The seasons shift reliably through a cycle and so do day and night. Pregnancy and birth have a reliable cycle. Even a contraction has a cycle.
But two of the most discussed cycles of the world share a rhythm more often than not: the cycle of the moon and a menstrual cycle.
Is there any deeper meaning to how ovulation and the full moon sync up? Is there any reason to pay attention to how our cycle syncs with the moon?
I think that there is, but to understand how the moon and the menstrual cycle work together, we have to unlearn most of what we know about periods.
The Mythical Menstrual Cycle
If you menstruate, there is a cycle that you were taught you have.
It is 28 days long. You ovulate on day 14. You bleed for 4 days. And you’re somehow fertile every day of that cycle.
That is…all BS. There’s no kinder way to say it.
Healthy menstrual cycles vary from 25 to 35 days with bleeding between 3 to 7 days and ovulation somewhere between the first day of bleeding for this cycle and the first day of bleeding for the next cycle, usually somewhere in the middle.
There are only two consistencies across all menstrual cycles. The first is that however long a person’s luteal phase is, it will be the length of their luteal phase across the majority of their cycles. But that length? Only true for them.
Secondly, you are only fertile when you have fertile quality cervical mucus leading up to ovulation. You only ovulate once in a cycle, that egg lives for 12-24 hours, and if the egg is not fertilized within that time it dissolves.
We could write an entire book together about what different menstrual cycles look like and many exist. I’ll leave those for you to read so we can get into why you are reading this post.
What the heck does the moon have to do with your menstrual cycle?
The Moon and the Menstrual Cycle
While healthy menstrual cycles vary from 25 to 35 days, the average menstrual cycle is 29 days.
What else averages 29 days? The cycle of the moon.
Many theories floating around state that before the invention of artificial light, most women and other menstruating people ovulated at the full moon and menstruated at the new moon.
These theories rest on the idea that the light of the waxing and full moon trigger the necessary hormonal cascades that develop and release eggs.
And there might be something to this: even in our modern world of altered sleep schedules and artificial light one study found that 28.3% of women menstruated at the new moon with all other menstrual/moon correspondences ranging from only 8.5-12.6%.
Because we so reliably menstruate based on the cycles of the moon, some philosophies have arisen about the spiritual and mental significance of these correspondences. One extremely popular philosophy is what I refer to as the White Moon theory.
The Cycles of the Moon
The cycle of the moon, just like the cycle of the seasons moves from extreme yin to extreme yang – new to waxing to full to waning.
Winter to spring to summer to fall.
Hibernation to generation to growth to harvest.
Menstruation to follicular phase to ovulation to luteal phase.
Cycles within cycles within cycles, right?
White Moon theory has a cycle here, too:
Red to Pink to White to Purple.
Now, before we get too much farther, I do not follow White Moon theory.
I am an acupuncturist who specializes in womb wellness and have come to an understanding of these cycles through the lens of seasonal living, Chinese medicine, and years of observation.
While I have definite overlap with the White Moon theory, we have some fundamental disagreements.
My suggestion for theories like this is always the same: take what resonates, take what makes sense, take what is right for you – leave the rest.
This isn’t science. This is a way of tuning into how your body works. And if it doesn’t work for you, there is another way to understand your body out there.
So, without further ado, let’s start with the most common cycle: the Fire Cycle.
The Fire Cycle
The Fire Cycle is the most yang cycle, just like summer is the most yang season.
A Fire Cycle has ovulation near the full moon and menstruation near the new moon.
White Moon theory considers this to be a cycle where the menstruating person is the most focused on creating and sustaining a family.
What I have seen is that for the people who sync ovulation with the full moon, they are the most focused on creation itself and sustaining the products of that creation.
Yes, the creation may be children.
But it might also be a business, a novel, a masterpiece painting, a high powered career, a yoga practice, or the perfect raspberry cheesecake recipe.
A Fire Cycle allows you to take all of the yang within your body and all of the yang in the world around you and direct it to whatever your “sacred yes” is.
In this way, just like the fire element of Chinese medicine, a Fire Cycle is expansive. It means that you are in a season of growth.
If this is you, spend some time journaling on the following: What are you creating? In what ways are you expanding? What are you saying yes to bringing into the world and how can you make more space for that in your life?
The Metal Cycle
As autumn follows summer, the next cycle we are going to cover is metal (the element of autumn).
Metal has a descending action, moving us towards hibernation. We harvest the things we’ve grown over the summer, choose what is of good enough quality to sustain us through the winter, and discard the rest.
A Metal Cycle is a cycle in which we are ovulating during a waning moon, so the most yang part of our cycle carries this quiet, discerning, and descending action.
So, if you are finding yourself in a season of ovulating during the waning moon, and menstruating during the waxing moon, ask yourself: What have you created recently? What are you harvesting now? How can you separate the wheat from the chaff – keep what serves you and discard the rest? How can you be more discerning? And how can you prepare for a season of quiet and self care?
The Water Cycle
Just like the Fire Cycle was the most yang cycle, the Water cycle is the most yin, dark, and quiet like a beautiful winter night.
A Water Cycle has ovulation occurring on a New Moon and menstruation occurring on a Full Moon.
According to the White Moon theory, people with this cycle tend to be wise women and spiritual leaders, focused more on teaching and community than raising a family.
What I have found is that people with a Water Cycle are in a season of the Self.
The Water element has an inward and contracting energy, like the cold of winter making you curl up into a ball under a blanket.
The yang of your ovulation occurring during a new moon is guiding you through this contraction. It’s guiding you to conserving your energy, taking deep breaths that go down to your root, and resting.
During this rest, it’s completely natural to connect with a profound part of yourself that is home to your deepest wisdom. When you write this down or share it, you are a crone, you are a priestess, you are a wise woman. You are sharing the synthesis of what you discovered during the process of fiery creation, and then distilled through metal discernment.
So, if you find yourself with a Water Cycle, journal about: What ways am I being called to take care of myself? How can I rest? How can I connect with my inner stillness? How could I share that knowledge I find in stillness with others in a way that preserves my boundaries and self care?
The Wood Cycle
After every winter comes a spring: the upward rise of yang represents the season of generation. This cycle has ovulation occurring during a waxing moon and menstruation during a waning moon.
Wood energy is aggressive and determined. Waking fully rested from a winter’s hibernation, this energy is bright-eyed, ready to plan out some farm fields and plant some seeds.
While not quite the same sort of creative force as a Fire Cycle, the Wood Cycle is a cycle of possibility. It’s everything just under the surface of the soil, or just newly bloomed.
you find yourself with a Wood Cycle, ask yourself: what are all of the things I want to create right now? Can I set goals around these creations? Can I set the stage for when that creative energy comes knocking?
Finally, there is the fifth cycle.
The Earth Cycle
Wait, what? Four seasons, four moon phases, four parts of the cycle.
What’s this fifth element?
Chinese Medicine has five elements and Earth is the last one.
Earth is the center of everything. From an ancient perspective, the heavens rotated around the Earth. Things that we eat come from the Earth. Everything that lives returns to the Earth. The Earth is our home.
At the end of every season, we spend some time in a season of change and transition that corresponds with the Earth. Giovanni Maciocia called this the “cosmological sequence.”
The Earth is about nourishment and is related to our digestive system. It’s a metaphor for how we process and synthesize everything we take in which makes diet and lifestyle very important for those with an Earth Cycle.
The Earth Cycle is a cycle for those with irregular or absent periods. There is no regular ovulation or menstruation.
- are on hormonal birth control
- are going through menarche
- are going through perimenopause
- are in the postpartum period
- are breastfeeding
- have PCOS
- are trans and are supplementing hormones
- don’t have a uterus
- have amenorrhea
…the list goes on and on.
One of the drawbacks of the White Moon theory is that it leaves out a huge subset of women and menstruating people.
The Earth Cycle is a reminder that no matter what your menstrual cycle does or does not look like, we are all connected by existing. We can still connect to the rhythms of nature by honoring the cycles where we see them.
So, if you have an Earth Cycle, ask yourself how you can best nourish yourself? Where you can find the best quality food, water, lifestyle choices, news – anything you can intake and properly digest? What other cycles can you lean into more heavily so that you can connect deeply with the cyclical nature of the world?
It’s about connection
I could go on for hours about how tapping into what our menstrual cycles are telling us is the key to holistic health, but I think here is a good place to pause.
If you take one thing from this post, let it be this: regardless of how your body is syncing with the cycles around you, you need to pay attention to it. Your menstrual cycle is your body’s way of telling you how well it’s doing physically and how connected you are to the world around you. Your period is a monthly report card of your success.
Pay attention to how your cycle shifts from month to month and you will be amazed at what you learn about yourself, your body, and your connection to the whole of the Universe.
If you liked what you saw here, definitely check out my feed on Instagram @reverie_acupuncture where I talk about womb wellness, seasonal living, and more.
Hope to see you there!
Jessica Gustafson is a licensed acupuncturist in St Paul, MN specializing in women’s health and fertility. She loves working with patients through the Health Foundations Birth Center on Grand Avenue in St Paul and doing home visits in the Twin Cities area. Check out the services page for more information!
Disclaimer: I am an acupuncturist in the state of Minnesota, and the information falls within my scope of practice in my state. However, unless I have directed you here as your homework I am probably not your acupuncturist. The information in this post is for general purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. As always, check with your own acupuncturist or primary care provider before making any lifestyle changes. This post does not create a patient-practitioner relationship and I am not liable for any losses or damages resulting or relating to the content in this post.