The Sisterhood of Hormones
In discussions of Women’s Health hormones always come up. Before reading, Taking Charge of Your Fertility, I thought of hormones as funny little stars of different colors magically telling my body what to do when I least wanted it. Now, here I am writing the first “Hormone Edition” of The Moonletter – what changed?
First, mindset – rather than fighting my body, I grew eager to work alongside it. Second, curiosity – I wanted to really understand the hormones in the female body. Hormones are constantly in conversation via feedback signals in our bodies to care for us. Now instead of thinking of hormones as magic stars, I think of them as friends having a conversation. Each hormone has a role and a personality and if I take time to listen, I can hear them working together to support my body.
Becoming friends with my hormones has increased my joy in Womanhood. I hope more girls and women learn to see the beautiful symphony orchestrated by our hormones. Now, let me introduce you to our hormones!
Francesca is the first one up every morning. If you have a text from anyone at 6am, it’s likely her. She’s your go to when you have an idea and need to know where to start. Francesca is known for starting things but not being great at finishing them. She often goes unnoticed as her work usually ends before anyone takes notice. However, she loves her role in giving her friends a boost to achieve their dreams. Her bestie is Lucile.
FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) starts the development of follicles. Follicles once matured, contain the egg that’s ready to be released and fertilized. FSH is produced in the pituitary gland in the brain but is received by the wall of the follicle through cells programed to receive the FSH signal (receptor cells). FSH is not in many fertility conversations because compared to the other hormones, levels aren’t as high and peaks aren’t nearly as steep. It’s most prevalent during menstruation as it begins the ripening process of the follicles and then again later just before ovulation. This is why the first half of the Feminine Energy Cycle (Winter & Spring) is called the Follicular Phase.
Esther is the queen of hospitality. She spends her time ensuring her home is ready for any unexpected visitors. Her favorite seasons are spring and summer because they are best for big outdoor parties. Esther has a dominant personality which is important to her role as housekeeper. When she says “GO!” those behind her simply ask, “how far?” and “how fast?” Her best friend is Lucile, even though they only hang out for a very short amount of time each month.
Estrogen can take three forms; Estrone, Estradiol, and Estriol. Estradiol is most commonly talked about because of its prevalence and active role in our monthly cycles. Estradiol helps mature eggs, forms the uterine lining, and facilitates healthy cervical fluid leading up to ovulation. Estradiol is produced in the ovaries. Levels will generally stay at low levels during menstruation and build before FSH and Luteinizing Hormones (LH) spike and ovulation occurs.
Lucile is a follower. She loves supporting her friends’ dreams and seeing projects come to completion. She notices all the little details and she loves being on time. She follows instructions very carefully and always waits for the time to be just right before she acts. Francesca is from the same hometown as Lucile and they are the most kindred spirits of the group.
LH (Luteinizing Hormone) is also produced in the pituitary gland and works with FSH to initiate and complete follicle growth. LH generally stays at low levels except just before ovulation when it’s levels are higher than any other hormone to finalize the release of the egg. Once the egg is released, LH also transforms the follicle to the corpus luteum.
Penny feels most herself in fall and winter since it fits her mood best. She loves being bundled up is scarves and cozy slippers, next to a burning fireplace with warm drink in hand. As a successful chef, you often can’t see her working, but you definitely experience the fruits of her labor. Her closest friend is Lucile, but she is the most independent of the group.
Post-ovulation, progesterone is the most influential character. Progesterone causes your body’s temperature to rise and tends to make you feel sleepier, perhaps a bit crankier. Have you noticed increased constipation and bloating before your period? We owe that to progesterone as well. Progesterone is released from the corpus luteum and is important to build the endometrium which would feed and support the fertilized egg (implantation) until it’s grown enough to support itself through the umbilical cord. Often unrecognized is the role of progesterone in forbidding another egg to release until progesterone levels drop, confirming to the body the egg was unfertilized.
Courtney often hangs around most when threats are lingering. She takes pride in protecting others. Fending for herself since she was young, she knows when to run and when to fight. She warns others when danger is near and is always on the lookout and ready for action.
Although not directly part of the menstrual cycle, cortisol (known as the stress hormone) can influence the body’s readiness for reproduction. The purpose of cortisol is to put your body on high alert – similar to giving a gymnast a running start before a flip. In the reproductive system, cortisol provides a signal that it may not be a good time to have a baby under your current condition. Hence, many women have delayed periods under stressful conditions. A great method to reduce cortisol is to exercise. This gives the body a chance to release those stress hormones while increasing endorphins.
I encourage you to introduce yourself to your hormones and allow them to introduce themselves to you. My group of hormones may be different from yours. Perhaps your Penny is more reserved and has frustrated you when trying to conceive. Maybe menopause is nearing for you and with Esther close to retiring, her lack of participation in conversations has left your other hormones a bit lost.
Regardless of the nuances each of us encounter, we can choose to listen and support rather than fight and fix. Forcing people to fit my version of what is “right” has never produced the results I want but listening well and supporting others to be their best is very rewarding. Our bodies will respond in attention and support in much the same way.
Guest Author – Suzanne
Suzanne is a horticulturalist living in Yakima, Washington with her husband, Garrett. She is passionate about women’s health and sharing the magical intricacies of the female body she’s learned in her own health journey.
Graphic Designer – Celeste
Celeste is a graphic designer living in Holland, MI with her husband, Nathaniel, and two little girls. She is a storyteller, wholeness advocate, and 4w3 on the Enneagram. Celeste lives to seek shalom in the everyday. Follow her work at Made Whole Collective.