Phase Ed: The Luteal Phase
The luteal phase happens after ovulation. If fertilization does occur, the menstrual cycle stops and pregnancy begins. If not, the follicle that previously held the (now-unfertilized) egg continues to release hormones, mostly progesterone, which rises and falls throughout this phase. The luteal phase generally lasts about 14 days.
For most menstruators, progesterone acts almost like a sedative such as alcohol or anti-anxiety medications - it causes the person to feel calm, drowsy, and at ease as it rises during the first half of this phase. As it falls, these effects begin to wane. Towards the end of the luteal phase, many menstruators begin to experience premenstrual symptoms such as increased appetite and food cravings. They may also experience bloating and cramping as the uterine lining builds to it's thickest and prepares to shed. The prostaglandins I mentioned before are responsible for these muscle contractions, and pain medication may be needed.
For people with PMDD, who are sensitive to fluctuations in hormones, both the rise and fall of progesterone in this phase causes severe symptoms. These symptoms include mood swings; increased depression, anxiety, and irritability; changes in sleep and appetite; feelings of overwhelm; and physical symptoms such as pain, inflammation, and bloating. These symptoms are severe enough to impair the person and cause dysfunction in their everyday life during this phase. Basic tasks become impossible, and one might feel as if they are a failure.
Some people with other comorbid conditions, from mental health disorders such as ADHD and OCD to physical conditions such as IBS and Crohn's Disease find that their normal symptoms are aggravated in this phase of the menstrual cycle. This is known as Premenstrual Exacerbation (PME)
This time can be very trying for those with PMDD. Go easy on yourself, remind yourself that this is not your fault, and know that your symptoms will resolve soon after menstruation. Take time to rest, get outside if you can, and destress with a warm shower or bath.
You can sign up to receive a FREE yoga class for your Luteal Phase (along with a class for each phase of the cycle + a guided meditation) by clicking HERE!