Before we can understand what the length of you cycle indicates about your hormones, we first have to know: What is defined as your “cycle”?
Your cycle begins the first day of heavy, moderate, or light bleeding (spotting prior to your menstruation does not count as the beginning of your cycle) and ends the day before your next menstruation begins.
A healthy cycle length is 24-36 days long
I had a client tell me once how her cycle length was always 40-50 days and when she asked her doctor if that was okay, her doctor replied with “you don’t need to worry about that until you want to get pregnant.” 🚩🚩🚩
Your cycle length is just ONE indicator of the health of your hormonal activity, but it can give us some vital clues into how well your hormones are functioning.
Healthy hormone function is needed for OVERALL health and wellbeing, NOT just for getting pregnant. If any doctor tells you it’s “fine” to skip periods or continually have abnormal cycles, find a new doctor.
So, what can your cycle length indicate about your hormones???
SHORT CYCLES (<24 days)
Short cycles can indicate that ovulation is happening early in your cycle or that you’re not achieving a healthy ovulation. If you’re ovulating early in your cycle this indicates that your hormone, FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), is rising too quickly following menstruation. This is likely to occur when there is low progesterone and estrogen from the previous cycle. A short cycle could also be a sign of anovulation (aka, you don’t ovulate at all). Lack of ovulation could also indicate insufficient hormonal activity.
NORMAL CYCLES (24-36 days)
Normal cycles likely indicate that you are ovulating (yay!). However, it’s been found that 30% of women who have normal cycle lengths, still have underlying ovulatory dysfunction. In these women, they have normal cycle lengths but may not have healthy estrogen levels which leads to poor ovulation and thus, low progesterone. In these women we see an increase in PMS symptoms, poor cycle biomarkers (confusing cervical mucus and/or a short luteal phase), infertility, and possibly other symptoms like acne, headaches, or digestive issues throughout the cycle.
We always need to look at your cycle length in relation to the other signs your body is telling you.
LONG CYCLES (>36 days)
Long cycles indicate either a delayed ovulation or anovulation. A delayed ovulation indicates difficulty of either FSH being released from the brain or a poor rise in estrogen. A poor rise in estrogen could lead to low progesterone levels. Often times, in long cycles we see signs of estrogen dominance, as estrogen is higher relative to progesterone.
Signs of estrogen dominance: heavy/painful periods, PMS, headaches, decreased sex drive, bloating, mood swings, fatigue, anxiety & depression, breast tenderness, endometriosis, fibroids, and hormonal weight gain
If you are having anovulatory cycles (i.e other biomarkers such as cervical mucus or luteal do not reflect ovulation occurred), this is a sign of low hormonal activity. This means your body is not even signaling a rise in estrogen and you produce little to none progesterone.
Signs of low hormonal activity can include: Dry skin, tender breasts, weak or brittle bones, trouble concentrating, moodiness and irritability, vaginal dryness, hot flashes and night sweats.
Having a wonky cycle here and there (less than 2x per year) can be normal. But if you are CONSISTENTLY having cycle outside the normal range, then this is an indicator that something is up with your hormones.
After reading this are you now wondering “what are the other biomarkers in my cycle that reflect my hormonal activity??!!”
Cervical mucus, the length of the different phases of your cycles, and even the quality of your menstruation can all reflect your hormonal activity! I teach all about how to track these biomarkers and what they mean in my 1:1 Coaching Program!