4 Ways to Begin to Master Your Menstrual Cycle
I went to the hospital for this…but never again.
Are you struggling with your monthly flow, balancing your feminine hormones, and riding the emotional rollercoaster?
I hear you. And I know this journey all too well for myself as well as many of my clients.
If you identify as a woman who experiences a monthly rhythm, then you may very well know the struggles that can arise when we are out of touch with our bodily cues. Even if you are on birth control, you still have monthly rhythms that involve emotional and bodily changes. They just look a little different.
These struggles related to our cycle can include infertility, PMS, PMDD, endometriosis, cysts, weight gain/loss, emotional imbalances, premature menopause, chronic fatigue, depression, PCOS, and so much more.
According to HealthyWomen.org, nearly 75% of women deal with some form of PMS in their adolescent to young adult years.
As a woman, my menstrual cycles were far from welcomed in my life. From the time I got my period at age 13 until the age of 21, I dealt with a myriad of symptoms that later I learned were, although common, not normal. Every cycle, I use to get knife-like pain that would put me out for some time. It took me away from my athletics and left me in the fetal position on the floor for hours.
So I did the only thing I knew - I numbed out.
Rather than pay attention to my symptoms as a sign of a deeper dysfunction, I would grab for the Advil, Midol, icy hot, and eventually birth control and alcohol as I got older to avoid such excruciating pain. I became so disconnected from my own inner rhythms that one summer day I found myself in a hospital with my right ovary screaming at me. It was some of the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life.
After hours at the hospital and one internal ultrasound later (ugh - the worst), the doctors found absolutely nothing. I repeat, nothing.
Then it hit me…my body was screaming at me to wake up and pay attention. My body was calling for me to do something different and connect with my symptoms rather than continuously avoid the discomfort. My body called me forth into a new journey of health and healing.
This is why when women come in to my office looking for a new approach to menstrual cycle health, I so deeply get their journey and the courageous, surrendering energy it takes to choose a new path from within.
I have found that these 4 ways are great steps to begin to master your menstrual cycle and as a result, have your monthly flow work for you rather than against you.
1.Track Your Cycle
Think about it for a moment…do you actually know when you ovulate or menstruate? Are you aware of the beautiful signs and signals your body tells you when you’re about to release an egg? How about the fact that your hormones are changing constantly which can create changes in emotions and mood?
The first step in healing your cycle is to become in tune with it. There are both natural ways of doing this (tracking your waking temperature, vaginal fluids, cervix position, etc) and ways that include the use of technology.
My favorite phone app that I’ve been using for sometime now is the Flo app. It allows me to track my moods, travel, stress, when my menstrual cycle begins, the characteristics of the flow, and when I ovulate. I’ve gotten to a point of connection with my cycle that I no longer use the app as much because I know the signs my body gives me down to the energy I feel when I ovulate and the day I know my cycle will arrive. I promise it can be this way for you. You just have to start somewhere.
2. Different phases of your cycle = different experiences
Did you know you have four phases of your cycle? During these phases, your hormones shift based on your bodily needs and where you are at in the month. We will go over this in more detail in a future blog, but for now the four phases include your follicular phase, ovulation phase, luteal phase, and menstrual phase.
Because the biochemistry of your body is different in each phase, you will experience energetic differences. For example, during your ovulation phase you may feel more productive, energized, and goal oriented. In contrast, during your mensural phase you most likely feel more internal, have less energy, and desire to go inward. A great book I recommend on learning both the physical and energetic perspectives of the cycle phases is Wild Power by Alexandra Pope.
It’s amazing how relieved women are when I share these simple facts with them. It helps them know they are not crazy, but rather human after all.
3. Look at your menstrual products
Do your research. When it comes to menstrual products, we all know there are thousands on the shelves to choose from. Thankfully we live in a 1st world country and are incredibly privileged to have access to such products that allow us to continue our daily lives. However, not all products are created equal. For example, many conventional tampons and pads are laced with bleach which can be incredibly toxic to our vaginal flora. Toxins like this act as xenoestrogens (estrogen imitators) over time in our body and as a result, our hormonal balance is disrupted.
Some alternative brands and products I love include the Diva Cup as well as Modi Bodi or Thinx menstrual underwear.
4. Take a look at your use of synthetic hormones
I share this with you from a place of no judgment. I was on the pill for over 5 years and by the end, my cycles and my health was a mess. I had gained nearly 30 pounds since high school, I was emotionally unstable, and my periods weren’t any less painful. Not to mention half the time I would miss taking my pill and double up the next day - not ideal. Of course, everyone responds differently to synthetic hormones over time.
If you are someone who is using a form of birth control that impacts your hormonal balance and are still struggling with intense symptoms, I invite you to ask yourself these questions:
Why did I start taking/using this in the first place? Did I feel pressured?
Is this potentially making things worse?
Have my views on health changed?
Have I looked into the long term effects of birth control?
When it comes to long term effects of birth control, women often report feeling massive emotional ups and downs for no reason, weight gain, hormonal acne, depression, increased menstrual pain, and headaches (as certain forms of birth control will increase the thickness of your blood, putting you at higher risk for blood clots).
Before making any changes, make sure you consult with a healthcare team that includes practitioners who honor medical autonomy.
At the end of the day, it’s your body, your choice.
Yours in a healthy flow,