It's such a frustrating Time of Month. Your period. The time in which you throw your hands up in the area, swear a little (a lot? You do you, boo), and give into your body's plan.
Why? Well, you...kind of need your period. It's not just an opportunity for your hormones to reset, and shed the lining that has built up over the last month (unless you get pregnant, in which you'll be #periodfree for a little while).
So we decided to sit down with Anne Matthews, a specialist in fertility and women's health. She has some legit titles: RaC, FABORM, and is an expert in the field of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture. Monitoring periods and getting women's reproductive cycles back on track are a large component of her day-to-day work, so we knew she would be the right person to drill about this topic.
"Recently, at one of my recent talks, I suggested the idea that your period is a gift," Matthews says. "The number of eye rolls in the audience were too many to count."
But it's true, says Matthews. "Your period is an amazing measure of your overall reproductive health."
1. INTERNAL TRACKER FTW
"The length of a menstrual cycle is determined by the number of days between your first day of bleeding to the last day before your next menses," says Matthews. If you're not on any form of birth control, the length of your cycle is a pretty accurate indicator of any hormonal imbalances (and whether or not regular ovulation is occurring). For example, if your cycle is less than 21 days (or more than 35 days) you might not be ovulating (or, ovulating irregularly), says Matthews. So if you find that you've exhausted some of the traditional options, try looking east. "Chinese Medicine can help," says Matthews. "In both hypothalamic amenorrhea (when your period basically ghosts you) and PCOS, acupuncture has been shown to stimulate ovulation."
2. WHEN THE HEAVY FLOW IS A NO GO
Bleeding heavily for more than 7 days can indicate a more serious reproductive concern, such as fibroids, an infection within the uterus or cervix, or abnormal changes with your cervix or uterus. It can also be an indication that you’ve had an early miscarriage. In Chinese Medicine, the focus of acupuncture during your period is to invigorate Qi and blood to ensure that all of the old lining has been sloughed off with reduced cramping (a sign of stagnant blood).
SEE PINK? DON'T IGNORE
"Pink bleeding might seem cute - the kind of adorable blood that a unicorn might have - but it can also indicate low estrogen caused by the birth control pill, impending menopause, excess exercise or anemia," says Matthews. As well, keep an eye out for pink blood and mention it to your MD. "In Chinese Medicine, this type of bleeding indicates a Spleen Qi deficiency - you may also notice symptoms of bloating, fatigue and cramping in through your legs." Remember, your body is always sending you signals—be aware of the messages it's sending.
There's a lack of information around bleeding during pregnancy. Because we associated a pregnancy with a stopped period, it's easy to assume the worst if you start bleeding. "You still spot (or even bleed) during a healthy pregnancy," says Matthews. "Bleeding during pregnancy can be a caused by a number of factors (a subchorionic hematoma, polyps, or fibroids)," she says. But be sure to always mention it to your health care provider - and head to the nearest ER if your bleeding becomes heavy, clotted and/or is accompanied by cramping.
And what about all of the magical things that happen during your period? Dr. Jennifer Fitzgerald of Conceive Health Clinic, says she always jokes about periods being every woman's superpower. "We have the ability to populate the world! " she says. And echoing Matthews above points, she says that our period gives us much insight into our health! Heavy flow, fatigue, clots, cramps, raging PMS, the ability to eat the entire tub of ice cream - all point to a variety of hormone imbalances and/or potential nutrient deficiencies/excesses."
"Our hormones are amazing," says Fitzgerald. If you think of your cycle as split into two, she says that the increasing hormones spark boldness and creativity. And in the second half, you can look forward to inner reflection. "This is why many women feel like they want to be left alone, or feel feel irritable."
So instead of beating yourself up about wanting to bail on that dinner, embrace it. Order takeout from your phone, put on your favourite romper, and Netflix and...actually chill. But also, it's your period, and it's your decision if you want to shout about it from the rooftops, or howl into the moon, alone in your bedroom.