What are the seasons of the menstrual cycle?

What are the seasons of the menstrual cycle?

The changes in our hormones throughout the month of our menstrual cycle can be likened to the seasons in nature, as Summer transitions to Autumn, then to Winter and Spring. Throughout each phase, the fluctuations in Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), Luteinizing Hormone (LH), Oestrogen and Progesterone all contribute to the changes in our mood, sleep, energy, motivation and mental capacity. Although many women believe the menstrual cycle is just a regular monthly bleed, I want to explain and break down each phase and discuss practical ways to harness this ‘fifth vital sign’. As a note, a normal menstrual cycle length for women is anywhere between 26 – 35 days. I refer to a 28 day cycle as ‘textbook’, as it is the average but not the rule. Only about 14% of women have a 28 day cycle.

Winter – Menstruation

The menstrual phase begins on the first day of full bleed which is classified as day 1. It is normal for women to bleed for 3-5 days, including 1-2 days of light spotting as it finishes up. Menstrual flow can vary dramatically from woman to woman, however normal blood loss is about 50mL or 2.5 tablespoons, anything below 25mL is considered scanty and anything more than 80mL is considered heavy. If we translate this to menstrual products, if not using a menstrual cup, a ‘normal flow’ would be the use of 10x regular pads or tampons spread evenly over all the days of your period.

So what are your hormones doing?
At this phase, your hormones Oestrogen and Progesterone are at baseline, meaning that as Progesterone begins to plummet your uterine lining starts to shed. Some women do feel a sense of relief of premenstrual symptoms with the arrival of the period, however other common symptoms associated with the loss of Oestrogen and Progesterone through your menstrual bleed include lower back or girdle pain, headaches, cramps and lethargy.

How can I best support my body?
The menstrual phase is a time where our body is at its most yin, we are losing blood and fluid and our hormones are plummeting. This is why I recommend for women to listen to their bodies and really begin to slow down and hibernate during this stage. It is an important time to rest, to prioritise sleep and nourish their bodies with warm and nourishing meals that are high in proteins, healthy fats, low GI carbohydrates and a variety of seasonal vegetables to support the detoxification process. In terms of exercise, this is a time where I recommend avoiding high intensity exercise including running and opting for more yin style movement including walking, Pilates and/ or Yoga. As the body is already depleted from the loss of Yin, blood and fluid from your menstrual bleed, we want to ensure you are not over exerting your body during this phase, which will be detrimental to the upcoming ovulation phase.

Spring – Follicular Phase

The follicular phase of your menstrual cycle starts from the day after you finish bleeding until ovulation. These days can vary depending on the length or your bleed, as well as the length of your entire menstrual cycle. During this phase of spring, we come out of hibernation and welcome in the energy of the new menstrual cycle. The hormones are beginning to rise as the body prepares for the next cycle of ovulation, specifically FSH and Estradiol, our feel good hormone.

So what are your hormones doing?
Your Follicular Phase is when the hormone FSH is most dominant. FSH is produced in the pituitary gland, which is a small endocrine gland located at the base of the brain, it sends signals down to the ovaries to say, “produce follicles”. With the maturation of your developing follicles, the hormone Estradiol begins to rise as one dominant follicle prepares for ovulation. Estradiol is also responsible for the thickening of the endometrial lining, which is important for efficient implantation of the embryo if a couple is trying to conceive, or to support a healthy menstrual bleed.

How can I best support my body?
The Follicular Phase of your menstrual cycle is when women often start to feel a positive shift. Estradiol is rising, which is our feel good hormone that is going to support mood, energy, motivation and overall well being. It is still imperative that you are eating a diet rich in good quality proteins, healthy fats,
carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables however you may notice your cravings have decreased or are completely gone during this phase. The reason is because oestrogen creates satiety, therefore minimising food cravings. In combination, we will feel more motivated to exercise and I recommend incorporating some HIIT style training into your week, if you are feeling up to it. Other symptoms and changes that you may feel during this phase, include an increase in libido as the body is nearing ovulation, changes in cervical mucus as well as an increase in concentration and mental clarity. If possible, it is best to arrange important work meetings or presentations around this phase as your hormones are about to peak.

Summer – Ovulation

The ovulation phase of the menstrual cycle is determined by the release of one or potentially two eggs from an ovary. It is normal to occur anywhere between day 12 to day 21, and this will then be an indicator of how long your entire menstrual cycle will be. A lot of people put emphasis on when the menstrual bleed will arrive, however I believe it is more important to focus on when ovulation occurs, because if you are not ovulating regularly you will not have a regular period. This phase of summer is when we are in our most ‘yang’ energy, we will feel an increased drive to be more social, to cease the day, we will feel more creative and more motivated.

So what are your hormones doing?
During the follicular phase, when the brain is sending FSH down to the ovaries to produce follicles, and Estradiol is rising with the production of these follicles, a dominant follicle will begin to form in preparation for ovulation. This is when ‘signals’ are sent back to the pituitary gland, and the hormone LH spikes to initiate ovulation.

How can I best support my body?
The ovulation phase of the menstrual cycle is when women will feel at their peak. It is recommended for women to harness this energy, as it is the period of time in their menstrual cycle where women will feel the most motivated, they will have improved mental clarity, they will feel more focused, have an increase in confidence and an overall sense of wellness internally and externally. During this phase of your menstrual cycle, I recommend to continue to organise any events in your social calendar, if possible plan your important work meetings or presentations and incorporate more HIIT style training sessions. Food and nutrition is important throughout every stage of your menstrual cycle, and although your appetite may have decreased with the surge
of Oestrogen, it is still important to prioritise regular healthy meals and snacks into your daily diet.

Autumn – Luteal Phase

The luteal phase of your menstrual cycle, also known as your Autumn phase, is when you begin to transition out of your most yang energy and into your more introverted yin phase. It is the 10-16 days between ovulation and your menstrual bleed, and it is determined by the lifespan of the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum is a progesterone-secreting gland that is formed from the emptied follicle you have just ovulated.

So what are your hormones doing?
Post ovulation, your corpus luteum produces the hormone Progesterone, which is the critical hormone for period health. For couples trying to conceive, Progesterone is the hormone that holds an early pregnancy before the placenta takes over. Aside from pregnancy, progesterone has other benefits like reducing inflammation, building muscles, supporting sleep, protecting the heart against heart disease and calming the nervous system to reduce stress. We can think of Progesterone being the yin to Oestrogen’s yang, as its role during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle helps to regulate Oestrogen.

How can I best support my body?
This is the period of time where women need to give themselves permission to be ok where they are at, as you come into the final stage of your menstrual cycle before your period arrives. Your hormones are shifting and with that, so should your lifestyle. I recommend prioritising earlier nights, eating nourishing good quality meals with adequate protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates; as well as shifting back to yin style exercise and movement.
A challenge that I like to set for my patients is learning to say ‘no’. What this means, is to prioritise downtime in your busy social calendar, and knowing when you are beginning to burn the candle at both ends. Saying ‘no’ empowers you and supports your health during this week of
big hormonal changes. Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine are great ways to support your hormonal health and menstrual cycle. Rather than experiencing ‘peaks and troughs’, through each phase or season of the month, I support women to experience rather an ‘eb and flow’.

By Georgia Payten
TCM Practitioner & Acupuncturist at The Pagoda Tree.

June 8th, 2023|

Pre-labour Acupuncture Treatments


When is the best time to have Pre-Labour Acupuncture treatment? And what are the
You may have heard of the term ‘Pre-Labour Acupuncture’ or ‘Acupuncture Induction’ from your midwife, a friend or even a family member talking about the results and experience they had with treatment to support and induce labour. So what does this treatment actually entail? And is there any research or evidence to back these claims? There is a common misconception that women will come in for a one off ‘Acupuncture Induction’ treatment at 40 weeks and spontaneous labour will be guaranteed. Although, you may have of a friend of a friend who had this experience and there is no doubt that there is some clinical evidence, the therapeutic benefit of Acupuncture as a pre-labour treatment comes from the cumulative effect of weekly Acupuncture treatments from 36 weeks. It is from this date of 36 weeks gestation, that we begin to use more stimulating Acupuncture points to relax the muscles and sinews, soften and ripen the cervix, calm the Central Nervous System and begin to prepare the body for the most efficient labour. In combination, we will discuss lifestyle and diet advice to begin to incorporate into your daily practices. We will then continue Acupuncture treatment until your due date, and discuss more frequent biweekly treatments if you go over. In clinical practice, in which pre-labour/ pre-birth Acupuncture treatment is used from 36 weeks, evidence shows when compared to the local population rates, there was an overall 35% reduction in the number of inductions (For primigravida women, this was a 43% reduction); 31%
reduction in the epidural rate, 32% reduction in emergency caesarean delivery; and a 9% increase in normal vaginal births (Betts & Lennox, 2006), with these positive results. Acupuncture can provide a safe and effective treatment for women seeking natural labour.

So how does the treatment differ to other Acupuncture treatments throughout
Throughout pregnancy, your Acupuncturist will be aware of contraindicated points and will avoid these areas. These specific points have a stimulating action and from a Chinese Medicine perspective will strongly move Qi and Blood through the channels and the uterus. Throughout pregnancy we want to support a nutritive and protective environment in the uterus where all nutrients and oxygen is directed to your developing baby. So Acupuncture points are minimal and treatment is focused on tonification and calming the mind and body. Comparatively, pre-labour Acupuncture treatments from 36 weeks are focussed on beginning to stimulate adequate flow of Qi and blood through the uterus. The contraindicated points that were avoided throughout pregnancy will now be safely used, by your registered Acupuncturist. These specific points will aid cervical dilation, relax and soften the ligaments prior to labour, support the descending action of the baby into the pelvis, calm the mind and prepare the body for the most efficient labour.

Will this treatment affect my baby?
A common question I am asked during a consultation is, ‘will this treatment hurt/ affect my baby?’. Put simply, Acupuncture performed by a registered Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Practitioner will be safe for you and your baby. Acupuncture is a safe alternative for women seeking natural pregnancy and labour support. For peace of mind, when booking in with a Chinese Medicine Practitioner, ensure they have further training and experience in treating Women’s Health and Pregnancy.

What if my baby is breeched?
If your baby is in the breech position, first and foremost it is important to check in with your care provider what your options are. Tools and techniques to encourage your baby to move into the optimal position of cephalic, have been shown to work best when your baby is at 34/35 weeks gestation as they have more room in the uterus to flip. Acupuncture and Moxa treatment is beneficial for turning breeched babies, however this treatment does differ from Pre-labour/ Pre-birth treatment. The focus is on turning the baby, rather than encouraging the baby to move into the pelvis for labour preparation.

For the best results and outcome from pre-labour/ pre-birth Acupuncture treatments, I recommend chatting to your registered Chinese Medicine Practitioner about booking in weekly appointments from 36 weeks gestation.

By Georgia Payten

TCM Practitioner & Acupuncturist at The Pagoda Tree.


Betts, D. and Lennox, S. (2006). Acupuncture For Prebirth Treatment: An Observational Study
of its use in Midwifery Practice. Journal of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture,
17(3), pp.16–19.

April 20th, 2023|

The wonderful Chaste Tree (Vitex), is it what you are missing?


We use a number of different herbs and supplements in clinic, to treat a wide range of issues.   However in a clinic that specialises in hormonal health and fertility, Chaste Tree (also known as Vitex or Chaste Berry) has to be one of the favourites. 

July 18th, 2018|

Am I having a boy or a girl??


There is something in the water here at The Pagoda Tree, as not only are we helping many couples fall pregnant, but our small staff of 11 has seen 4 pregnancies/births in the last year.   During that time, one of the funniest videos to come out, was when our manager posted her big gender reveal of her soon to be baby.  Her and her partner had purchased a big balloon to pop, that would reveal the gender through coloured confetti.  What followed was her popping the balloon and jumping being ecstatic to have a girl as pink confetti flew through the air, and her partner standing beside her looking utterly confused as he remembered he was colour blind.

It got me to thinking that it is great that couples can decide to find out the gender of their babies now days, but what is going to happen to all the old ways of predicting?  If you are a bit of a traditionalist/hipster like myself, then I think its time that we bring the old ways of predicting back in vogue.  Here are some of the best (but not most accurate) ways to tell if you are having a boy or a girl.

May 23rd, 2018|

How best to utilise Acupuncture for IVF.


Assisted conception is becoming more and more common and many people believe that IVF automatically results in pregnancy.  However as anyone involved in fertility will tell you, conception is not always easy and there are a number of things that can affect fertility. 

IVF is costly, so to be better prepared is not only good for your health, but also your wealth.  Research suggests that people who receive Acupuncture pre and post IVF procedures, better their chances of a successful full term pregnancy.   Acupuncture during IVF is time sensitive though, so what is the best timing for your acupuncture appointments and the reasoning behind them???

April 18th, 2018|

Why it’s so important to have acupuncture treatments during your first trimester.


We are always so excited for our patients when they become pregnant! Sometimes it’s been a long road to success, and sometimes it’s completely unplanned. Either way, the first trimester is such an important time to be taking care of yourself — and we want to help!

 Many women don’t realize that not only is acupuncture generally safe during pregnancy, treatments by highly experienced practitioners can make all the difference during this incredibly special time.

How, you ask? Allow me to enlighten you!

April 3rd, 2018|

Just how does acupuncture really improve my fertility?

Even though it is not always asked during your initial consultation, we know that at The Pagoda Tree, patients are so regularly curious love to know how Acupuncture can help you.  So in the following article, I will attempt to condense 2,500 years of cumulative knowledge it to 10 simple points, on how Acupuncture can help your fertility. 

Before I pull this off though, let me outline a couple of things.  When talking to a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner, we will often talk in two different languages.  The first is in western medical terms, talking about hormone regulation or certain nutrients and vitamins that will benefit fertility.  And the second is in TCM terms, talking about metaphysical things such as Qi or different stagnations that can make it difficult to conceive.  

Here at The Pagoda Tree all the practitioners have a background in health science first and then specialize in Acupuncture and/or Chinese herbs, so we will always explain things to you in a clear manner in these two languages.

With the insertion of super fine needles into specific points of the body Acupuncturists have the ability to assist in healing and regulating a number of different medical conditions and help boost fertility.

Ok, got it?  Then lets begin.

July 16th, 2016|