I’ve been in relationships with guys who didn’t know much about my hormonal cycle or body — and that’s fine. I don’t expect anyone other than a biologist or doctor to know the ins and outs of my body, and to be fair, I could probably brush up on my knowledge of the male anatomy as well.
BUT, it is helpful to understand your partner’s menstrual cycle and the way their body works. Couples with open communication are usually more satisfied in their relationship and people who are vocal about their health are usually, well, healthier.
Periods and fertility are an important part of life. Easy and open communication not only helps us understand and take better care of ourselves, but it also enables us to form closer and more connected relationships.
So here are some of the basics:
1. Cervical fluid (aka cervical mucus, vaginal discharge) changes throughout the cycle.
Sometimes it’s sticky and clumpier. Sometimes it’s slippery or egg-like in consistency. The latter usually occurs around ovulation, making it easier for semen to reach the egg.
2. The shape of our boobs may vary too.
Breast shape changes throughout the cycle. Some people feel swelling around menstruation, while others feel swelling around ovulation. Swelling — or enlargement — is pleasant for some, and painful for others. Breast sensation (including nipple sensitivity) may also vary throughout the cycle.
3. Skin is more prone to breakouts during PMS or bouts of stress.
Our skin’s appearance changes in response to hormonal variations throughout the cycle. You may notice variations in acne, hydration, elasticity and wound healing depending on our current cycle phase.
4. Energy levels change throughout the cycle.
During certain phases of the cycle, our bodies need more fuel (all the food, please). Exhaustion is a common symptom of PMS.
5. Sex drive may rev up at certain times of the cycle.
Increase in sex drive is especially common around the fertile window. Some people also experience heightened sex drive during menstruation (and hey, period sex may also relieve cramping).
6. Hormonal birth control diminishes these fluctuations.
Hormonal birth control (HBC) halts ovulation and — providing it has been effective and taken consistently — completely removes the fertile window of the cycle. For many, HBC also diminishes variations in sex drive, premenstrual symptoms and other symptoms of the cycle.