What's the difference between a menstrual cycle vs a period?
The period (or a bleed) can either be your natural period or a withdrawal bleed from the birth control pill.
People taking the pill, don't have natural hormonal fluctuations found in a menstrual cycle because that process is suppressed with the synthetic hormones from the pill. But they do have a withdrawal bleed during the week of hormone withdrawal when those placebo pills are taken.
On the other hand, the menstrual cycle starts with you your period, then an egg is released during ovulation, then the little sac that the egg came from (corpus luteum) starts producing progesterone and without fertilization, the uterine lining sheds and your period starts the cycle again.
There are cases where you may bleed, but don't cycle (like the birth control pill). And there are other instances where you may cycle but not bleed.
If you’re using a hormonal IUD for example, your bleeding may be drastically reduced, but you are still cycling and may even still be ovulating. Hence your hormones are still changing cyclically but you may not bleed.
Now, in a typical menstrual cycle, the goal is to release an egg to make babies! Whether or not you actually ovulate every month can tell us a lot about your period health.
Ovulation is the key event that contributes to progesterone production, which is vital for reducing PMS and making your period easy and pain-free.
Just because you have your period every month doesn't mean that you ovulate regularly. You can have an anovulatory bleed (period without ovulation), and you can also have an ovulatory cycle without a bleed. It may depend on if you’re taking a hormonal form of contraceptive as we mentioned above.
Your period apps cannot tell you definitively if you ovulate or not, they just take a guess based on the timing of your bleeding.
But there are things you can look for to get in tune with your body and cycles.
Signs that you ovulated this month:
1. Rise in BBT (Basal Body Temperature). This is your temperature first thing in the morning while you’re still in bed, this rise in temperature happens just AFTER you ovulate.
2. Presence of fertile cervical mucus. This eggwhite like vaginal fluid acts as an escalator for sperm to be swooped upwards toward the patiently waiting egg.
3. LH surge. Luteinizing Hormone can be measured at home using urine test strips. This increase in LH happens just BEFORE ovulation.
4. Cervical position and firmness. The position and firmness of the cervix change a fair bit throughout the month. During most of the month, your cervix is easy to reach and feels firm like the tip of your nose. However on your most fertile days (around ovulation) the cervix rises high into the vagina and it also softens in texture.
All of these signs together add up to ovulation! It's normal to have some cycles that you don’t ovulate, however having consistent anovulatory (no ovulation) cycles and you’re not on a hormonal contraceptive, can be the cause of some of your uncomfortable period symptoms.
To learn more about your own menstrual health, book a discovery call with me and let's chat!
All the best, Dr. Maya
As always, the information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your Naturopathic Doctor or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding your health and before making any changes to your treatment plan.