Ovulation produces hormones that have many health benefits for women. The surge of estrogen in the first part of our cycle and the even bigger surge of progesterone two weeks after ovulation are the only way ovarian hormones are made. The body relies on these hormones to whether or not you want to reproduce. Suppressing them means inhibiting many health benefits.
Hormones In Action
Estrogen promotes muscle gain each month. It also improves insulin resistance, protects us from cardiovascular disease and improves the long-term health of our bones. Progesterone has the power to reduce inflammation, regulates immunity and support thyroid health. It also improves brain function and protects your breasts. The long term benefits of these ovarian hormones include more strength and a better metabolic reserve overall.
Benefits of Ovulation
Every monthly dose of estrogen promotes muscle gain, insulin sensitivity, and the long-term health of bones, brain, and the cardiovascular system. Gynecologists and pediatricians should ask about menstruation and advise girls to chart their cycles. A study published in 2015 says that clinicians “will demonstrate to patients that menstruation is an important reflection of their overall health.”
3 Ways Ovulation Gets Impeded
1. Hormonal birth control
Hormonal birth control stops ovulation by shutting down ovarian function. It replaces estrogen and progesterone with drugs like ethinylestradiol and levonorgestrel that affect every system in our body. Women are at greater risk of depression, hair loss and autoimmunity.
Birth control changes brain structure and who we are attracted to. Recently I shared this information with a group of teenage girls. Several of them were on birth control for acne, mood and heavy cycles. They were surprised to say the least. Several reported mental health issues associated with the pill. They also discussed the lack of support for continuing sport or dance when their cycles started. We laughed about all the funny moments of having periods. We also discussed the silence and shame that still exists.
2. The Female Triad
It is no joke that women need food for our hormones to function well. As a teen I lost my cycle because of my dance training and pressure to have a ballet body. Given that we live in a diet culture it is not uncommon for women to undereat. Active girls and women need more calories, not less. The female triad includes loss of a cycle, decreased energy and low bone density. it is relatively common among young active women and can occur with or without an eating disorder.
The technical term for losing a cycle due to undereating is called hypothalamic amenorrhea. Reproduction is not option without sufficient nutrition so the body shuts it down. In order to ovulate, menstruate and reproduce safely women need enough food.
3. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a syndrome characterized by insulin resistance and excess androgens. Cystic ovaries may or may not be present. It is the number one cause of infertility in women because it often results in lack of ovulation. Balancing blood sugar by eating regular meals helps tremendously. Lifestyle and herbs can turn the symptoms of acne, weight issues and facial hair growth.
Ovulation indicates and promotes health both in the short and long-term. Women can claim the right to ovulate. We can talk up our cycles and enjoy the power they give us. Using the extra energy at ovulation to train harder and resting when our bodies require it makes us stronger. And smarter! Muscles build faster with estrogen and muscles are an indicator of overall health. Our hormones truly are superpowers. We can embrace them as such.