By Suzannah Weiss. Photos: Stocksy.
Last month, mostly out of curiosity, I started using the period-tracking app My FLO. It tells you not only how fertile you are at any given time, but how to eat to make your period more manageable and when to exercise to decrease cramps. But most interesting of all, it can help explain how your feelings about your relationship will change throughout your cycle based on your hormone levels. One particular line in its guide to the luteal phase—the 10-14 days before your period—stood out to me: "Pay attention to your inner voice—it's not you being hormonal, it's your inner wisdom nudging you that something might not be where you want it to be. Bring things up and out."
I'd noticed myself engaging in periods of questioning (pun intended) followed by periods of bliss (pun still intended), both of which I'd dismissed as the results of some external factor I couldn’t pinpoint. Was it the weather? Work-related stress? But looking at these ebbs and flows through the lens of my hormones began to give them rhyme and reason. The correlation wasn't perfect, but once I started to pay attention, it seemed like my relationship doubts often set in soon before my period.
Wondering whether I should really take these thoughts seriously instead of deeming them the product of some natural monthly moodiness, I spoke to My FLO's founder, Alisa Vitti, a functional nutritionist and author of WomanCode. During our conversation, she reframed much of the traditional PMS wisdom we've been taught to believe. All the different perspectives we have throughout the month provide different insights, she explained, so our changes of heart are not a weakness but a strength.
Vitti says it’s common for women to have relationship concerns right before and during their periods. But then, we brush them off once we enter the follicular and ovulatory phases, which make us more attracted to our partners.
"Women often stay in relationships that are suboptimal, where they feel like their needs aren’t being met. That testosterone during ovulation is like 'I don't like this guy long-term, but I really want to have sex with him right now,'" she warns. “Your ovaries don’t lie. The way your brain works during the luteal phase and menstrual phases is that it’s presenting you with the truth with a capital T."
Sherry Ross, M.D., OB-GYN and women's health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center, verified this. "Hormonally, women are more likely to be interested in sex with their partner in the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle closer to ovulation," she said. "It appears to happen as a result of the hormonal surges around this time of the month. The second part of the menstrual cycle, known as the luteal phase, may be the best time to be the bearer of bad news if you are planning a breakup.”
Vitti believes we need to pay attention to our menstrual and pre-menstrual concerns, not just for the sake of our relationships but for the sake of women's empowerment. “We can’t buy into the mythology that for over 50 percent of the month, you can’t trust yourself," she says. "That is really toxic and disempowering at the most profound level of mythology and conditioning.”
While a breakup wasn't called for in my case, Vitti did convince me to talk to my partner when I was dissatisfied instead of just chalking it up to my own hormones and waiting for any weird feelings to pass. And honestly? That's something we should all probably be doing—no matter what time of the month it is.
This story originally appeared on Glamour.
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