7 Things You Should ALWAYS Do During Your Menstrual Cycle
Photograph by James Garaghty
According to science…
You already know the crappy health side effects of your period: those sudden urges to devour Jelly Tots and strangle incompetent cashiers come and go like clockwork. But with a little planning, you can harness hormonal ups and downs to your advantage. Witchcraft? No – science!
During certain stages of your cycle, researchers have found that we have an especially easy time communicating, canoodling, even burning kilojoules. Based on the average 28-day cycle, here’s how to surf the crimson tide instead of cursing it.
Days 1 to 10: It All Starts Here
In your mind, the start of your period probably signals the end of the month, but from now on, label it the start of your cycle. In the first few days of bleeding, oestrogen and progesterone levels hit rock bottom. Now’s the perfect time to:
Hit The Road
Scientists don’t know exactly why, but lower oestrogen levels give women an edge in what researchers call male cognitive skills, such as spatial thinking. We thought said researchers were just sexist jerks until we saw the slew of studies proving that guys really are superior at rotating three-dimensional objects in their heads and keeping track of north and south. But during this 10-day window, we’re better than usual at both – which means you’ll have no trouble cramming a ton of camping gear into a tiny boot or figuring out how to get back on the N12 after that wrong turn in Kimberley.
Best Time To Quit Smoking
Ready to stop spending thousands a year on your pack-a-day habit? Now’s the best time to stub out your last cigarette, says Dr Louann Brizendine. Nicotine cravings are typically strongest in the first two weeks after quitting, but going smoke-free early on in your cycle will make them easier to manage, since withdrawal symptoms are weaker when progesterone levels are low, according to a recent review of studies from the Medical University of South Carolina.
Days 11 to 14: The Drop Zone
At midcycle, oestrogen levels soar, causing a surge in LH, a hormone that signals your ovaries to roll out your little chromosome bomb of an egg. The exact day it’s released is different for everyone, but ovulation typically falls around day 14. Given that you’re brimming with oestrogen, now’s a good time to:
Head To The Gynae
Women often complain about the discomfort of Pap tests, in which a tiny brush pulls a few cells out of the cervix. But in the days before ovulation, your cervix softens and opens up to let cervical fluid out – and sperm in, if thats what you’re after. Schedule a visit to your gynae now and you stand to avoid a lot of pinching.
Command The Conference Room
On these days a flood of oestrogen boosts your brains ability to nail word-related tasks, says Dr Pauline Maki, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Illinois. Several studies have found that women are more verbally agile and can access their vocabularies faster at mid-cycle than at other times of the month.
Go For The O
Right now you may be hornier, so take advantage. A 2004 University of Chicago study proposed renaming this part of the cycle the sexual phase, because participants had stronger sexual desire, increased fantasies, and more randy activity while ovulating. And a 2005 study from Milan noted that during this phase, women had higher blood levels of oxytocin, a brain chemical that increases during orgasm.
Days 15 to 28: The Fade-Out
After ovulation, you have about two weeks until Big Red strikes again. In this phase, the ovaries secrete less oestrogen and more progesterone, a hormone that helps maintain the lining of the uterus on the off chance your waiting egg is fertilised. If the miracle of life goes untapped, another menstrual cycle ensues, which means you should brace yourself for PMS. Now’s a good time to:
Rent A Pretty-boy Flick
Women prefer softer jawlines and pouty lips particularly at this time of the month, according to the brains at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. After ovulation, increased levels of progesterone prep the body for pregnancy, regardless of whether the egg is fertilised. Being preggo requires sympathy, support and feminine faces are perceived as more caring, he says. That means Tobey Maguire’s in, Matthew McConaughey’s out.
Burn Belly Bulge
You’ll do more to fight flab if you hop on a treadmill pre-period. Your body burns more fat at the end of your cycle because the progesterone promotes the use of fat as an energy source, says Dr Leanne Redman. She even recommends planning workouts around your menstrual cycle: yoga, Pilates or strength training when you have your period and high-intensity cardio postovulation.