The more I learn about the menstrual cycle, the more I am completely amazed by it. To a degree I feel a little cheated by the fact I wasn’t able to link the physiology, what happens on paper, with the personal, what happens to me, earlier.
Biology classes for me were ok but having attended an all-girls Catholic convent where sex education was taught the year before we were taught about contraception was baffling. My main memory of biology is the time our teacher forced the class through a second viewing of the ‘educational’ 80s porn video with her personal commentary of the joys of her married sex life. Apologies! I take it back, they had a unique approach to teaching contraception. But, most importantly, I don’t recall the emphasis of bringing to life what the physiological processes had to do with me.
Having said that, I wasn’t listening. My hormone levels were off the chart, inducing a lethargy which required top up naps in class. However, one message did stick. I remember my mother saying around the time of my first period:
‘I look forward to my period because it shows me everything is working well.’
And it is true. Your bleed is the most outward clear window to assess how everything else in the menstrual cycle is working.
Knowledge is power so if your knowledge is basic or even good there is more to learn. We are often only reminded of our cycle when our period comes but there are so many changes that take place throughout the whole month, right now even, and it is fascinating. It also explains a lot about why we are the way we are. One way to get to know your cycle is to start tracking it, changes in mood, energy levels, skin, temperature, cervical mucus etc. and compare cycles to see if any patterns develop.
How menstruation could be labeled ‘the curse’ is a mystery given that the complexity, order and precision when working well, put a Swiss watch to shame. Of course, it can be a curse when it isn’t working the way it should. But the real curse is the assumption we should put up with it.
Did you know, the most pain a period should produce is mild discomfort, if anything?
Anything else is a sign something is not working the way it should.
That’s what I love about Chinese medicine. All the things we often put up with – pain, mood swings, tender breasts, bowel disturbance, the list goes on – are questioned and noted as patterns of disharmony, not the accomplished signs womanhood.
While sanitary product campaigns paint menstrual blood as blue, encourage women to play high impact sport on their periods and while society tells us to take a painkiller and push through period pain, I say stop, listen to your cycle and work with it not against it. Menstrual blood should be red without clots, you should rest while you bleed not attempt a marathon and you should seek help if there is pain or symptoms that cause discomfort.
Knowledge is power. Know you cycle. Work with your cycle. Love your cycle.
P.S. Acupuncture is an amazing treatment option for menstrual problems.