Recently, I’ve been back in the dating world – a bit hurt, confused and wanting a meaningful relationship. Like so many of us, I was amid a transformation in my approach to dating and the type of relationship I wanted.
A typical day of mine is filled with hormone chit-chat. From helping a woman heal hormonal imbalances or sitting with a psychotherapy coaching client. I was unexpectedly surprised when my menstrual cycle became one of my guideposts in navigating dating choices. You might not be surprised since I talk about hormones all day, but at this time in my life, my hormonal cocktail took over in a new way and I learned more about myself our ever-fluctuating hormonal changes. The women’s body is set-up for transformation. We go through so many transitions in life and our hormones are always there to help us figure things out. My fluctuating hormones while dating made a difference in the type of men I was attracted to at that time, the intensity of my attraction, and the way I form connections with the guys. In this, I was having way more fun with my libido and sensuality!
How sensual are you feeling right now? I will give you a hint; it’s directly related to where you are in your menstrual cycle. Some days you feel like a turtle. Other days you feel like a cougar. What arouses women are multifactorial, but clearly there is a biological influence.
Do you ever wonder why your attraction to the same person changes throughout the month?
Here is a brief explanation:
During the follicular phase, first half of your menstrual cycle, the ovary nurtures a developing egg. Estrogen and testosterone are starting at a low point in your cycle, then up-surging towards ovulation. This causes your libido to begin at a low point and steadily increase, depending where you are in your cycle during this phase. Your libido becomes stronger as it is preparing you and an egg for implantation. You might start swiping more to the right on the dating app, giving that chiseled guy a ‘shot.’ The thoughts of ‘why not,’ ‘he looks like fun,’ and ‘you never know’ come into the forefront of your mind. Closer to ovulation, the increase in estrogen helps you feel alluring and receptive to sex, while testosterone is the gas pedal in making you flirty and assertive. As your egg becomes ready for ovulation, these qualities help you attract a partner to get your groove on. Do you ever walk into a room, sweatpants still on from the gym, and everyone’s heads quickly turn? Your libido is on!
Ovulation happens at the middle of your menstrual cycle, which is when you might feel the most sensual and fired up to flirt. Oxytocin peaks so you might notice yourself wanting to bond more with others, have more intensity of orgasm, and more lively conversations about creative ideas. Your hormones are telling your body to go out to find the finest and fittest sperm donor. During this time, heterosexual women are more likely to look for alpha-males that have masculine characteristics that will charge up the libido, but might not stay around to take care of the kids. Your hormones are trying to find a sperm that is healthy and will survive to make another human. This is a good time to ask yourself questions, such as: do you feel comfortable to be authentically yourself? How’s the communication? Are your boundaries respected? Hormones, at this time, can blind us to what is important for a long-term relationship. If a long term relationship isn’t on your mind, then relax and focus on your pleasure!
The second half of your menstrual cycle, the luteal phase, is the two weeks between when the egg is released from the follicle and when your period begins. Right after ovulation, estrogen peaks, while testosterone might still have you feeling ready for sex. Then, these hormones gradually decline so you might find yourself spending more time getting in the mood for sex. Since we are less fertile closer to our bleed, we could be more attracted to partners with resources to help with child rearing rather than the blindingly shiny, sexy option. We are in a resting stage, more likely organizing the details in life, reading a book, and meeting friends at a café rather than a loud party. When dating, it can be less about passion and more about witty banter and calm conversation so you can get to know someone.
You might feel more up for sex when you are bleeding, since testosterone is on the rise and estrogen is at the lowest point. Some women feel interested in sex while many others want to allow the body to relax. Sex can be a way to alleviate the pain of cramping and migraines. Be aware that the cervix is wider during your bleed leaving you more prone to allowing bacteria and viruses into your cervix and uterus. Additionally, during your period, your vagina is a more alkaline environment rather than acidic, which gives a thriving chance to microbes. Therefore, you might want to refrain from sex if you experience yeast infections or urinary tract infections.
Are you on the Pill? The phases of the menstrual cycle change on the experience of the pill and our sexual urges follows suit. The pill tricks your body into thinking it’s already pregnant, so you might not feel as connected to experiencing the fluctuations in your sexual urges. Being on the pill has liberated us from the fear of unwanted pregnancy, which has transformed the lives of women, and can have us more relaxed to feel sexual pleasure. On the other hand, the pill has also harmed women’s health in many ways. For instance, it overrides our natural hormones and shuts down our ovaries to not ovulate. Half of our testosterone is made in the ovaries and adrenals. Additionally, the pill raises a protein called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG), which binds with testosterone and makes it inactive. There is less amount of testosterone in our body when SHBG goes up. Many studies are showing that women taking the pill can experience diminished sexual interest and arousal and reduced sexual enjoyment.
Relaxation is a dependent factor in the health of your menstrual cycle and your libido. When your period and libido are out of balance, you are being signaled to evaluate your stress, find ways to manage stress, and bring balance into your life. Much of our stress comes from the resistance to change, especially the changes in our body. When we know and accept the natural fluctuations in our menstrual cycle, we can take advantage of the changes and plan accordingly. When we move with our natural changes, we can feel more relaxed and uplifted in being a woman. Feeling calm and relaxed, even when feeling flirty and spicy, allows us to become more sensitive to our fluctuations and needs, so we can create a fulfilling sexual and creative life!
Nicole Ohebshalom is a Reproductive Psychotherapist based in NYC. She is a Registered Nurse who uses food and meditation to heal hormonal imbalances and trauma. You can find out more about Nicole by visiting her website here and by following along with her on Instagram here!