We are taught minimal information about our monthly cycle during our school days. We are told that a period happens every 28 days or so, and bleeding lasts for between 3 and 7 days. Many of us know the female menstrual cycle is much more complex than simply bleeding for a few days a month. We teamed up with Womco, the digital female health app, to bring you a monthly hormone guide for nursery practitioners.
The EYFS is unlike any other setting; a whopping 98% of nursery employees are female. This makes nurseries the perfect sector to pave the way for other companies to raise awareness of how to support women through their monthly cycle.
What is Womco?
We spoke to Annabel de Gheldere, co-founder and CEO of Womco, to gather expert tips and strategies to help women understand their monthly cycle. She also shares ideas on how nursery managers can organise menstruation support for their practitioners (and themselves).
Womco is the digital female health app designed to support women through their monthly cycles and into perimenopause and menopause. The app provides expert menstruation advice and resources and helps women reduce hormonal symptoms through inspiring tailored recipes, tracking functions and advice.
What is the menstrual cycle?
The menstrual cycle is often misunderstood. The 3-7 days of bleeding (a period) are not the cycle’s beginning and end. Lasting the whole month, there are 4 phases of the menstrual cycle. Each phase brings with it different levels of hormones, which impact our energy levels, mood, and even mental health.
Hormones control the whole menstrual cycle; there is no one-size-fits-all experience that all women will have. Some women may have hormone imbalances or ovarian conditions, which means they will experience more severe symptoms. It is essential to track your cycle and the symptoms you experience. If you notice any changes contact your local GP or menstrual expert for advice.
The phases of the menstrual cycle.
There are four phases to the menstrual cycle, each bringing varying hormone levels which will affect our mood and energy and include different physical symptoms.
Phase One: Menstruation.
During this time, your oestrogen and progesterone levels are low. This reduction in progesterone causes the womb’s lining to shed (causing bleeding). This can result in:
Phase Two: Follicular Phase.
The follicular section of the menstrual cycle has slightly increased oestrogen levels whilst progesterone levels remain low. During this time of your monthly cycle, you may feel a slight increase in energy, concentration, and mood.
Phase Three: Ovulation.
The section of the female menstrual cycle where women are most fertile. Experiencing an oestrogen surge during this phase of your period, you may feel:
Phase Four: Luteal Phase.
The notorious luteal phase is often when women feel at their worst. The follicle that released the egg during ovulation produces the hormone progesterone, causing your body’s balance of progesterone to increase. When your body knows it is not pregnant, these hormones will drop again, preparing for menstruation. During the second week of the luteal phase, some women may experience pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) or other hormone-related disorders.
The luteal phase can impact:
Looking after your nursery practitioners during each menstrual phase.
Women can have approximately 450 periods during their lifetime (excluding pregnancy pauses and health-related incidents). EYFS settings must take the lead to show how to support their nursery practitioners through their monthly cycle and keep your nursery team happy.
Raise awareness of menstrual health.
The understanding that periods should be uncomfortable and something to ‘get on with’ is incorrect and outdated. Increasing awareness surrounding period health can help women feel supported and allow them to recognise when their period symptoms may require additional medical advice.
Prioritise practitioner well-being.
Being mindful that all practitioners will be on a different cycle, try to champion a healthy work-life balance for your nursery team. For example, after any late nights that may be involved due to parents’ evenings, be aware practitioners may be increasingly tired the following day. Look at your nursery’s calendar events beforehand, and avoid booking several events in one week.
Ensure the facilities are suitable.
Sanitary bins, regular cover for toilet breaks and suitable toilet facilities are all needed to help practitioners during their periods. Ensuring toilets are well-stocked with spare sanitary products can be appreciated by any practitioners caught off-guard.
Menopause awareness and policies in EYFS.
Annabel is passionate about increasing available support in the workplace for women experiencing menopause. It is vital nursery managers and owners take creative measures to raise awareness of and access to support for perimenopausal women who work in early years.
Provide female health benefits for nursery practitioners.
As Blossom and Womco agree on how important increased awareness is surrounding female health, we have teamed up to offer Womco resource access at a 25% discounted rate for Blossom customers (new and existing). Supplying your nursery team with increased support and access to the Womco app may help improve staff retention, as they will feel valued and supported.
How to hack your period: advice for nursery practitioners.
Your energy levels, sugar cravings, and mood will change significantly throughout your period. Annabel reminds us how important it is to understand the cycle and the impact that has on you as an individual. We encourage the children we care for to develop mentally healthy habits, but do we do the same for staff? Let’s discover how nursery practitioners can help themselves to remain healthy throughout their cycle.
Maintaining a healthy diet is important when tackling the ebbs and flows of the monthly cycle for women. Thinking of healthy and tasty recipe ideas after a busy day is often the last thing on our minds. Womco offers tailored recipe inspiration, helping women eat well while improving their health throughout their cycle.
Exercise ideas for women.
Team sports and activities positively impact mental health. Although running around or joining a sports team may sound unappealing after a busy day at work, the social boost and health benefits of exercise can help improve period health. Movement is good for the body; consider local clubs looking for beginner players or a local beginner running club. If joining a social setting may be too much, you can access hundreds of hours of free exercise videos online. Lucy Wyndham-Read has free access to her YouTube, ranging from 7-minute sessions to sessions specific for menopause.
Tracking period information.
Tracking information surrounding your period is important to spot patterns and understand your cycle better. Female health apps allow women to track their cycle, including adding mood and energy levels.
Know the signs of other conditions.
Discomfort during periods is a symptom most women have experienced. However, what is ‘normal’ for one woman may not be for another. Knowing what your normal looks like helps to recognise the signs of other conditions.
What is PCOS?
PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. The hormonal condition’s cause is unknown, but there are common signs and symptoms of PCOS:
PCOS can also be linked with other health issues; like diabetes and increased blood pressure. Annabel encourages all women to be aware of their periods through regular tracking.
What is PMDD?
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a severe form of PMS. It usually occurs the week before the menstruation phase of the cycle and reduces significantly once the bleeding begins. It can be incredibly challenging for women with PMDD, especially those who are undiagnosed and are struggling due to thinking every woman feels this way. Tracking these symptoms and speaking to your GP with evidence from previous periods is important. It is believed to be manageable through lifestyle changes such as exercise, diet and rest. However, in some cases, other medication interventions may be necessary.
Blossom and Womco.
The early years sector is the perfect setting to set the standard for other employers when it comes to female health. With 98% of nursery practitioners being female, we must understand and support our nursery staff through the menstrual cycle, peri-menopause and menopause. Womco and Blossom have partnered to raise awareness of period health. Womco would like to invite all Blossom Educational nurseries to join their pilot and access the Womco solution at a 25% discount from January – March 2024.