Do I Make You Horny Baby? - Your Menstrual Cycle

December 10 2020 | Written by Miranda van Haarlem (she/her)

Throughout this blog post, I am going to be stating what the research says in regards to hormonal changes one can expect throughout their menstrual cycle. This research is based on group-level tendencies and may not represent the experience of every single menstruator, so if your experiences don’t match up, that’s okay! You do you!

Hormones, hormones and more hormones. First of all, we are going to be talking about hormonal changes throughout the body during the menstrual cycle, because it’s important to have a general understanding of where each of these hormones come from and the roles they play in our bodies. I have compiled a glossary here; 

  • Estrogen: a hormone produced in the ovaries that is involved in thickening the uterine lining and produces significant changes in cervical fluid.

  • Progesterone: a hormone produced mainly by the corpus luteum in the ovary following ovulation and is responsible for the rise in basal body temperature and for the changes in cervical fluid in the postovulatory state. 

  • Luteinizing hormone (LH): a hormone produced by the pituitary gland that is released in a surge, causing ovulation.

  • Follicular stimulating hormone (FSH): a hormone produced by the pituitary gland that stimulates the ovaries to produce mature ova and the hormone estrogen.

  • Testosterone: a hormone produced in the ovaries and supports libido, muscle mass, and energy levels.

All definitions taken from Weschler, Toni (2006). Taking charge of your fertility : the definitive guide to
natural birth control, pregnancy achievement, and reproductive health (Revised ed.). New York, NY: Collins.

The Four Phases of the Menstrual Cycle
(Note: the amount of days varies from menstruator to menstruator)

Graphic From: Weschler, Toni (2006). Taking charge of your fertility : the definitive guide to natural birth control, pregnancy achievement, and reproductive health (Revised ed.). New York, NY: Collins

ONE: MENSTRUAL PHASE (DAY 1-5)

What is happening with your hormones? 

As seen above, levels of estrogen, progesterone and LH are low which causes menstrual bleeding to begin. FSH levels begin to rise, which act to prepare the body for another cycle. 

How does this affect your lidido?

This is a stage in the menstrual cycle that really depends on how you are feeling. Some menstruator’s sex drives are at an all time high whereas other can’t even begin to think about sex. As mentioned in a previous blog, 59% of voters on our Instagram poll tended to be more sexually aroused during their period. All in all, how you are feeling - physically and mentally -, throughout your period can significantly impact your libido. Some menstuators use period sex to reduce cramping while for others period sex may increase their symptoms. It is up to you! 

TWO: FOLLICULAR PHASE (DAY 6-10)

What is happening with your hormones? 

Estrogen begins to rise as well as testosterone (not pictured).

How does this affect your lidido?

Because estrogen has been shown to promote vaginal lubrication and increases sexual desire, you may feel a little more frisky around this time as your estrogen levels begin to rise. Research has also shown that an increase in testosterone enhances sexual desire.  

THREE: OVULATORY PHASE (DAY 11-18)

What is happening with your hormones?

Estrogen levels are at their highest a few days before ovulation, but then immediately plummet after ovulation has taken place. LH and FSH surge right before ovulation as well but decline slower as the egg is released from the ovary into the fallopian tubes. Progesterone levels also start to increase after ovulation. 

How does this affect your lidido?

This is what I call a rollercoaster. Ovulation usually occurs around day 14, therefore how you are feeling in regards to sexual desire prior to day 14 may be completely different than after day 14. 

Prior to day 14, a study found that the increasing levels of estrogen are positively related to menstruators' sexual desire across their cycle, whereas progesterone had the opposite effect (we will get to this soon). Another study also found that these hormonally mediated patterns in lidido were also found in lesbian women. Therefore, leading up to ovulation you will most likely feel incredibly horny! One study even concluded that cisgender, heterosexual women preferred vaginal penetrative sex over oral sex around the time of ovulation. 

Now what about after ovulation? After estrogen levels decrease suddenly and progesterone levels start to take a rise, you may feel a drop in your libido. In the novel, “This Is Your Brain On Birth Control”, author Sarah Hill gives an explanation as to why sex drive decreases after ovulation. 

FOUR: LUTEAL PHASE (DAY 19-28)

What is happening with your hormones?

This is progesterone’s time to shine. Progesterone rises throughout this phase but decreases if contraception does not take place. LH and FSH levels continue to decrease. Estrogen levels remain high throughout this phase in order to help the lining of the uterus thicken, but progesterone levels are much higher than estrogen

How does this affect your lidido?

Sadly, most individual’s lidido continues to decrease during this phase, especially if you are dealing with PMS symptoms. As we stated in our last blog, PMS often impacts your energy and day to day mood and progesterone is well known to make menstruators more anxious and “moodier”. All in all, progesterone is a bitch. 

In summary, menstrual cycles truly impact everything, including how libdio changes day to day. Track your cycle! Keep a period journal. You will start to notice changes and patterns throughout your cycle and you will probably feel so in tune with your body. Don’t want to? That is perfectly okay too! You do you. I, for one, am going to be taking advantage of those estrogen-dominant days!

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