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As a practitioner of the Creighton Model FertilityCare System I have the privilege of working one on one with women. These are smart, educated women, who want to be aware of what their own bodies are trying to tell them. For many years, there just wasn’t much information for these women to go on. I find that many women use their own body as a baseline. They often refer to what’s normal “for me.” But sometimes this means that for years their fertility cycles may be showing signs that are actually NOT healthy, and they did not recognize it because it has been happening for such a long time.
These four fertility cycle patterns may be telling you that something just isn’t right.
#1. Brown Bleeding
Last year I sat down with a lovely woman. A nurse. Let’s call her Samantha. Samantha was a beautiful 28 year old woman. She had a handsome husband. But Samantha had not been able to conceive for three years. She reported to me that her periods were normal. As is standard in my Creighton teaching, she went home and charted her fertility cycle for two weeks before we met again. I opened her chart and immediately a problem leaped out at me. A sea of red stickers covered almost the entire two weeks of charting (red stickers denote bleeding in a Creighton chart). She reported that she had 3 or more days of brown spotting before she actually started a true period bleed and then 3 more days of brown spotting after her period flow had tapered off. I questioned her about whether these 12 days of bleeding were unusual for her to which she replied, “No, this is normal for me.” She had never known to address this with her OB/Gyn, and her doctor had never asked her about the nature of her cycles.
This type of bleeding is in fact not normal or healthy. Premenstrual spotting and/or tail end brown bleeding is associated with an increased risk of low progesterone, and an increased risk of miscarriage. It is also associated with infertility, and thus merits investigation by a doctor who will take this sign seriously.
I recommend investing in these ovulation double check test strips. When I consistently could not get a positive test result with these tests, I realized that I was deficient in progesterone and was able to see my NaPro doctor for a full hormone profile. This explained the previous miscarriage I'd had, and the PMS symptoms I was experiencing every month. These at-home tests were the first step for me to realize I needed treatment for these problems.
#2. Cycles which are longer than 38 days in duration
To start with, a menstrual cycle is the length of time from the beginning of one period until the beginning of the next period. If the length of time that a woman has is longer than 38 days from one period to the next, she has long cycles. Long cycles are strongly associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This is a condition which causes small cysts to grow on the woman’s ovaries. The cysts may cause the woman to have pain during her cycle. Due to hormone imbalance, women may experience weight gain, acne, an excess in facial hair, or depression. It may make it difficult for the woman to conceive.
#3. A lack of mucus discharge
Again, I had the opportunity to work with a lovely young woman a few months ago. We’ll call her Katie. Katie had experienced 4 miscarriages in the previous year after having one healthy baby. I sent her home to chart her vaginal discharges. When she returned, her Creighton Model Chart showed that she had experienced a cervical mucus discharge on only 2 days in her cycle. Again she reported that this was “normal” for her and that it was very easy for her to “see when she ovulated” because she usually had those 2 days of cervical mucus discharge. What I, as a practitioner would hope to see on a healthy woman’s chart, would actually be 5-8 days of cervical mucus. Let’s talk for a moment about why mucus matters. Each cycle when a woman begins the process towards ovulation, the egg grows inside a structure known as a follicle. This follicle secretes the estrogen hormone at higher and higher amounts until ovulation (when the egg is released). Estrogen is what causes structures inside the cervix to produce cervical mucus. So a lack of cervical mucus, while it seems like no big deal, can be an indicator of numerous problems, even ovulation related defects. It is commonly seen in women struggling with infertility, with miscarriage, and is a possible factor in ectopic pregnancy.
#4 Way too much mucus discharge!
On the other end of the spectrum is too much discharge! As I said before, a woman should expect to see 5-8 days of cervical mucus discharge, typically (not always) in the middle of her cycle. Seeing a continuous mucus discharge can indicate infections or inflammation to the cervix. Sometimes it is associated with an overgrowth of yeast or sexually transmitted diseases. It can also indicate fluctuations in the ovarian hormones.
If you have any of these symptoms and would like to learn more about what your fertility cycle is trying to tell you, you may want to begin charting with a Creighton Model practitioner’s guidance. Creighton Model practitioners work with NaPro TECHNOLOGY physicians who are trained to use this charting to diagnose and treat gynecological health conditions. You can view and sign up for an upcoming online intro class here.
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Thanks for reading!