AD – This is a paid advertorial with Cherriful but all thoughts are my own
When I say “period” what do you think of? Blood, probably. Breakouts. Snacking on all the ice cream. Maybe cramps and the odd headache. But your menstrual cycle is much more clever and involved than just bleeding every month. It’s one of the most beautiful and natural things a human can go through and whatever you feel about your own period, they are pretty remarkable.
Please note that I will be using gender neutral language in this post to avoid alienating any individual that does not identify as female.
I’ve spoken about periods a few times on my blog before and vaginal health certainly isn’t something I’ve ever shied away from writing about, particularly after my first cervical screening and subsequent colposcopy upon finding abnormal cells. I even wrote about my experience with having HPV and educating those who might not be familiar with the virus.
These experiences have simply made me need to try and make reproductive health less taboo, in whatever small way I can. I’ve always been very honest and open about periods so today I’m excited to continue the conversation and talk about the different phases of a menstrual cycle, which is another important factor in getting to know our bodies and getting in tune with the wonderful work they’re doing behind the scenes.
Who are Cherriful?
But first I want to introduce you to Cherriful, who I am thrilled to be collaborating with on this post. Cherriful are best known for their reusable menstrual cups, made from medical grade silicone which can last up to 5 years. They also sell sterilizers for your period cup and eco-friendly reusable liners – for those lighter days!
Cherriful Period Cup Starter Kit – £46.95
The Cherriful Period Cup Starter Kit is the perfect kit, with everything you need. Ideal for those who are perhaps new to period cups, as it comes with illustrated guides to help you with every step. Available in small/medium or large, depending on your own anatomy, the starter kit comes with the cup and sterilizer, as well as a cotton pouch to keep it in and 3 washable panty liners, for the lighter days.
The reusable liners are also amazing products and can hold up to 10ml of fluid, which is the same amount as a medium tampon. But of course, these liners can be used for your really light days or for that peace of mind, too! Containing 4 functional layers to help trap fluid and odor, they come in a pack of 6 or 10 and an array of colours. Who said periods had to be boring?
Cherriful also stand for sustainability in period products and are big on breaking the taboos around menstruation!
Want to win your own Cherriful Period Cup Starter Kit?
Cherriful are kindly giving away a set, which includes a period cup, sterilizer and 3 of these amazing liners to one lucky winner! All you have to do is enter your name and email address – no jumping though hoops here!
Getting to know your body with the four phases of the menstrual cycle:
This is the phase that most people will be most familiar with – the bleeding phase. Lasting on average between 3-7 days (but of course, some are longer or shorter!) and this is the phase where you’ll be using menstrual products like those from Cherriful. The body is eliminating the lining of the uterus through the vagina and you may experience symptoms such as cramping, back acne and nausea.
The first few days of this phase in particular can be hard for some people. I used to have a pretty heavy first day of my period, with terrible cramps. I’d feel light-headed and sometimes sick and just not be able to do much throughout that day. It’s also important to remember that this phase can be extremely debilitating for some people with severe symptoms or extremely heavy periods.
Some things to do during this phase which might make you feel better are:
- Keep a hot water bottle on hand for your stomach
- Wear comforable, lose-fitting clothes or pjyamas (if you can!)
- Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get all the sh*t done
- Get mega cozy, with warming food, a cup of tea and a movie
- Have a warm bath with scented candles and relax
- If you can, try gentle exercise (perhaps some Yoga)
This phase starts at menstruating and ends at ovulation (the next stage) and is when the pituitary gland releases follicle stimulating hormones to stimulate the ovary to produce around five to 20 follicles whereby each follicle houses an immature egg. The growth of the follicle stimulates the lining of the uterus, to prepare for pregnancy. And within this stage you may experience more vaginal mucus.
Ovulation phase of the menstrual cycle
The next phase is ovulation and this occurs approximately 2 weeks before menstruation starts. Ovulation is where the ovary releases an egg, ready for fertilization. The typical life span of an egg is around 24 hours before it dies, so if you’re trying to get pregnant, knowing when you’re ovulating can really help!
I get a cramp like pain on one side of my lower stomach when I ovulate so I can usually tell when this phase is happening in my body. This might not be the case for everyone though. You may also experience a change in cervical mucus (it may become stretchy and clear), a heightened sense of smell, breasts may start to hurt and an increased sex drive – yay!
Luteal phase of the menstrual cycle
The final phase in the cycle is the luteal phase and this is where the human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG), hormone can be detected in a urine test if the egg is fertilized. The body keeps producing the raised levels of progesterone that are needed to maintain the thickened lining of the uterus, to grow the baby. However…
If the egg isn’t fertilized then your body will experience a drop in progesterone which will eventually cause the lining to fall away, which starts the cycle all over again. This is the phase where you might experience PMS symptoms. You can get mood swings, headaches, breakouts, have trouble sleeping, experience increased anxiety and get breath pain and tenderness during this time.
My PMS symptoms have always been quite bad. In fact, I usually feel worse BEFORE my period than during it. I tend to get very tearful and low, have seriously painful boobs and often feel really hot and bothered and anxious. It’s not a fun time!
If you’re like me, here are some things you can do to feel a little better during this time:
- Eat regularly and healthily
- Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol
- Wear a really supportive bra to help with breast pain
- Reduce stress levels (try Yoga and meditation, self massage, journaling)
- Remember that if you’re having mood swings or feeling low, it’s JUST hormones
It’s extremely important to remember that everybody is different and every BODY is different. People experience periods in so many different ways and there’s never a one size fits all approach to any of the phases above. But that’s the point of education and breaking taboos. To show that we ARE different. And that’s okay. All bodies are beautiful and incredible regardless.
Don’t forget to check out Cherriful before you go, if you’re in the market for new period products!
Let’s talk periods in the comments! Tell me what products you use, what you struggle with most during your time of the month or how you like to manage those tough heavier days. Don’t be shy!
Wait! Before you go…
If you’ve got a spare minute today, please check out Bloody Good Period. They’re an incredible charity that help tackle period poverty by supplying sanitary products to those in need who might not be able to afford them or get them any other way. Periods don’t stop during a pandemic! I support Bloody Good Period with a direct debit donation every month and every pound makes a difference. So if you’re able, please consider donating!