Common Period Misconceptions and What to Do About ThemDec 30, 2021 ● By Cristina Madine
Photo credit pololia for Adobe Stock
Every woman has a story to tell about their time of the month, and that narrative changes over time. Some suffer monthly, while others have a different experience. The number of women that suffer through their cycle is unknown, but most women have or will experience unruly periods.
There are many products, some natural, dedicated to relieving intolerable symptoms, from pain killers to anti-bloating, mood stabilizing or even stopping the period altogether. The messaging is clear that having a period is not desirable and downright miserable.
When a woman goes to a doctor or practitioner to find relief, these symptoms are often considered normal. They may be prescribed some form of birth control, told to take pain medication and assured not to be concerned. But while these symptoms may be common, they definitely are not normal; they point to an unhealthy menstrual cycle.
Misconception 1: PMS and Pain are Normal
Premenstrual symptoms (PMS) refer to around a 100 or so symptoms ranging from physical to psychological during the luteal phase. While slight cramping is okay, and only on the first day, painful periods that need constant pain medication or are so painful that someone misses work or cannot function for days is not.
Misconception 2: It’s Okay to Have an Irregular to Non-Existent Period
Just as the liver and kidneys help detoxify the body, so does the uterus. Therefore, it is essential that the lining be shed regularly. The most important information to know is the length of the period, the length of the entire cycle and the nature of menstruation. Hormone levels and ovulation determine the health of the cycle. A hormonal imbalance will affect ovulation, and failure to ovulate will affect hormonal levels. Regular period cycles last from anywhere between 21 to 35 days. The average cycle is 28 days, with three to five days of bleeding. Healthy cycles have a predictable pattern, are regular and have 12 to 14 days of the follicular phase. A healthy amount of blood should be between two to no more than 10 tablespoons.
Misconception 3: Birth Control is the Fix
The pill, patch and other birth control methods suppress natural hormones. Hormonal birth control disrupts the endocrine system by telling the brain to stop making hormones and consequently, natural hormones are suppressed. Therefore, there is no more ovulation or monthly periods. Bleeding experienced while on hormonal birth control is not a period. It is referred to as a “pill-bleed”. Birth control also depletes many nutrients such as vitamins B, C, E, magnesium, zinc and selenium.
Misconception 4: Only Be Concerned About Fertility When Trying to Conceive
The period can and should be considered as the fifth vital sign for women. A healthy menstrual cycle communicates a lot about what is happening in the body. It lets a woman know that the uterus is getting enough circulation, hormones are well-balanced and ovulation occurs. Society needs to normalize talking about menstruation and recognize that PMS and other symptoms are not healthy. Besides menstruation, other phases are equally important. The entire cycle is a real-time health check. If there is an issue in the follicular phase, ovulation and menstruation will be affected.
The menstrual cycle is quite impressive and a normal, healthy part of a woman’s life. A miserable cycle is the body’s way of saying something isn’t right and needs root cause attention, rather than a pill that masks the symptoms. There is hope. Here are some ways to start rebalancing an unhealthy period cycle.
Begin Tracking Cycles
Several apps are available dedicated to tracking the menstrual cycle. A word of caution; because every woman’s cycle is unique, they often fall short of providing accurate information. It is best to track and learn about all signs from a fertility awareness educator. Learning about appropriate charting that shows where signs of imbalances are helps a health practitioner provide a more accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
Find the Right Practitioner
Many healthcare professionals such as nutritionists, health coaches, medical doctors and naturopathic doctors focus on women’s hormones and fertility health. It is crucial to find the right practitioner that aligns with one’s beliefs and approach. Take the time to research and interview each one to find the best fit.
Do a Hormone Detox
Detoxes are everywhere. Some are trendy and not healthy. However, an appropriate hormone detox focuses on nourishing and supporting all the elimination systems in the body, such as the liver, kidneys, gut and uterus. Beware of detoxes that promote starving or only eating certain foods for an extended period. Not eating enough calories can wreak havoc on hormonal systems.
Cycle syncing is an old-new lifestyle approach bringing women back to understanding their cyclic nature. Women have different needs and requirements over a month during each cycle phase from nutrients, caloric intake, exercise and energy levels. Learning what foods to eat, what types of exercise are appropriate during each phase and when to rest genuinely honors a woman’s cyclic nature. Many women have seen significant improvements in their life when implementing this approach.