Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Love Your Cycle

October 20th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

patelToday is Love Your Body Day, a program instigated by NOW to counter the media-fostered ideal of slender, white, long-haired, able-bodied, perpetually happy femininity. We here at re:Cycling are all about self-love, Health At Every Size, and fat acceptance, but we’d like to encourage you to celebrate your cycle while you’re basking in all that body love.

“The menstrual cycle is a window into the general health and well-being of women, and not just a reproductive event,” according to Paula Hillard, M.D., Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Pediatrics at Stanford University. You don’t have to “have a happy period” (as one femcare brand likes to say) to appreciate your cycle. Whether you welcome or despair the arrival of your flow each period, you can recognize menstruation as a vital sign of health, letting you know that your endocrine system is functioning as it should. Of course, symptoms of pain and excessive menstrual flow should be monitored, and can be treated with medications or lifestyle changes as warranted, to be determined by you and your health care professionals.

So as you’re celebrating your beautiful body and all it can do, share the love!

  

7 Responses to “Love Your Cycle”

  1. BGM says:

    “Whether you welcome or despair the arrival of your flow each period, you can recognize menstruation as a vital sign of health, letting you know that your endocrine system is functioning as it should.”

    I am a woman with polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis. I have spent the past fourteen years not knowing when my period is going to show up, how long it will stay once it’s here, and how many days of excruciating pain I will endure before it’s over. Medication after medication has failed to control these symptoms. So, with all due respect to this idea – which, as a women’s health care provider, I would otherwise encourage – menstruation in and of itself is not a sign of a normally functioning endocrine system. I menstruate, on an extraordinarily erratic and mind-numbingly painful schedule. My endocrine system is most assuredly not “functioning as it should.”

    • Laura Wershler says:

      Hi BGM,

      Dr. Prior didn’t mention this in her comment, but you will also find some excellent information that is not common knowledge about PCOS on the site she noted: http://www.cemcor.ubc.ca .

      Thanks for commenting.

      Laura Wershler

  2. Elizabeth Kissling says:

    Thanks for your note, BGM. I should know better than to generalize about menstruation.

    I was drawing upon the work of Menstrual Cycle as a Vital Sign project and trying to promote awareness of menstrual and reproductive health on Love Your Body Day, but of course, there is no universal menstruating woman.

  3. BGM says:

    And I absolutely support your promotion of that project. It is VERY critical that women understand their menstrual cycles and how their overall health can impact them, and I’m totally behind that. Perhaps it would’ve been better phrased to say, as a friend of a friend did, that menstruation is a window into the endocrine system’s function, for better or for worse. A woman with perfect 28-day cycles of 4-day light-to-moderate bleeds can probably take solace in the fact that her hormones are functioning as they should. A woman whose cycles are erratic, who bleeds extraordinarily heavily, or who experiences extreme pain on her periods can – and should – use that as an indicator that something may well be off.

    Regardless, no harm done :)

  4. Thanks for reminding us of the message that menstruation is about the health of
    the whole body, not just about potentially having babies.
    It is time to take that message one step further:
    As well as regular flow and normal estrogen levels, releasing an egg and making
    sufficient progesterone (a normal time from ovulation until the next flow) is
    also important for health.

    You need normal estrogen levels but also normal cyclic progesterone levels for
    optimal bone health. But, you ask, don’t women with regular cycles always
    ovulate? And aren’t there usually 14 days from release of an egg until the
    next period? NO–those generalization hide the fact that about a third of
    all regular cycles (in the studies with the most comprehensive data) show
    disturbed ovulation.

    In a meta-analysis of prospective studies of premenopausal women ages 20-40
    that tracked both ovulatory characteristics and bone changes, women within the
    cohorts with normal ovulation have more positive bone changes than women with
    ovulatory disturbances (anovulation and short luteal phase cycles). In practical
    terms, the three studies totalling about 400 women and tracking cycles and
    bone over about 2 years on average with at least five cycles monitored a year
    showed over a one percent increase in bone density in the women with the most
    consistently normal ovulation and a one precent loss in those with ovulatory
    disturbances.

    The rub is that documenting normal ovulation takes women’s interest and effort.
    For those who want to know about ovulation, the CeMCOR website http://www.cemcor.ubc.ca
    under “Tool” has diaries that include a line for first morning temperature and
    instructions on a simple way to know if you ovulate and how long your luteal
    phase is.

    “Estrogen’s what makes a girl a girl. However, Progesterone with Estrogen is
    what makes a girl a woman.”

    Cheers,
    Jerilynn
    s heal

  5. Julia Materasso - Marymount says:

    This post was very meaningful to me because I happen to be one of the women who had appreciation for my period, instead of disappointment. For me, getting my period was not about becoming a woman or having the ability to reproduce. Instead, it meant possibly freeing me from a disease that I grew up with. I developed epilepsy at age two and struggled with it throughout my childhood, having weekly seizures. At one point, my mother shared with me that my doctor told her that perhaps getting my period would eliminate my epilepsy. Apparently the new hormones would balance out the unstable chemistry in my brain. I couldn’t wait to get my period, because it would free me of taking epilepsy medications and having embarrassing seizures. Fortunately, the doctor was right. I grew out of the epilepsy once I became a woman. Now I appreciate my period and look at is as cleansing rather than disappointing or aggravating or not being young anymore. It means that I can now live a normal life.

  6. Laura Daniels says:

    I think that this is a very refreshing and honest post. Many people view their period as being a negative rather than a positive. This is a great way to show that by getting your period, it helped you move past a debilitating disease. This has helped me realize that getting your period is not always a burden but a “cleansing” as you stated above.

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