Alright ladies here’s a question for you…it’s a bit personal, and perhaps slightly taboo to discuss openly…but how much do you really know about your monthly cycle?
Yep, I’m talking about the monthly (or thereabouts) reminder of the empty status of our uterus. Mother nature, our monthly bout of crazy, Aunt flow…You got it, I’m talking about periods.
Right about now I’ll bet you’re wearing a stank face and grimacing at the thought of your period. Or better yet, like I was a few months back, simply shaking your head and wondering how any female on the planet could possibly have a “normal” cycle when yours is so completely out of whack.
But what constitutes “normal”? A 28 day cycle with ovulation on day 14? A 3 day period, or a 7 day period? What about fertility, when are we supposedly fertile? When our handy dandy period app tells us, or is it wrong?
I don’t know about you, but I had lots of questions just like those running through my mind, especially when I happened to talk to my doctor about how I can skip up to three months in a row each year and not have a period for 90 days or so….her response? “As long as you’re having a period once every 4 months or so, you’re fine”…. you can imagine my reaction to that one, it was somewhere along the lines of WTF are you talking about?
But let’s go back and give you a bit of background information…
I was an early bloomer, with my first period happening in the sixth grade. I still vividly remember when I got it, and my reaction (which I’m not going to detail) but the gist is I knew it would be coming soon (thanks to a bit of prep from my mother and a very uninformative sex-ed class in the fifth grade where they skimmed over everything) and so wasn’t particularly surprised by it’s arrival except for the sheer amount of discomfort and pain that came with it. That “Oh dear lord I must be dying” sort of pain, that was me every month without fail. It was miserable. I despised my periods.
Fast forward a few years, many periods, ridiculous amounts of cramping and other unmentionable yuckiness, and lots of skipped months and I had simply determined that my cycle wasn’t and would never be “normal” because I was never able to predict when the next one would happen. The unpredictable nature of my period was a huge stressor for me because once you’re about 50-60 days past your last period you start to get paranoid about when the next will show up and surprise you. My cycles were anywhere between 19 and 94 days, and it was driving me insane.
Periods were not only stressful, but completely debilitating for the first two days. I was literally beside myself with pain to the point where I ALWAYS took a sick day from school if my period started anywhere from Monday through Friday.
Now I knew that certain foods and exercising before my period would help with the pain, but I never knew when my period was going to show up so I was never prepared for it besides always having feminine products on hand.
I’m very aware that my problem was lack of knowledge about my own body and it’s internal processes, but I was quite ignorant beyond the fact that those parts of the female body were useful for sex and babymaking and a period was the shedding of your lining when you didn’t get pregnant.
Thirteen years of miserable cycles and I finally now know a lot more about my body, and I’m quite thankful that I do.
I’ve gone from never being able to predict my periods to knowing exactly when they’re going to show up within a 24 hour margin. I also know why I get a random day of cramps halfway through my cycle (hello ovulation), and know what a basal body temperature is and how it has the ability to save my sanity. I also know what estrogen and progesterone are and their roles in my body. Safe to say I’ve learned a LOT.
Where’d I find this wealth of knowledge? This lovely gem of a book, I randomly picked it up at the library on a whim and it’s been the most informative book I’ve ever read. I learned more about my lady bits in a hour of reading this than in the first 23 years of my life combined.
*Fun Fact- did you know as a woman you’re only fertile 1 day of your cycle, the day you ovulate. It’s the combination of a man’s swimmers that makes your fertile stretch longer because they can last 4-5 days before they die!
The book has sections of information on how to track periods, fertility, a whole part on pregnancy, menopause, and even advice on how to use your tracking to prevent pregnancy (or ensure it) naturally and effectively. (Which is pretty handy information of you would like to apply Zero-waste principles not only to your period, but birth control as well)
It has completely changed my views of my cycle and I no longer dread my periods. The biggest part of knowing when your not only fertile but when your next period will be is charting your cycle. It’s a fancy way of saying you take your temperature first thing every morning before you get out of bed, and you keep track of it. Your temperature alone can tell you if you’ve ovulated, if you’re pregnant, if your body is trying to ovulate but is having problems with it, etc. The rest is just listening to your body, like when you cramp and where, a little friend called cervical fluid (sounds gross, but it’s really not as bad as it sounds), and the changes in your body during your cycle (like bloating, tenderness, etc.).
I know, it sounds like a lot of work, but it is very easy to do and takes less than 5 minutes a day. It actually can help simplify your periods, believe it or not.
I’m three cycles into charting (where each cycle has varied in length by 10-20 days) , and I have predicted my last three periods down to the day. Since I know WHEN to expect it, I can now prepare for it by increasing my intake of vegetables and garlic beforehand (look it up, garlic does wonders for your time of the month), I also make sure to fit in a bit of extra stretching and exercise right before I start to lessen my cramps. Not to mention, I know when I should carry my menstrual cup and cloth pads with me to be prepared for it 🙂
The difference is like night and day. Granted the first day still sucks, but I can actually function like a normal human being during it now, no more sick days.
So if you think your period is as elusive as the wind, or that your body is out of your control, I would highly recommend checking out Taking Charge of your Fertility, even if you don’t read the entire book, copy the charting pages in the back and read the section on how to use them…it’ll make your life, and your cycles, so much easier to predict and handle. Plus I totally feel like a badass now that I understand the functions of my body. I am no longer ignorant, and believe me, when it comes to periods, ignorance isn’t bliss.
If you have any comments or questions I’d love to hear about them in the comments!