Our Menstrual Cycle is normal

Even though I have paid during my menstrual period, I am proud of it and I am not ashamed to talk about it.

In an article written two years ago, I expressed how I feel while experiencing my menstrual cycle. My body, emotions, and feelings vary according to the stage. During the first semester of this year, I experienced another phase when I missed my period for over 4 months. It was a bumpy ride; however, once more I learned about my body, my cycle and how to embrace it.

In our society, a lot of times we don’t talk about these issues openly because we are ashamed of being judged, or think it is something mainly private. However, what I learned is that it’s better to talk about it because it feels good to express your feeling and thoughts as an individual no matter your age, race, religion, nationality, and so on. As well, this can also help us to learn from someone else’s experience.

After facing those difficult months, I thought it was necessary to write about this topic once more because it’s something normal that occurs to each girl and woman. I believe we need to break the silence, tabu, and myths that society have been built concerning this topic. The menstrual cycle is not an issue to be ashamed of; on the contrary, we should be proud to talk about it because it is one of the rights girls and women have.

A woman’s menstrual cycle is a natural biological experience that occurs every 28 or more days and involves changes in two organs: the ovary and the uterus. The menstrual cycle varies depending on the process of neuroendocrine functions (Boron, 2017).

Moreover, the menstrual cycle is the process “where women are tightly controlled by endocrine, autocrine and paracrine factors regulating ovarian follicular development, ovulation, luteinization, luteolysis, and remodelling of the endometrium” (Mihm, Gangooly, & Muttukrishna, 2011).

The menstrual cycle has four phases:

  • Menstrual
  • Follicular
  • Ovulation
  • Luteal

These phases vary for each woman. Unfortunately, the menstruation phase is what is more commonly discussed in our society; however, each one is important for women’s mental and physical feelings. In a workshop about our menstrual cycle with Carmen Lorenza, a menstrual educator I learned that each phase is like one of the four weather seasons of the year: winter (menstrual), spring (follicular), summer (ovulation), and autumn (luteal). Each season has charms, temperature, light, darkness, and benefits. Likewise, the menstrual cycle phases also have.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

“Menstrual bleeding is the external symptom of cyclicity in women and occurs at the end of the luteal and the beginning of the follicular phase” (Mihm, Gangooly, & Muttukrishna, 2011). This process has a length of 3-6 days. During this period the woman liberates blood, cells, and mucus.

The follicular phase occurs during the first period of the day and ends with ovulation. Next, is ovulation, where the matured egg is released from the ovary. It occurs around two weeks or just before the menstruation phase. The last stage is luteal, which is the stage where the egg bursts from its follicle but remains on the surface of the ovary. This follicle is transformed into a corpus luteum. 

As how I mentioned before, many times we hear and read about myths related to the menstrual phase. In many cultures, girls and women are isolated during their menstrual period because they are considered impure and ill, which does not permit them to interact with the rest of the society, such as not attending school, doing home duties, exercising, and so on.

Several articles from the WaterAid Organization reveal that girls who have their period in Iran, Nepal, and other countries are not allowed to go inside their house, touch their sister or grandmother, and so on. However, the articles also show that girls are more aware of their rights and are working to end the stigma about their period.

To break some of these myths and raise awareness of menstrual rights, Rebeca Lane, who is one of my favourite singers, has a campaign for girls to know about their menstruation. Along with other artists, she wrote and animated a music video titled Flores Rojas, where she stresses that our period is normal and thus, we don’t need to hide it, be ashamed or be punished. Besides the music video, the project also includes murals in public spaces and other activities, which are organized by non-profit organizations.

We need to talk about our menstrual cycle as a natural topic, it needs to be included in the education system curriculum, but most of all we need to stop stereotypes and assumptions about the entire process.

It feels good to regain my regular menstrual period after experiencing a temporal absence of it. Today I am in my autumn season. In what stage of your cycle are you now?

Photo by Monika Kozub on Unsplash

My menstrual cycle

What do you know about your cycle period? This is my diary of three cycles.

Last year, on several occasions, a friend invited me to a workshop about the menstrual cycle, I never found the time to attend even though I wanted to. In April, during my lockdown, I saw that several online workshops were going to be held on the same theme, so I signed up for them. I attended two workshops with Carmen Lorenzana and Eva Kiviluoma, from whom I learned a lot and was inspired to start my cycle diary. 

My period came at age 12, on the 9th of May, in my hometown Bilwi. My mom had talked to my sister and me about it, but I also heard a lot from my friends. I don’t remember much about that particular day; however, since then, I started to learn about the changes in my body.

Period, menstruation, time of the month, red tide, monthly visitor, however you call it, it’s a natural process where a woman bleeds monthly to discard the buildup of the lining of her uterus. The menstrual cycle is counted from the first day of your period and ends when your other period starts, which is typically 28 days, but it is variant for each woman and can change over time.

My period is regular, it lasts 1-5 days, and my symptoms change in each phase and cycle. The common symptoms I have are: muscle cramps, mood changes, pimple, bloating, low energy, sleepiness, abdominal pain, breast tenderness, and lower back pain.

Carmen Lorenzana, who is a Women’s Coach and Menstrual Educator, describes the four hormonal phases of the menstrual cycle in correspondence with a season of nature. She also says that “depending on the phase that you are in, you change physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually”.

1) Menstruation phase – Inner Winter

2) Preovulatory phase – Inner Spring

3) Ovulatory phase – Inner Summer 

4) Premenstrual phase – Inner Autumn

After the first workshop, I started my menstrual cycle diary, which helped me to track my symptoms and therefore to have control over my body, anticipate changes, and most importantly do my daily routine according to the way my body feels. So far, I have tracked three of my cycles. 

In my first menstruation phase, (Inner Winter), I had heavy bleeding, abdominal pain, sleepiness, and breast tenderness; so I had to take a pain killer to go to work. On the other hand, my second menstruation phase was different. I didn’t have much pain, had more energy than the previous one, and my body was comfortable. I got to do more stuffs during this phase than usual. 

My two first preovulatory ( Inner Spring), phases were the same. I had a lot of energy, creativity, and felt myself blooming like flowers in all colours. During these phases, it was easy for me to focus on my writing or a podcast production plan. In contrast, during my third inner spring, it was hard to concentrate and get up from bed since I had low energy, and just wanted to sleep. During this phase my libido and sexual energy were very high.

Ovulutary phase (Inner Summer), is like the summer season that I love. There weren’t any differences between my three cycles. I was full of energy, which makes me do more body movement than usual. For example, I will bicycle for over 25 kilometres per day, more yoga etc. In contrast with the previous phase (preovulatory), for example, I don’t have the same focus to write, edit or read. 

The last phase is the premenstrual, (Inner Autumn). The three seasons I tracked were the same. I have mood swings, usually, I am emotionally touched, and it is an easy way not to want to do anything. In this phase, my body has energy but it is my spirit that doesn’t have it. A common element during this phase is that I sleep very late, so at  night time is when I am more productive and slower during mornings. 

This is how my menstrual cycle had worked for these last three months, however; I am clear that it can change. My diary has not only taught me to track changes, but also to be more confident with myself not pushing my body to do  more than what it should do.  

Even though there are period emojis, and more women talk about it, it remains to be a tabu in many societies. So when I asked Carmen what should a woman know about their cycle. She said: “menstrual cycle is more than bleeding once a month and making babies. These are a few things I wish every woman knew about her cycle”: 

  1. You are a cyclical being. Have you noticed how one week you are entirely productive, focused, and friendly, and the next one, you’re more disperse, introspective? There’s nothing wrong with you; it’s just your cyclical nature.  
  2. Your cycle is an amazing sustainability system meant to keep a perfect balance between activity and rest.
  3. The menstrual cycle is an incredible feedback tool. By paying attention to details such as your ovulation date, the quantity, and quality of your menstrual blood, the length of your phases, etc., you can get insightful messages about your overall health. 
  4. Your cycle matters because thanks to it, your body produces the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which are important for your metabolism, immune system, energy levels, and many other things. 

As you already know, not every phase is the same for each woman. Likewise, the remedies are not the same. When I have pain, I avoid drinking pain killer, I rather massage and put a hot towel on my lower abdominal,  rest, take a sauna, jog, and do some yoga positions. 

Most of us hate our monthly visitor and don’t want to talk about it, but for me, it’s  a therapy to express about my rough days and also to have communication with my body. If you are struggling to love your cycle, I invite you try some tips Carmen gives:

-Start getting to know your cycle. The best way to do this is by tracking it.

-You can use a menstrual chart (there are tons available in Google), an app, or a journal, which is my favourite. Write down the date, the day and phase of your cycle, and ask yourself: How do I feel physically, mentally, and emotionally today? Include as many aspects of your life as you want. 

-Do this exercise for at least three cycles, and you’ll begin to notice some patterns in the way you feel, your energy, the things that interest you, etc. Then you can start making small tweaks in your routine to live more in harmony with the natural rhythms of your body. 

-I’d invite you to do this with curiosity and lots of self-compassion. In the world that we live in, it’s not always possible to live totally in sync with our cycles, but there are still a few things that we can do to feel better and take good care of ourselves. Sometimes 1% is all it takes.