At the time of our birth, like every other characteristic that makes us who we are, our reproductive cycle is also imprinted genetically, when menstruation will start when it will end, our cycle length, how many eggs we are issued with and so forth.
A woman's menstrual cycle begins usually between the age of 11 and 15, and continues month after month, only ceasing with pregnancy or menopause.
Each cycle is measured from the first day of one menstrual period to the first day of the next, cycle length is easily determined, however ovulation, and the optimum time for conception, or fertile days is often difficult to pinpoint. Far too many pregnancies have occurred while taking the contraceptive pill, or during menstruation, with no medical explanation available.
Ovulation can occur at anytime within the first phase (follicular phase) of a woman's cycle, which can be as long as 21 days. Once ovulation has occurred the second phase, (luteal phase) begins which also can last between 7 and 21 days coming to end at the onset of menstruation, and so the cycle starts again.
There is no standard 28 day cycle, with ovulation occurring on day 14, every woman's cycle is unique to her body and should be recognised as such.
It remains unknown why some women have 21 day cycles and some have 35. It is also unknown why menstruation length varies from 3 to 10 days in different women. Why some women release two ovum each month, increasing the possibility of conceiving twins. Whatever a woman's cycle, it is always related to the hormone levels within the body. To recognise your own body's reproductive pattern is a great advantage, whether trying to conceive or not.
A follicle released on day 14 is healthy and has the greatest chance of producing a healthy baby, a prolonged follicular phase may result in ovulation between days 18 and 21 which increases the risk of a defective geriatric egg being released, if fertilised there is a greater risk of miscarriage or birth defects and in some cases infertility is the result.
A Luteal phase that is too short say below 10 days, is also a cause of infertility, the progesterone levels are not high enough, which decreases the chance of the endometrium being ready for the fertilised egg.
“If you find that you tend to ovulate on or before cycle day 10 or after cycle day 18 and you are concerned about the possible problems you may encounter as a result of this, I strongly recommend seeking the advice of your Doctor or Gynaecologist first, and I would suggest some complimentary medicine such as Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Iridology, Reflexology, Acupuncture, Acupressure or Chinese Herbs.
The reproductive hormones
Estrogen, progesterone, GSH(gonadotrophic stimulating hormone), LH(lutenising hormone), FSH(follicle stimulating hormone) and HCG(human chorionic gonadotrophin) are all essential to reproduction and the proper functioning of the reproductive system.
At the onset of puberty the hypothalamus (an area of the brain) starts to secrete GSH which in turn causes the pituitary gland to secrete FSH
FSH is produced by the pituitary gland, which causes stimulation of the follicles in the ovaries, several follicles begin to ripen in preparation to release a mature ova. Cells within the follicles cause estrogen levels to rise and when estrogen levels in the blood reach a certain level the pituitary gland begins the production of LH.
LH is produced by the pituitary gland, and causes the most mature follicle to burst and release its ova (ovulation). The cells of the follicle reduce the amount of estrogen produced and begin making progesterone.
Estrogen is the name of a group of hormones estradiol (the most predominant in pre-menopausal women), estrone and estriol, I will refer to them as estrogen, it is produced primarily by the ovaries and small amounts by the adrenal gland, its levels are important for the production of LH, without sufficient estrogen ovulation would not occur (anovulation). It also builds up the lining of the endometrium, among other important functions.
The ruptured follicle is now termed the corpus luteum, it continues to produce progesterone and small amounts of estrogen, If the ova is fertilised it also secretes HCG. If the ova is not fertilised HCG is NOT produced and the level of progesterone decreases, menstruation will follow, and a new cycle will begin.
HCG ensures that the ovaries continue to produce higher levels of progesterone which is essential for maintaining pregnancy.
Progesterone is produced by the ovaries, and is the most important hormone regarding pregnancy, it is responsible for preparing the endometrium for the fertilised egg to be received (implanting), and form the placenta, which will also produce progesterone.
Sufficient levels are required to ensure the lining of the uterus is not shed (spontaneous abortion, miscarriage). It is also necessary in ever increasing amounts throughout the gestation period to maintain the pregnancy.
The body is designed to produce estrogen and progesterone, in a very precise balance, so that optimum fertility and reproduction can take place. Unfortunately due to lifestyle, our environment, and synthetic chemicals the natural balance is often disrupted, causing a myriad of potential health risks.
Estrogen dominance / low progesterone
Estrogen dominance is a condition that a high percentage of women suffer from, it often goes undiagnosed, it is caused by, not only higher than normal levels of estrogen but also insufficient progesterone levels, resulting in a dangerous imbalance in the body.
Estrogen is supposed to be the dominant hormone in the follicular phase of a woman's cycle followed by progesterone being dominant in the luteal phase, and throughout pregnancy, however when progesterone fails to reach normal levels in the second half of the woman's cycle, the high estrogen is not balanced out.
Estrogen dominance can cause the following conditions: abnormal thyroid function, accelerated ageing, agitation, allergies ( asthma, rashes and sinusitis), anxiety, auto-immune disorders (lupus, thyroiditis), bloating, blurred vision, breast tenderness, cervical dysplasia, endometriosis, cold hands and feet, copper retention, decreased libido, depression, dry eyes, extra short follicular or luteal phases, fatigue, fibrocystic breasts, food cravings, gallbladder disease, hair thinning, headaches, hypoglycemia, increased risk of breast cancer, increased blood clotting, increased risk of stroke, infertility, irregular periods, increased facial hair, irritability, insomnia, loss of zinc, memory loss, miscarriage, mood swings, osteoporosis, premature menstruation, pre-menopausal bone density loss, PMS, reduced oxygen in cells, reduced vascular tone and circulation, salt retention, sluggish metabolism, uterine cancer, uterine cramping, uterine fibroids, water retention, weight gain (especially the hips thighs and abdomen).
By using natural remedies to stimulate the ovaries, adrenal and pituitary glands, and adopting a healthy lifestyle you can restore the natural balance of reproductive hormones, a lot of these problem may be overcome, improving fertility. (see dietary recommendations for hormonal health) Natural progesterone creams are also available, that have shown a great degree of success, beware of synthetic estrogen and progestin. (see artificial estrogen and progesterone)
Low estrogen and gland disorders
Low estrogen levels or dysfunctional ovaries, adrenal or pituitary glands can be the cause of infertility in some women. The pituitary gland produces FSH so that the ova can ripen within the follicle, it is the estrogen levels in the blood that trigger the release of LH which in turn causes ovulation, the disruption of hormones in the beginning phase of a woman's cycle is one possible cause of infertility, by way of anovulatory cycles, extremely long follicular phase or long luteal phase.
Anovular cycles are where ovulation does not occur, being from low estrogen, or an inability to produce FSH or LH. Follicular phase length beyond the normal range is also a cause of infertility in some women, follicle size is important for the conception of a healthy baby, free from abnormalities, and to reduce the risk of miscarriage. The optimum size follicle is 25mm with ovulation occurring on day 14 (of a 28 day cycle) or mid cycle, increasing the chance of producing a healthy baby by 90%.
In a 28 day cycle if ovulation occurs on, or before day 10 the follicle will be premature, and ovulation occurring on or after day 20, the follicle will be post-mature or geriatric, If the follicle is less than 16mm it will not survive long enough to be fertilised Premature or post-mature eggs if fertilised run a greater risk of producing offspring with abnormalities, and birth defects, the risks of miscarriage and potential still birth are also increased.
Long follicular phase length greater than 16 days have also been associated with changes within the corpus luteum, and the production of progesterone. Luteal phase length is also an important factor to take into account, the endometrium needs sufficient time to prepare for implantation, luteal phases shorter than 10 days are the cause of fertilised eggs being shed with the uterine lining. Infertility is often the result.
By using natural remedies to stimulate the ovaries, adrenal and pituitary glands, and adopting a healthy lifestyle you can restore the natural balance of reproductive hormones, a lot of these problem may be overcome, improving fertility.
Artificial estrogen and progesterone (birth control pills, HRT, PMS medications)
There are many forms of synthetic hormones, all potentially hazardous to your health, these are synthetic estrogen products as found in HRT, in the combined birth control pill, and in the polluted environment termed xeno-estrogens.
Synthetic progesterone products are known as progestins (often called progesterone in error) are commercially produced to make birth control pills or injections and are used in the treatment of PMS and HRT. Although these progestins in some ways mimic the effects of progesterone in the body often they are the cause of grave hormonal disturbances, with serious side-effects.
Some artificial progesterone preparations are being used to prevent miscarriage in the early stages of pregnancy, several reports suggest that exposure to these progestins are associated with genital deformities in male and female babies, and an increased risk of birth defects, there is no adequate evidence to support the use of these drugs for this purpose.
The use of the birth control pills increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, breast and cervical cancer, often producing unfavourable side effects such as nausea, weight gain, headaches, and depression.
Xeno-estrogens are substances found in the environment, that have the ability to attach to our estrogen receptors and have an estrogen mimicking effect, often producing stronger effects than the estrogen we produce naturally, they are toxic substances, they are harder to eliminate and have prolonged effects.
More than 100 adverse effects have been found to be the result of the most commonly prescribed estrogen and progesterone preparations. Xeno-estrogens and chemicals that inhibit natural progesterone, cause estrogen dominance, and hormone imbalance are present in most commercially grown meat, chicken and other animal products (from the use of synthetic hormones to accelerate growth), and processed meat products including animal bi-products such as dairy, eggs, and especially high quantities are stored in animal fat.
Synthetic hormones are also found in most prescription estrogen and progesterone medication (birth control pills, progestins, HRT treatment, PMS treatment). Petrochemical compounds such as plastics, creams, soap, medicines, microchips, perfume, shampoo, hairspray, room deodorisers and new carpet also contain xeno-estrogens.
Another contributory factor is stress, a diet high in processed foods, and commercially grown fruit and vegetables (containing herbicides and pesticide residues). Some of the diseases and conditions that can arise from hormonal imbalance resulting from an over exposure to Xeno-estrogens are : Ammenoreah, anovulation, infertility, various cancers including melanoma, heart attack and stroke as well as all of the side effects of estrogen dominance (see estrogen dominance).
To restore the natural hormonal balance within the body it is necessary to make several lifestyle and dietary changes. If you are suffering from estrogen dominance, irregular cycles, anovular cycles, amenorreah, unexplained infertility, or have extra long or short follicular or luteal phases. It is necessary to balance your reproductive hormones, by stimulating the sex glands, increasing the nutritional content of the food you ingest, introduce exercise and relaxation, and by avoiding synthetic hormones.
Stimulation of the sex glands, eliminating toxins from the body, and increasing circulation, can be done with the use of herbs, and vitamin and mineral rich fruit and vegetables, a detailed food list is included in the members section, to help you understand how diet effects your hormonal health, preconception and during pregnancy.
It is advisable to avoid all drugs caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and to reduce your intake of highly processed foods, saturated fats, salt, refined carbohydrates, deep fried and pre packaged food, refined sugar, and dairy products.