Last week, I was in a meeting with someone developing a new prenatal supplement, and we spent a lot of time talking about the lack of research that exists around pregnancy, postpartum, and the female reproductive system in general.
Even though a full 50% of people in the world have a uterus, we know amazingly little about the female body. We still aren’t sure what causes menstrual pain and PMS, why some people get certain pregnancy symptoms, and how to best support the female body throughout its fertility journey.
We lack some of this knowledge because of our patriarchal research system – for a long time science was a man’s career, so scientific questions and “accepted” research only addressed issues that men were interested in. We also lack of research in women is because it’s simply easier to not deal with a woman’s complex hormone systems and instead to use men in scientific studies.
As a result, a lot of our research (and thus, a lot of our medical advice) about diet, exercise, stress, and sleep are made with the assumption that your body is the same 365 days a year.
And that’s what I wanted to share with you here today – I want us to question this narrative that each day our bodies, minds, and routines should look exactly the same. Hormonal “balance” is a dynamic process and looks completely different on a daily (even hourly) basis.
In Ayurveda, we recognize that humans are a mixture of various energies and elements, known as the doshas. The elements (earth, water, air, fire, and ether) exert different influences on our bodies throughout the month. That means we need to take different actions throughout the month in order to stay in a state of balance.
In the postpartum period, for example, there’s a lot of excess air into the body – the space that the baby filled is now empty. This exacerbates vata dosha and means we need to bring more earthy elements in order to balance. We need rest, warmth, and quiet.
When you’re ovulating, on the other hand, there’s a lot of fiery, hot energy. The pitta dosha turns up and you get a burst of energy and creativity. This is a great time to indulge that creativity and tap into watery, feminine energy by journaling, painting, photographing, or spending time in nature.
When we are aware of the various phases of our menstrual cycle and fertility journey, we can create routines that allow us to work with our energy rather than against it. We don’t need to use a concoction of herbs and supplements in order to feel well. We can tap into our own body’s wisdom to be in sync with nature.
Here are some phases to be aware of and daily practices that can help you stay balanced:
Menstruation – days 1-7 after your period starts
The bleeding that comes with your period can be very depleting and it’s common to feel excess vata dosha.
This is a time to turn more inward and to get quieter. Get extra meetings off your calendar. Sleep an extra 30-60 min each night. Eat light, simple foods and avoid sugar, fried foods, stimulants, and alcohol.
Follicular Phase – days 7-14 after your period starts
During this phase, your body is rebuilding the lining of your uterus and people tend to feel really good. Kapha dosha is present which makes you more resilient and strong. Your energy is calm and steady.
This is the time to get out, get active, and get involved. Try a new workout and see your friends. Enjoy and explore.
Ovulation Phase – about 14-18 days after your period starts
Pitta dosha turns on for the ovulation phase. You might find that you’re feeling sharp and on top of things. You might also find yourself getting impatient or irritable.
Avoid spicy foods. Direct your energy into a big project and get your creative juices flowing. This is a time to actively participate in life. Use your energy to say what you need to say, create what you want to see in the world, and engage in the community.
Luteal Phase – days 18-28 after your period starts
As we start to get closer to our periods, it’s important to be kind to the body and to the digestion as Vata dosha begins to rise.
This is the time of the month to eat healthy, nourishing foods, dial down the workouts, and begin to wrap up those projects and activities that you engaged with earlier in the month.
During pregnancy, ALL of our doshas start to rise (oh dear!) which is why you might feel like your symptoms are exacerbated.
This is a time to notice your cravings and symptoms and ask what it tells you about your general state of balance or imbalance. Based on whether your symptoms follow excess vata, pitta, or kapha, you can take actions to balance accordingly.
In many ways, you can think of the first 6 weeks of postpartum like having a really long period. As I mentioned above, you want to bring extra grounding, calm, and rest. Eat cooked, easily digestible foods. Take naps often. Stay warm. As much as possible, find quiet and grounding in the body so that you can rebuild your strength after having a baby!
These are simple ways that you can start to integrate flexibility into your daily routine. You’ll find that as you tune into these changing hormone levels and patterns through the month, you’ll feel some relief from PMS symptoms, anxiety, and digestive issues.
If you’re interested in learning more about how you can use Ayurveda to help balance your hormones, support fertility, or thrive during pregnancy and postpartum, sign up for a free consultation here.Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day,