Once upon a time, I thought periods were awful. My first bleed (officially called your 'menarche') was just after I turned 12 on the first or second day of year 7, when I began high school in Australia.
My mum gave me a bunch of super pads and I might have even had a tampon ... none the less, I bled through everything and ended the day with the back of my skirt soaked in blood. I tied my new school jumper around my waist to disguise my situation, begged off offers to walk toward home with my friends and instead just sprinted to my old primary school to wait in the shadows until my mum picked me up.
My mum and dad celebrated the occasion and, mum took me out for a special fancy lunch to commemorate my transition into womanhood (a ritual that I think every parent should embrace) which was the only highlight.
Despite this, and perhaps because of the initial experience, I did not have a great relationship with my bleed. I also saw my period as 'God's punishment to women', and a gross uncomfortable reminder that I was growing up and attracting 'the wrong attention'.
My monthly bleed got increasingly worse, more intense, heavier and more irregular as time went on and, by the time I met the father of my children, I was very happy to go and get the pill to help with birth control as well as the severity and unpredictability of my menstruation. At the time I recall working part-time at Portmans, a fashion store, and sometimes being curled behind the counter in agony, unable to even stand without feeling like I was being tortured when I had a shift on the first few days of my cycle.
I took the pill for the next 8 years during which my bleed lessened, my pain reduced, my 'cycle' went like clockwork and ... my weight ballooned, I had massive mood changes, more headaches, developed an undiagnosed autoimmune disorder, got POC and generally felt very disconnected from my self. There were a million and one additional factors at play but I certainly believe that the pill played an important role in contributing to my state at that point in my life and beyond.
It took a Biosignature Practioner Training weekend away with the late Charles Poliquin to make me question everything. He was my first unofficial mentor who really showed people how much lay beyond the food pyramid or energy in vs energy philosophy that was the norm for attaining health at the time. He spoke about how detrimental the pill was on the body's gut health and the short and long term flow on effects of this. So I immediately stopped taking it. That year and leading to that weekend, I had also quit smoking, quit binge drinking, started working out daily and switched to a paleo diet so by the time the year was out, I was slowly coming back to myself.
In the years to follow, it came out that reputable brands of the pill were increasing the risk of breast cancer exponentially (oh and as a side note, that various birth control devices approved by the FDA were causing a plethora of side effects including debilitating pain and the necessity to have full hysterectomies).
And yet doctors still, more often than not, prescribe the pill if you're experiencing acne, excessive bleeding during menstruation, if you complain about high levels of pain or are planning on being sexually active at all and, if your periods are not by clockwork.
I wonder if money has anything to do with it? #bigpharma
No-one seems to ever ask why. Why are you experiencing excess bleeding and irregularity, acne, high levels of pain etc???? Whilst common, it isn't actually normal for things to be like that. Often the reason is the new flood of hormones and/or imbalances which can be resolved naturally without additionally messing with things chemically.
For example, and just to address a few things -
When you first get your period, your body can take a few years to balance out the amount of estrogen that your body pumps out each month, especially if you've been being exposed to lots of hormone disrupters - this can mean a time of too high estrogen which results in excessive bleeding as the uterine lining builds up more as a result. Later in life, excess estrogen and estrogen dominance can occur from hormone disrupters and/or toxins in the body taking precedence with being processed by the liver and estrogen then being reabsorbed instead of processed out.
Puberty/late onset acne is often the result of excess sebum (oils) being released in the skin as a result of a flood of hormones. Aside from being patient and attempting to balance the hormones naturally, a great product to use in the interim and at any point is Organic Jojoba Oil. Jojoba Oil regulates sebum production because it is so similar to it. As a result, it can help with imbalances when there is either naturally too much or too little sebum. Personally, I now use a Lavender, Frankincense and Jojoba Oil blend on my face and neck twice daily to ward against my autoimmune disorder flare ups which can present like psoriasis.
High levels of pain can be due to a number of different things.
It could be endometriosis where the uterine lining grows beyond the uterine and results in extreme understandable pain when this is detaching and shedding
It can be the result of toxins in the body including the use of disposable and/or toxic non-disposable period products. Go to mamavation to read here about which non-disposable period underwear are tox free. Going non disposable and toxic free made the most amount of difference for both my pain levels and irregularity.
It can be due to increased sensitivity due to vitamin and mineral deficiency
It can be due to Endorphin levels being too low (read here about increasing)
It can be due to a lack of self care and the inclination to do too much during this quiet time of the cycle.
And, it can stem from a lack of connection with their womb space which I liken to in fictional werewolf books where the afflicted person refuses to accept what they are, and as a result a completely separate personality and will presents itself as the wolf. Until they actually accept that they are the wolf and the wolf is them, they won't work together. I know this is a random example but I stand by it. Until you accept and love on your bleed, it will be more of a hinderance than a transformational gift.
If we explained this to those that had just started menstruating, and helped them to naturally stabilise their hormone levels, imagine how much better that would be. Instead, teenagers are often told 'this is just how it is, deal with it ... or go on the pill'. When they eventually go off the pill, their systems deal with a massive backlash as well as again having to go through the period of balancing that they were trying to avoid in the first case. Not to mention all the side effects from going on the pill.
According to the Better Health Australian government website, the pill carries a risk of the following side effects:
irregular vaginal bleeding
sore or tender breasts
changes to your skin
a small increased risk of deep vein thrombosis (blood clot), heart attack or stroke and/or breast cancer
They go on to say "These side effects often settle with time. The pill has not been shown to cause weight gain."
Personally, I found that I only experienced more heightened side effects the longer I was on the pill and, whilst the pill may not directly contribute to weight gain, the fact that it causes a strain on your liver and messes with your gut health means that for many, they will inadvertently end up gaining or losing weight. Not to mention that most women will end up vitamin and mineral deficiencies as a bonus, which has a sucky flow on effect.
For me, I haven't been on the pill for 11 years now. I've since had 4 pregnancies, 2 births and 3 years breast feeding, all of which wound up 3 years ago and I can confidently say that I finally feel in control of my cycle.
I manage my hormones naturally and I use the cycle and pull out method to monitor and manage my fertility which when used accurately have around the same success rate as the pill anyway. However I am also blessed with being in a privileged position, and living in a country where I have a multitude of options if I were to become pregnant.
When you have the option of foisting side effects on yourself and turning a blind eye to what your body is telling you/what you are experiencing vs addressing the root cause and going natural - if not in opposition to your wellbeing, go with the later.
To help get you started, download my menstrual cycle chart and guide here, and as always, let me know if you have any questions!
As a reminder, nope I'm not a doctor. See your medical professional, consider your own circumstances and do your own research before making your own informed decisions.
Want to find out more about what I do as a Coach and Hormone Educator, how we can work together to remap your mindset, find your intuitive strategies and empower yourself with your cycle? Read more here or message me to lock in your spot for a consult or 1:1 coaching. x