Menstruation is always a hot topic, but not usually in a good way. Menstruation presents an opportunity for advertisers and drug companies to sell us many many products. And to make sure that all of us ladies consume their products they have been telling us stories about menstruation for decades now. We have been told that our periods are inconvenient, messy, gross, unhygienic, and any feelings we might have around our periods that don’t fall into the category of “happy” are labeled as PMS so they can sell us medication to fix it.
The idea that periods don’t have a purpose has been floating around in recent years, and now birth control pills that where originally marketed to women to mimic their natural cycles by placing them in 28 day pill-packs, are now available in 91 day pill-packs with the “period” (withdrawal bleeding) only happening once every 3 months.  Other hormone contraceptives like the implant  and the shot   also accomplish this effect.
Although problematic periods are becoming more and more common among women, that doesn’t make it normal or healthy. Many women experience painful period cramps, heavy bleeding, irregular cycles, amenorrhea, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), estrogen dominance, and the list goes on. It turns out that various environmental, lifestyle and dietary factors contribute to these health related concerns, however our mainstream medical system seems to be of the opinion that the solution to this problem is to simply get rid of our periods altogether.
When a woman goes to her medical doctor for any of the issues outlined above she is most likely given a prescription for the birth control pill. If you were to ask your doctor what steps you can take to heal your body, balance your hormones, and improve your fertility and overall menstrual health you’ll either be told that there is no “cure” or “treatment” available, or you’ll just get one of those pitiful condescending looks as if to say “oh you poor thing, do you still believe in the Easter Bunny too?”
The good news is that women everywhere are starting to learn that there are several things we can do to improve our overall health and fertility, and we can work towards balancing our hormones. Many women have experienced dramatic results and improvements by working with Naturopathic Doctors, Functional Health professionals or other “alternative” health care providers and making improvements in their diet, getting adequate sleep, and reducing exposure to xenoestrogens.   
Get to the point already!
This brings me to the 3 reasons why I’m actually thankful for my period. The last time I took hormonal contraceptives was about 14 years ago, so I have a good decade and a half of period stories. You may be thinking, “I’m on the pill and I still get my period, what’s the difference?” The bleeding you experience between pill packs is not a menstrual period. True menstruation happens 12-14 days after ovulation. The bleeding between pill packs is a withdrawal bleed that happens because the influx of artificial hormones that you were taking was interrupted. That’s why “periods” on the pill are often less problematic, and why any issues you may have had with your period come roaring back when you stop taking it. So here goes! The 3 reasons I’m thankful for my period.
1. Getting my period means that I’m ovulating!
Since true menstruation only happens 12-14 days after ovulation, getting my period each cycle means that I’m ovulating, and ideally it means that I’m fertile. Fertility is related to overall health and if you’re not ovulating that can be an indication that your hormones are all out of whack. It also means that you won’t be able to get pregnant until you start ovulating again if you are trying to have a baby.
With that being said, when I’m trying to avoid pregnancy, having the knowledge of the Fertility Awareness Method allows me to identify my fertile window and avoid unprotected sex during that time. I don’t have to worry about having an unplanned pregnancy even though I’m ovulating regularly and not on some form of hormonal contraceptive.
2. My period tells me important information about my hormonal health
It may be a common experience for women to have excruciatingly painful periods with heavy bleeding and many other menstrual issues, but it is certainly not normal or healthy! I struggled with period pain so debilitating that I was taking 3 ibuprofen every 2-3 hours for about 4 days out of every period. Without the pills I would be doubled over in pain. My flow was extremely heavy, my iron was low, and it was terrible. But it was also a revolving reminder that something was wrong. It was my body’s way of telling me that my hormones were out of balance and that I needed to make some changes to improve my health.
When I was on the pill as a teenager, I was able to completely ignore these symptoms because the pill covered them up for years. My “periods” were light and “regular”, and I didn’t have any pain. I was able to push it all under the rug, but when I stopped taking the pill, my periods came back worse than before. I think the lie that modern medicine is telling us is that we never have to deal with it. Just take the pill until you want to have kids then go off it and start trying immediately. The message seems to be: don’t worry about the fact that you’re not ovulating, that you have endometriosis, don’t worry about that PCOS you have, or the heavy crampy periods. We’ll “treat” it all with the pill. It’s “normal” for women to have problem periods. And if you have trouble conceiving? Don’t worry there’s always IVF.
As I cleaned up my diet by removing “vegetable” oils for cooking, and replacing them with healthy saturated fats like coconut oil, organic grass-fed butter I started to see improvements in my period. The more I focused on eating real food and ditching processed foods the more positive changes I noticed. I ate more fruits and vegetables and I started eating ethically raised hormone/antibiotic free meats.
In addition to these dietary changes, I started focusing on reducing my exposure to xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are chemicals in our environment that mimic estrogen and have an estrogenic effect on our bodies. I got rid of the scented laundry soaps, stopped using perfume, started using shea butter and coconut oil instead of all those smelly lotions I used before, and I continued to clean out my beauty supply cabinet to get rid of all of the artificially scented and dyed products in my home.
After implementing these changes and others for several months I finally experienced pain-free periods for the first time in my life. I’m still pinching myself when I get my periods now. It’s amazing! As my overall health improved, my period improved as well. So if you’re not getting your period you’re not getting any of that valuable information about your health and fertility. You’re silencing your body’s ability to communicate to you if something is wrong. And if you have any period or hormonal issues, they are still happening in the background, only now you’ve silenced your inner alarm system.
3. My period forces me to grow as a person
Now I’m going to talk about the emotions that come up around period time. Keeping in mind that this is just my experience, I feel that there is much more to “PMS” than people talk about. I have found that after years and years of periods, I consistently experience mood shifts and changes in the days before my period arrives. I often feel down about specific things. And it’s not random. I have found that if I’m in a relationship that isn’t working I am forced to confront these feelings more strongly around period time. If I’m in a job that isn’t a good fit for me I will be much more irritated about it during that period time. Or if I’ve gone through an emotionally difficult experience such as a break up or something equally painful, my monthly periods will force me to feel those emotions and help me to move forward little by little every cycle.
When I reflect on the feelings that have come up for me over the years during those days before my periods, I can honestly say that they were valid emotions for valid reasons. I can’t stand the idea that women are just crazy during certain days of the month for no reason, and I often wonder if the cyclical nature of these hormonal shifts play a more important role in our emotional health than we think. I also wonder if women who don’t experience these regular cyclical emotional shifts miss out on the benefits and opportunities that go with them. These emotional cycles have helped me to get out of relationships that weren’t making me happy, forced me to seek out new opportunities in my career, and forced me to work through some of the most painful experiences I’ve had in my life. They are a monthly reminder of anything in my life that is causing me pain or unhappiness, and as a result they force me to keep moving forward and continue to create a better life for myself. It’s not always a walk in the park, but I am thankful for those few days each month before my period comes. Those pre-menstrual days keep me connected to what really matters and they seem to jolt me out of any situations in my life that are no longer serving me.
3. Depo provera