it could detect pdG, then the problem was with my TempDrop & I may need to contact TempDrop Care for support... but if it couldn’t, then TempDrop & my knowledge about my own cycle was correct.
Proov confirmed for me that I was, in fact, experiencing a delay in ovulation. I knew exactly what was going on with my cycle & now I could prove it.
Proov & TempDrop also helped me to confirm when I did finally ovulate & was in luteal phase later on.
Since having a period is a result of ovulation, this means women don’t have to wait until their period is late or early to start understanding what’s happening with their cycle.
Despite the fact that experiencing this change is extremely frustrating & stressful, I also felt really empowered because I knew that I was able to collect proven data from the comfort of my home & understand my body in real time. That is why I'm so passionate about being a women's health coach: it allows women to have knowledge about their bodies in their own hands.
This allowed me to not only talk to my doctor in an informed way & to self-advocate, but it also allowed me to have objective measurements as I worked on reducing stress & regulating my cycle with natural solutions and lifestyle strategies that I personally use & teach through my programs.
Cycle & Stress Management Along with focusing on strategic self-care and recovery, here are 4 powerful, yet accessible tools that I’m using to manage my cycle & my stress.
If you’re also wanting to gain insight on your health & cycle, while reducing stress & tracking your progress, these are for you:
1) TempDrop: TempDrop tracks your Basal Body Temperature while you sleep, which gives you accurate data to track your cycle and fertility. During the preovulatory part of the cycle, estrogen causes the basal body temperature to be slightly lower. During the postovulatory phase, progesterone increases basal body temperature. Along with tracking cervical fluid (with standardized rules), I look for a shift in temperature that rises & sustains for several days in order to confirm that ovulation has occurred.
TempDrop makes temping accessible & convenient. Because of their integrity & focus on collecting accurate data in real time (they do not give "green days" or "red days" based on averages of past cycles, which is incredibly important!), I recommend TempDrop to any woman who wants to use a Fertility Awareness Method to learn more about her overall health, avoid pregnancy, or conceive.
Save 10% on TempDrop with the code AUDREYTEMP at checkout!
2) Proov Tests: I think of Proov as the opposite of an ovulation predictor kit (LH strips) because rather than predicting ovulation, it confirms that ovulation did happen & gives insight about ovulation quality.
Progesterone is an extremely important hormone & is anti-stress in nature. If you want to have healthy, PMS-free cycles, then progesterone is something you definitely want to pay attention to! Progesterone is only made in high amounts after ovulation, because the follicle that released the egg becomes a temporary organ called the Corpus Luteum & secretes progesterone.
If you’re looking for a simple, sufficient way to gain insight on ovulation & the quality of your luteal phase, Proov is a great place to start. It really allowed me to confirm what was going on & I’ve used it since to confirm peak progesterone levels in my luteal phase.
Save 30% on Proov Tests with the code ASGHEALTH at checkout.
3) Magnesium & Vitamin C: When you’re under a lot of stress, cortisol begins to deplete your body of many important vitamins & nutrients, including vitamin C & magnesium. Magnesium is important for your mood, restful sleep, digestion, & muscle recovery, while vitamin C boosts or maintains our immunity & helps fight off stress.
These are already two things that I focus on by taking magnesium daily & eating lots of vitamin c-rich foods, but I’ve felt that I still needed more.
I recently started using Vessel Health Wellness Tracker, which has cards that are used like a urine test (similar to Proov or pregnancy tests) & deliver results in under 5 minutes that tell you about your level of hydration, magnesium, vitamin C, cortisol, and more.
Vessel showed me that my waking cortisol was higher than normal and that I was still low in magnesium & vitamin C. I’m now using the cards & their app to track my progress weekly as I do things like add more magnesium, eat golden kiwi daily, add 10 minute meditations into my day, & more. I’m also drinking an Adrenal Creamsicle now daily! There are so many easy ways to add more magnesium & vitamin C into your diet, such as through supplements or foods like bananas, dark chocolate, hemp seeds, citrus, strawberries, kiwi, spinach, & more.
Save 20% on on Vessel Health with the code AUDREYSGEYER20 at checkout if you'd like an affordable way to check your levels at some.
4) Acupuncture: For about 6 weeks now, I’ve gone to a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor weekly for acupuncture. I love that Traditional Chinese Medicine looks at the whole person & tries to get to the root cause, rather than just focusing on one or two symptoms.
Acupuncture is not painful & the doctor spends plenty of time with you! During the treatment, they place needles in different parts of your body (they’re barely felt at all!), then allow you to rest on the table with a heat lamp & peaceful music.
If you’re based in Memphis, TN, I recommend visiting Sundara Wellness! Bodywork like acupuncture, massage, yoga, & even pedicures can help you unwind, move the lymph to improve immunity, & help restore balance in the body.
Many women struggle with increased PMS, longer cycles, shorter cycles, or missing cycles due to stress. I hope this series gives you insight about why this happens & gives you tools or ideas for how you can understand your hormones better & take care of your health. If you've been struggling with stress, burnout, or PMS & want to become body literate so that you can get to the root of your stress & support your hormones, I'm offering free Discovery Calls to see if my services are right for you! Book your call through the link today.
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