Today, it’s very rare to find a woman with a perfectly timed, natural cycle who is able to avoid Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and other symptoms commonly associated with the female body. It is more common to hear of women with heavy periods, period pain, bloating, cravings and mood swings. Yet, this was not the way that Mother Nature intended it to be.
When we discuss the menstrual cycle and hormones, there are often so many misconceptions about what is ‘normal’. Here are six things you need to know to gain a better understanding of the female body and how it works at its optimal functioning.
1. Bad periods are not normal. It’s common, but not normal
Bloating, fatigue, cravings, mood swings, headaches, back pain, clotting, heavy periods, light periods, spotting and acne are caused by hormonal imbalances – and are not symptoms that we should be experiencing during our menstrual cycle. Just before ovulation, your estrogen peaks and then drops right off, causing headaches and mood swings in some people. Having estrogen dominance or too much estrogen in comparison to progesterone, makes the fall even more pronounced, leading to some of these PMS side effects. Increase your cooked brassica veggies (such as cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, broccoli), turmeric, healthy fats and leafy greens to flush out your liver and ensure that your body is detoxifying estrogen from your system. Adequate macronutrients and micronutrients are also really important for a pain-free cycle so dose up on zinc, magnesium and iron.
2. You can’t get pregnant at any time
Avoiding a bun in the oven isn’t as difficult as it’s been made out to be. You are only fertile for six days every menstrual cycle. These are the five days before ovulation and one day after. After ovulation, there is a short 24-hour window where it is possible to ovulate again (and this is when twins would be made). After that, our baby maker function has shut up shop and it is extremely rare to get pregnant (a 1.8% chance of getting pregnant combated with a 9% chance of getting pregnant while taking the pill).
3. You don’t get your period on the pill
Let’s be clear on one thing: When you choose to go on the contraceptive pill, you are not ‘regulating your period’. Instead, you’re stopping your cycle. Hormonal birth control can definitely suppress symptoms associated with your period, however it cannot give you a period. These bleeds are arbitrarily coordinated into a 28-day cycle to ensure that you feel as though your body is operating naturally.
4. The pill doesn’t regulate your hormones
The natural hormones made by your body are estradiol and progesterone. They have amazing benefits for mood, bones, thyroid, muscles and metabolism. The steroid drugs in hormonal birth control (not just the pill) are ethinylestradiol, drospirenone, levonorgestrel to name a few. These hormones mostly do the opposite of what the natural hormones will do i.e. progesterone speeds up your metabolism, but drospirenone slows down your metabolism.
5. Ovulation is more important than your period
When it comes to period health, we should be more concerned with ovulation than our period. Regular ovulation is not only intended to make another human, it is also how we make hormones that are so beneficial for bones, muscles, metabolism and mood.
6.The Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is more reliable for contraception than the pill!
In case you haven’t heard of FAM, it uses observations of three concrete signs of fertility; waking body temperature, cervical fluid and cervix changes. It has been around for thousands of years as women would abstain from having sex for certain times of their cycle to avoid pregnancy. Obviously they couldn’t measure their temperature, but they could see their cervical fluid.
When comparing the perfect use failure rate of the pill and FAM, the pill’s perfect use failure rate is 0.3% and FAM is 0.6% (so it’s pretty close). But here is the juicy bit… when comparing the typical use failure rate, the pill has a rate of 9% in comparison to FAM which is only 1.8%! It’s important to look at the typical use rate because no one takes the pill or does anything perfectly. They miss a day here or there, take it a few hours later than they should, which then becomes the typical use failure rate. That’s a big difference between 9% and 1.8%. Personally, I prefer to choose the 1.8% failure rate, know my body, not have synthetic hormones and get all the benefits of a natural cycle.
These are six things that I never knew before I started studying the female body and became passionate about spreading the word about hormones and the menstrual cycle. It is so important to be educated and well informed on these topics, so that we can give our bodies what they need to function at its best (this might mean filling your body with specific nutrients if you choose to be on the pill). Speak to your doctor or a health professional to find out your options.
This article first appeared on Sporteluxe.