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What is the follicular phase (and why do you need to know about it when trying for a baby?)

Do you know what a follicular phase is (and why it’s important)?

The follicular phase is the first half of your monthly cycle. It can last between 7 and 21 days. Teens can have a follicular phase of up to 32 days!

It starts when a few follicles (6 -8) get to the end of their 100 day development to begin ovulation.

The follicle development is governed by the pituitary hormone FSH – follicule-stimulating hormone, which stimulates the follicles to grow. You have less FSH when younger, hence the likelihood of a longer phase, and more as you mature – leading to shorter or irregular periods.

FSH levels also contribute to how heavy or light your bleed is – the hormone stimulates estradiol which influences the thickening of the uterine lining. The more estradiol = thicker lining = heavier periods.

The maturing follicles stimulate the production of estradiol – oestrogen – which can promote feelings of wellbeing, happiness, libido by boosting your ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters of serotonin and dopamine. Oestrogen is also important for healthy skin, bones, muscles, brain, heart, sleep AND metabolism!

In short, the follicular phase of your cycle is likely to be the part where you feel most connected to yourself, feel happier and better able to cope with anything life throws at you, and if you’re trying for a baby – it’s the time when you are more likely to feel like having sex.

If you have PCOS (poly-cycstic ovary syndrome), you are likely not to be ovulating because the availability of the hormones you need to ovulate are suppressed by an over production of androgens like testosterone. Your body may be producing follicles, but they won’t be able to ripen because the FSH needed to mature them and move to oestrogen production is blocked by higher levels of testosterone and other male hormones. This means that the follicular phase just keeps going, without an egg being produced, making it very hard to conceive.

Can you regulate the follicular phase? Yes. Charting your monthly cycles is key to finding out what’s happening inside. As follicles take over 100 days to mature, three months of charts will give you great data on what has happened to get you to now.

This information can then be used to focus on changes that positively influence your hormonal balance. Amending your nutrition, lifestyle changes, specific supplements and targeted reproductive reflexology have shown improvements in regulating the follicular phase.

In a study conducted by the Association of Reproductive Reflexologists, the pregnancy rate for women with PCOS was 72% (live birth rate 57%), showing the effectiveness of regular reproductive reflexology treatments.

Balancing your cycle helps your body to work in harmony, and you to feel better.

What’s your follicular phase like?

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conception fertility pregnancy Reflexology

What is PCOS?

What is PCOS / Poly Cycstic Ovary Syndrome?

PCOS is a whole body hormone condition, not just a period problem.

When follicle sacs within the ovaries fail to develop properly, they can cause cysts on the ovary surface (hence the term poly = many and cystic = follicles). These can interfere with ovulation because the hormones needed to support ovulation are not working correctly.

It’s relatively common for women to have polycystic ovaries – and in fact teenagers are very likely to have polycystic ovaries and be considered ‘normal’.

Not everyone with these types of cysts has PCOS – unless you also have raised levels of luteinising hormone (LH) and testosterone.

PCOS is really a group of symptoms, related to lack of ovulation and higher levels of male-type hormones (androgens).

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

Irregular or late bleeds (irregular bleeds are typical of cycles with NO ovulation)
Long bleeds
Excessive facial or body hair
Acne
Hair loss
Weight gain
Infertility

Commonly prescribed treatment options for PCOS include the contraceptive pill, anti-androgen drugs, and metformin.

Some of these will not be suitable if you are trying to conceive or want to get your cycles regulated in a more natural way. They also rely on knowing which type of PCOS is driving your condition – i.e. insulin-resistant, post-pill, inflammatory or adrenal.

As a fertility reflexologist, I use a holistic approach, which includes sharing information on nutrition, lifestyle changes and supplements. I use fertility reflexology to help your menstrual cycle rebalance, reminding your body what it needs to do to reduce your symptoms and get those hormones properly flowing.

How can you help yourself? Lots of different things can help, but as above, find out what kind of PCOS you have in order to make the right changes.

Need help with that? Get in touch via the ‘book now’ button, or click here.

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Reflexology

What is ovulation?

Do you what ovulation is? And what is its purpose?

Ovulation is … the main event of your monthly cycle. Hopefully your hormones have been doing their job during the follicular phase (see previous posts), your follicles have produced enough oestrogen and an egg has matured enough to rupture the follicle!

A surge of luteinising hormone (LH) triggers the egg to be released into the fallopian tubes where it is either fertilised by sperm, or re-absorbed into the body.

You may notice a twinge or a mild pain in your lower pelvis when ovulation occurs.

At the same time, all that lovely oestrogen has been changing the cervical mucus from non-fertile (white, thick, sticky) to fertile (clear, slippery, wet) so that sperm have an easier swim up to the Fallopian tubes. Your cervix will also soften, move down and open slightly – all to help the passage of sperm.

If you’re temperature charting you might notice a dip in temperature just BEFORE ovulation, followed by a rise of at least 0.3°C which should then stay higher for at least 3 readings.

At the same time as the egg is released, the collapsed follicle magically restructures itself into the corpus luteum, a gland producing progesterone, which will support a developing embryo, or fade away over the luteal phase (see previous posts) until your next bleed.

Ovulation is the time in your cycle when you are most likely to become pregnant. And conversely, the time to avoid having sex or protect yourself from potential pregnancies if you are NOT actively trying to conceive.

What can affect ovulation?

*Post-contraception anovulation – this can last for months after stopping
*PCOS
*Hormonal factors like high LH, high testosterone, low progesterone etc.
*Stress
*Being underweight
*You’ve reached peri-menopause

Can ovulation be improved? Yes. You can improve the hormonal balancing act that leads to ovulation, with a combination of charting (knowledge is POWER!) and targeted reflexology.

If you have physical issues with your ovaries, e.g. you have had an ectopic pregnancy and only have 1 ovary left etc., then you may need assisted fertility treatment in a clinic BUT reflexology can still work to support you and your body alongside this.

Do you know if you ovulate?