Updated: Nov 21, 2019
Menstruators around the world have menstrual cycles that work as a vital sign for health- one that responds to the changes happening in their bodies, but how does it work? You might have grown with the idea that the only image of a healthy regular cycle fits within the textbook's 28-day cycle; although, that is not necessarily true. A regular healthy cycle ranges in length from 24-35 days. Some degree of variation from cycle to cycle, or from women to another is normal, as is a degree of variation postmenarche and premenopause.
Lisa Hendrickson-Jack mentions that, "What is problematic are cycles that regularly fall outside the 24 to 35-day range or vary in length by more than 8 days from cycle to cycle," showing an underlying issue.
Cycles have 3 types: short, regular, and long. As we defined that regular cycles are those regularly falling between 24-35 days, any cycle that falls outside this range would be considered either short or long cycle. The first day of the cycle can be coined by the first day of red bleed. menstruation is one of the most obvious physical biomarker that menstruators can see, experience, and connect with.
* So have you ever thought you were "late" or pregnant, only to start few days after?
* Have you ever been surprised by an "early" period?
These situations are common and could happen to all of us, if we are not paying close attention to our bodily signs. The woman's body is a living vessel - not a robot or a computer program. It is affected by different factors and stressors; lifestyle choices, sleeping patterns, diet, travel, illness, and hormonal balance. To limit ourselves to the 28-day perfect template is only doing us a disservice by misunderstanding our bodies and how they reflect our normal flow in our reproductive years.
My Fertility Awareness teacher had developed an awesome way to visualize the different scenarios of the cycles.
We can notice that the follicular phase is flexible in length and is affected by outside stressors. If a woman's body is stressed out due to finals, sleep deprivation, nutrient deficiencies, or travel, her brilliant body won't put her under more stress with a possible pregnancy. Ovulation; therefore, gets delayed.
Short follicular phase --> early ovulation.
Long follicular phase --> delayed ovulation.
The luteal phase, as illustrated in the train, is fixed in length and is the same for each women- falling between 9-18 days each cycle.
What does that tell us about periods? Well, Periods are NEVER late. In fact, periods are ALWAYS on time. Ovulation on the other hand can happen early or can be delayed.
So, why is learning the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) and charting one's cycle so important? It's so simple. Through charting, women can gain the ability to identify their fertility signs and biomarkers to confirm ovulation. they will develop a life skill to read their bodies, and never have to get stressed about unplanned pregnancies if they have not ovulated yet. They would be better at catering to their cyclic needs physically and emotionally, and make informed decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive health. Better yet, no more period surprises!!
* The Fifth Vital Sign Book: chapter 4: What Does a Healthy Menstrual Cycle Look Like?