Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Let’s Celebrate!

June 6th, 2013 by Alice Dan

Public domain photo by Jim Henderson // Creative Commons 1.0
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marymount_dorm_door_231_E55_jeh.jpg

Today marks the start of Making Menstruation Matter, the 20th conference focusing on menstrual cycle research and women’s health. For 36 years, these conferences have been open to those interested in the latest information on menstrual aspects of women’s lives, from menarche to menopause. Not only scientists, but clinicians, educators, artists, writers, and interested members of the general public have contributed to our discussions and debates.

Since the first conference in 1977, the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research has been working to bring menstruation out of the shadows and to legitimize our concern with how our culture, medical and pharmaceutical industries, advertising, and educational efforts, have served women’s needs (or not).

Over the years, the disciplines involved in our work have broadened to include participants from around the world in fields including nursing and medicine, psychology and sociology, anthropology and communication studies, as well as the arts. The menstrual cycle is entangled in so many aspects of our lives—the personal is truly political!

It is especially appropriate to celebrate today, because we will be awarding the very first “Menstruation Matters Award” to our beloved feminist hero, Gloria Steinem! Her early article, “If Men Could Menstruate“, pointed out the entitlement that men would feel to honor their bodies. Somehow, this normal female experience has been shamed, devalued, and medicalized—girls learn at an early age not to value our amazing bodies. Recent research shows how empowering it can be for girls to get to know their bodies, to chart their cycles, and to trust their own experience.

Pediatricians have begun to recognize that menstruation can been seen as a “vital sign” or indicator of healthy functioning. Absence of menstruation can be related to dietary or exercise practices that will harm bone development in young women, or to other problems of our reproductive systems. Recognizing these problems early is important to preventing future disease or disability.

Menstrual myths are rampant in our social discourse, and it is often difficult for girls and women to know what’s really true about our menstrual cycles:

Questions like these have inspired our research over the years, and discussions of them can be found at conferences like the one beginning this evening. We are always pleased to nurture the research of our students, and we award prizes for student research in memory of some of our founding mothers.

Members of the Society have contributed greatly to healthy practices for women:

  • through advocacy with tampon manufacturers and the FDA to standardize tampon absorbancy labeling;
  • through supporting and participating in the Women’s Health Initiative, research that showed the harmful effects of longterm hormonal therapies for postmenopausal women;
  • through questioning all the negative views of hormonal changes, as if a biological rhythm is somehow unusual in our lives.

More information about positions that the Society has taken on issues such as terminology used for the menopausal transition or use of cycle-stopping hormonal drugs by young women, see the Society’s website, where you can also find information about past conferences, publications, and members of the Society.

And join us, either online, or tonight at Marymount Manhattan College, for the celebration!

How to overcome resistance to Cycle-Stopping Contraception (a physician’s guide)

May 12th, 2010 by Chris Hitchcock

If you’re wondering why your doctor might not take you seriously when you question taking the pill to abolish your periods, you might want to look at this piece of advice.

I had a look at the Clinical Advisor magazine information – it looks like they pay for articles, help to massage them into shape, but as far as I can tell the articles are not peer-reviewed, and the editorial staff do not have any credentials after their names, so they look like non-medical people. But it is freely available on the web, and apparently gets sent to many practicing physicians and nurses. And it’s a lot more readable than other sources of medical education.

The article is framed as a doctor-to-doctor question:

What can I do to overcome patient resistance to continuous use of oral contraceptives (OCs)? So many women say it’s not natural.—SHERRY HILL, ARNP, Bothell, Wash.

And, the answer? Explain the physiology, explain that there is no build up of old blood, that menstrual flow doesn’t have any effect on infections or toxins. And, for talking points, use the educational materials about cycle-stopping contraceptives on the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals web page (coincidentally funded with unrestricted educational funds from companies who happen to make cycle-stopping contraceptive products). And use Malcolm Gladwell’s 2000 article, John Rock’s Error, to reframe monthly menstrual flow as a historic anomaly (“you don’t need that old-fashioned thing”) and help women to see their regular menstrual flow as unnatural, so that the synthetic drugs you are suggesting will seem less unnatural by comparison.

But, ultimately, “if a patient feels that a monthly withdrawal bleed suits her best, many OCs containing 21 active pills and seven inert pills are available.”

I guess the option of using non-hormonal contraception just won’t come up.

Readers should note that statements published in re: Cycling are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Society as a whole.