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Your body is an amazing thing, woman. Keep in touch with what happens normally in it, and you’ll be fascinated by how much you can understand it, even on a day to day basis.
In a culture where it is considered shameful to utter words such as ‘vagina’ and ‘clitoris,’ women sadly remain less aware of the anatomy and physiology that constitute their own reproductive health. If only women can closely connect with their feminine parts, they will discover how amazingly and beautifully their bodies are designed.
Here are four cues your body gives out to help you get in touch with your insides.
(Note that while there are several other signs which can indicate underlying abnormal health conditions in a woman, this post is about the signs of normal female reproductive health).
The colour and consistency of your vaginal discharge (or white discharge) is a natural indicator of where you are in your monthly cycle. If you have noticed, it can be white on some days, sticky on some days, watery on some days and there can be days with no discharge at all.
Performing a simple test on your white discharge is one of the natural ways to predict your fertile days. Whether you want to plan for a baby or avoid pregnancy, or simply love to explore a bit of your biology, here’s what you can do:
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Take a bit of your white discharge in-between your thumb and index finger. If it stretches and stands like a stick when you move your fingers apart, it is a sign that you are ovulating, that is, an egg has just been released or is almost about to get released from your ovary.
How being aware helps
This property of the vaginal discharge is called Spinnbarkeit in biomedical terms. It can be both interesting and helpful if you perform the test every day for one full monthly cycle. Check for yourself to see how fascinating it is to track how your vaginal secretion changes over the course of your cycle!
Having sex around the time of ovulation, which is usually around 14 days after your last menstrual date, is your ‘fertile period’, and an ideal time for conception; useful if you’re planning for a baby.
Well, you may belong to the 5% of population who does not experience mood swings at all before your period.
If you do experience these, however, tracking such emotional melt-downs along with your menstruation dates over a period of two or three months may reveal a significant pattern. If you consistently had emotional outbreaks for three to four days preceding your period, you are likely experiencing premenstrual stress (or symptoms or syndrome), commonly referred to as PMS.
Just before your period begins, your hormones can take you on an emotional rollercoaster ride. You may experience crying spells about your husband not picking up the phone. You may burst out in anger for those dirty socks not having been put into the laundry bag. Or, you may suddenly recollect a painful past and feel a deep sadness.
PMS is common to many women and is believed to be a result of hormonal fluctuations of the menstrual cycle and low levels of serotonin (a neurotransmitter). PMS is not a disorder; rather it is a set of symptoms which can vary from woman to woman, and could include anxiety, irritability, mood swings, bloating, constipation, backache, headaches and cramps.
In a small percentage of women, however, PMS can be a sign of something serious. If you experience recurrent episodes of depression, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, or insomnia, specifically during the PMS days, it might be a symptom of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) which needs medical attention.
While PMS is widely known among women, the question is how many of us are consciously aware of it when it happens? Besides, how many families are educated about the symptoms, and that she needs support and understanding from others?
Though PMS does not affect daily functioning in most women, the awareness that premenstrual mood swings are psycho-biological can help women handle stress at home and within relationships more maturely. Becoming mindful of PMS can help women indulge in self-care, can hint them to be cautious to keep potential negative thoughts at bay and can make them communicate better with their family.
It is essential that men put thought and care in understanding the natural physiological changes that happen in their partners. Perhaps not making a big deal of her emotional tantrums or sharing home chores during her premenstrual days can not only strengthen relationships but also allow homes to remain in sanity.
Before we dig into the subject, let’s get clear on what exactly we mean by a ‘vagina’. It’s a common misconception to refer the complete external female genitals as vagina. Let’s correct it – it’s called ‘vulva’. Inside your vulva, the muscular opening which connects to your uterus is the vagina.
Unknown to many, the vagina keeps changing throughout the menstrual cycle. An experiment you can do to study your internal biology is to touch and feel your vagina for a few seconds every day for one full monthly cycle. You can be intrigued by how your vagina becomes harder or softer, tightly closed or opened, and dry or fluid-y with different phases in your cycle.
Likewise, your vagina undergoes significant changes during intercourse. In the most ordinary state, the walls of the vagina are closed on to each other, unreceptive to any entry from the external. When aroused, you’ll be surprised with what follows. Vagina, in an excited state, expands to make more space – not just externally but also on the inside. Sexual arousal causes the uterus and cervix to be pulled upwards so as to open up the vagina to a larger area. This is called vaginal tenting.
So, if you feel vaginal tightness during sex, it can mean you are not fully into the play or you are in that phase of your cycle which isn’t meant for procreation. It’s can be a signal to get your foreplay done well before you get busy down there, or perhaps sort out some mental unwillingness which is bogging you away from seeking pleasure.
Menopause is most commonly thought of as a menstrual cycle change that happens for women in their 50s. While this may be true, it is important to be aware that your body begins to give hints about the forthcoming menopause a few years before its actual onset. This intermediate gradual transition phase is called the perimenopause and can begin as early as ten years before your cycle ends.
If you are in sync with your menstrual cycle, you may be able to read the signs of perimenopause in your late 30s or early 40s. Look for changes in the length of your cycle. It may get shorter or longer than usual.
For instance, if you’ve always had your period once in 32 days but recently began to notice it happening 4 days earlier, that is, once in 28 days, it is a sign your system says, “Hey woman, it’s time to wind up!” (This number can be different for different women – look for a distinct shift.) Other signs may include changes in the consistency of the flow, occasional hot flashes, vaginal dryness and sleep problems.
Yes, there isn’t anything you need to do or can do during the perimenopause phase. However, awareness helps you to be mentally prepared for the inevitable, and gives you a chance to equip yourself with relevant knowledge, so that when menopause happens later in your life, you shall sail through it strongly.
If you are here on this line, by now I am sure you are appreciating the wonder woman in you. If throughout your life your knowledge of your reproductive system included only that of using sanitary pads, getting pregnant and giving birth to a child, think how much of nature’s amazing sketch of your body you will remain ignorant about.
Just like you will be able to detect if there were a problem with your eyesight or digestion, you must be able to identify if there happens a change in your female organs as well. For that, you must be in a close, natural acquaintance with your cycle – all the time!
As you close this page, do take with you the necessity to nurture and embrace the lady parts within you, with love.
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Work-from-Home Mom of Two under Six I Blogger I Writer I Erstwhile Biotechnologist
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