Every month, there are a few consecutive days where you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re the sexist person to have ever walked the earth.
Your skin looks smoother, face fuller, lips pinker – no matter how down you were about your body image just three days before, right now, you simply know you’re at 10 out of 10.
That’s ovulation, baby.
During ovulation there are genuine physical changes that make us feel more attractive.
And, while we know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, these changes are also designed to make us look more attractive too.
Given it’s the ideal time to lure in potential mates, biologically speaking this makes a lot of sense.
So, if your body image fluctuates throughout the month, don’t worry, you’re not crazy.
One day you might feel like a supermodel and the next a literal gremlin – but it’s all a result of the menstrual cycle (what isn’t?).
Here’s what to expect from each phase of your cycle.
How does the follicular phase impact body image?
In the follicular phase of our cycle, which occurs just before ovulation, our oestrogen starts to rise before peaking during ovulation.
‘This increase in oestrogen can contribute to higher energy levels, improved mood, and a generally positive outlook,’ says Dr AshfaqKhan, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Harley Street Gynaecology.
‘Feeling more energised and upbeat during this phase may positively impact body image, as individuals may feel more confident and satisfied with their appearance.’
Some people also experience an increase in breast fullness and sensitivity in this period, as well as a heightened libido, all of which can contribute to better body image.
How does ovulation impact body image?
We tend to ovulate for three days around two weeks before the beginning of our period.
‘During ovulation, there is a surge in the production of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH),’ explains Dr Ashfaq.
There’s also an increase in oestrogen levels, he tells Metro.co.uk.
‘Some of the effects of oestrogen can include increased blood flow to the skin, which can result in a healthier and more vibrant complexion,’ explains Dr Ashfaq.
‘Additionally, oestrogen can influence facial symmetry and certain physical features associated with attractiveness, such as facial proportions and waist-to-hip ratio.’
Dr Danielle Nader, clinical research scientist at the period care app Joii, says that women also produce a ‘more attractive body odour’ when they’re ovulating, she says, but all of these changes are often very subtle and may not be noticeable to anyone but yourself (unfortunately).
How does the luteal phase impact body image?
The luteal phase, which follows ovulation, is categorised by falling oestrogen and progesterone levels. This is when we start to get premenstrual symptoms like cramps, mood swings, bloating and acne – AKA our monthly flop era.
During this phase, says Dr Ashfaq, we’re more likely to experience water retention and weight fluctuations, emotional sensitivity and cravings for sugary food and carbs, all of which can negatively influence the way we think about our bodies.
How does menstruation impact body image?
Finally, during our period, we might feel uncomfortable both physically and mentally.
‘Menstruation can bring physical discomfort such as bloating, breast tenderness, cramps, and fatigue,’ says Dr Ashfaq.
‘These symptoms may lead to temporary changes in body shape or sensation, which can impact how someone perceives their body during that time.’
Mood changes as well as weight fluctuations and water retention can also ‘lead to shifts in body image perceptions and feelings of dissatisfaction.’
It’s important to state that this is not a one size fits all, and different people will feel differently about their body at each stage of their cycle.
That said, if you find you’re feeling particularly negative towards the way you look, try to work out where you are in your cycle and remind yourself that the thoughts will pass.
Or just count down the days until your next ovulation phase.
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