1. The first half of your cycle–your Week 1 and Week 2–is the part the varies in length. It could be 14 days or 12 days or 16 days, and so on. This is the part that determines how long your overall cycle will be–whether it’s the average 28 days or it’s longer or shorter.
The second half of your cycle–your Week 3 and Week 4–is usually a stable 14 days (give or take a day and barring illness, stress, medications and other factors that can make your cycle wonky). This part tends to stay the same length regardless of how long your cycle is.
2. The first half of your cycle is when estrogen rises–and for most women, this means lots of good stuff: a better mood, more energy, super-charged brain, revved libido, higher confidence and more creativity.
3. If you tack on extra days to your cycle, you’re most likely adding more days to the first half–the awesome rising-estrogen half.
So, how can you tack on extra awesome cycle days, you may now be asking yourself?
In the study of 5,386 women, those who took a folic acid supplement or multivitamin with folic acid were less likely to have a “short” cycle (shorter than 27 days) and more likely to have a “long” cycle (30 to 33 days) or “very long” cycle (34 days or longer) than women who skipped these supplements.
The odds of longer cycles were greater for women who took the folic acid as part of a multivitamin, who were 18 to 30 and didn’t have children.
Among folic acid users, there was also a slightly reduced risk of having irregular cycles.
So, how does folic acid affect menstrual cycle length? Researchers believe it may lower the level of the amino acid homocysteine in the ovaries, helping them function better, which then impacts the length of your cycle. And, because the effect was stronger in women using multivitamins, the researchers suspect there may be a synergistic effect that makes folic acid work more robustly when taken with other essential nutrients.
You’ve probably already heard you should be taking folic acid if you’re trying to get pregnant since it reduces the risk of certain birth defects. Folic acid has also been shown to decrease frequency of migraines and protect your brain as you age.
Now you can add potentially lengthening your cycle to the ever-growing list of reasons to take this key nutrient.
BONUS TIP: Want to further increase your odds of having a cycle that’s longer? Avoid cigarettes and cut back on caffeine and alcohol. All have been linked to short cycles.
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[Photo: Bradley Stemke]