We welcome you to the peak of illumination, your own inner summer. Analogous to the blooming of a flower, the peak of a mountain, and the sun at midday — this phase of your cycle personifies fullness and creation. Your inner universe is singing loudly and the fullness of the moon is beaming its light, a beautiful combination for a sensual & powerful dance.
The fullness of the moon is mirrored by the fullness of your ovarian follicle during this ovulatory phase. Just as the moon has been on a journey of growth, so has your internal egg follicle. At this stage of fullness, it is now ready to release and be liberated into your uterine and vaginal world. This stage of egg liberation is what marks the ovulatory phase from the remainder of your cycle.
Fertility finds its home in this ovulatory phase. We think of fertility as being analogous to vitality. It is the inner spark that fuels the mental-emotional-spiritual-physical existence of menstruators. This sparkling phase is a time when sensuality, magnetism, flow, pleasure, and mastery are often at their prime. Many menstruators feel their personal best during this phase, as far as energy and expenditure is concerned.
Physiological Exploration of Ovulation
This phase is categorized as the pinnacle. The pinnacle growth of estrogen, the ovarian follicle, and the uterus all happen during this short window. Estrogen has been climbing since the beginning of the follicular phase, when bleeding of the uterus began. This increased level of estrogen is responsible for the return of the superficial layer of the uterine wall, which is shed each month. It is also responsible for the sense of increased vitality and energy characteristic of this time. This rising level of estrogen accompanies a rise in Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which essentially stimulates the growth of an ovarian follicle each month.
As estrogen reaches its peak level, around day 12-16 of the cycle, luteinizing hormone (LH) is signaled to release from the pituitary gland (brain region). Estrogen, mostly released from the ovary, and luteinizing hormone, have an intimate communication network. The high levels of estrogen signal LH to release, which eventually triggers ovulation –– signaling the liberation of the ovarian follicle that has been growing. At this time, your body temperature will increase slightly due to the increase in progesterone, secondary to the rise in LH levels. Pursuing interest in your basal body temperature shifts can be an insightful way in discovering when you are ovulating.
The release of the ovarian follicle during ovulation is what is responsible for the change in vaginal discharge characteristic of this stage. Discharge typically becomes similar to the consistency of an egg-white, sticky and often copious. We call this cervical fluid. This fluid serves the purpose of enhancing the movement of potential sperm up the reproductive tract. The alkaline pH of this fluid is also unique and responsible for keeping potential sperm alive with the intention of implantation. In a 28 day cycle, your fertile window will typically be between days 9-17. While your liberated egg will only live in the fallopian tube, awaiting fertilization, for 12-24 hours, sperm can remain in the uterus, in search of an egg, for up to 5 days.
Contributors to a challenging summer
The above descriptions of the ovulatory phase paint a golden picture, however this is not always the case. About ten percent of menstruators are challenged with anovulatory cycles (aka do not ovulate). In the endocrine system there are several mediators of reproductive hormones, which communicate via the ovaries and two brain centers, known as the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. The communication network is extremely sensitive and is influenced by the entirety of the endocrine system, as well as by exogenous (outside) factors. When certain hormones, such as estrogen and androgens, are too high, ovulation may be disturbed. This can also happen when certain hormone levels, like estrogen and thyroid hormone, are too low. Further, if there is an imbalance or miscommunication at the level of the brain, the ovary will not be receiving proper signals for ovarian follicle growth and release. Insulin levels, often disrupted in obesity and diabetes, also play an influential role with reproductive hormone balance. Further, levels of stress, dieting and vigorous exercise can cause a disruption in ovulation. As you can see, there is a delicate balance here and further investigation at a personal level is often needed to re-establish ovulatory cycles.
As one can imagine, many of the opposite mental/emotional/physiological reactions may occur in someone who is not ovulating. Instead of feeling vitalized, sensual, and energized, one may feel a depletion of energy and a sense of depression. Further, it is common to experience longer than normal cycles and/or cycles without bleeding in tandem with anovulatory cycles. If you are reading this and resonate with this experience, please know that there are ways to re-establish balance in your cycle. Navigating this path of rebalance may involve a little extra digging to establish the true cause.
In the case that you are experiencing ovulation, you may also come across a few challenges during this time. Some menstruators find that their surge of gusto is not matched by their sense of direction. It may become distressing if you are not clear in the way that you would like to channel the energy that is coming up. Further, others may experience burn out due to over exerting themselves during this vitalizing time.
The hormones surging through your body during ovulation, responsible for the changes of cervical fluid and vitality, are also influencing your state of sensuality. Many menstruators will find themselves drawn to sexual practices and other ways of expressing themselves sensually during this time. Please know that if this is not your experience, that is absolutely okay. For some menstruators, this is due to the imprints of sexual trauma. These are wounds that need to be healed on a personal and collective level. If you resonate with this, please know that you are not alone and there are many healing modalities emerging and present for processing and healing trauma.
Ways to support yourself during this season
While we love to speak about the empowerment present when applying the sacred “No,” this is a time to channel your sacred “Yes.” Saying Yes to yourself is key, however, not necessarily to everything! Tune into how your vessel truly wants to spend its time & flow with it. Know that you have the vitality and hormonal support to reach a little further than you may normally do.
This phase is a great time to realign with your aims, goals, and projects. We invite you to take a moment to ask yourself what you truly want to commit to and drive forward with that very inspiration! Showing up as your full self is attainable and celebrated during this ovulatory splendor.
Your inner summer is a great time to schedule meetings and events, as it is often the most social time of the cycle. We invite you to embody the practice of marking down on your schedule each phase of your menstrual cycle, that way you can plan (or not plan) things in advance that match your energetics in each phase. Further, remember that this phase, like all things in nature, is temporary.
Authored by Caileen Vermilyea N.D.
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