The Menstrual Cycle: Our modern culture tends to prime women and men to make the menstrual cycle a taboo subject, and as a result, many women experience deep-rooted shame surrounding their menstrual cycle. Reframing this is one of the most profound processes a woman can undergo, to help her re-write her story and reclaim her innate feminine power. Today we dive into the power of the menstrual cycle and how this process is so important to honor.
This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD
A History of Suppressing the Feminine Wisdom
Women have historically been the driving force of natural medicine until the patriarchal powers of mainstream allopathic medicine began to take over. The wisdom passed down from wise women healers through experience was suppressed in the name of medical degrees sanctioned by the church. As a result, some women were accused of being witches and burned at the stake for their efforts to heal humans with natural medicine 1.
The effort to suppress women’s wisdom has gone hand in hand with inciting bodily shame. A woman’s menstrual cycle is a potent source of wisdom and is literally the portal of life itself. For women to understand and honor this power is of grave threat to many of our modern institutions that prey on the disempowerment of the feminine.
Many women are starting to wake up in modern times because societal standards drive them to the ground. Marketed as “empowerment,” women are encouraged to disconnect from their bodies’ knowing and live life out of tune with their cyclical nature.
The power of the female menstrual cycle is profound. When women can dispel the shame surrounding this topic and lovingly reconnect with their bodies, they begin to call back the power of the wise healing woman inside every woman.
Reclaiming this power is one major step toward healing the many dissociated problems we see in today’s modern society that has led to the fall in fertility not only of women’s bodies but of the land as well.
The Menstrual Cycle and Shame
If you are a woman, what was your first experience of bleeding? For many, even at such a young age, there is already a degree of shame and confusion surrounding their first menstruation. Society often tells us to hide menstrual products and that we bleed at all. Tampons and cups are often advertised as a way to keep living life without thinking or honoring your bleed at all and simply “do everything men can do, but bleeding.”
Although there is no doubt that we can get away with basically ignoring our periods, the act of ignoring the female bodily rhythms takes a severe toll on the body. It severs you from the innate wisdom that is gifted to you when you understand the power of the female menstrual cycle.
The Power of the Female Menstrual Cycle
There are so many incredible ways in which the female menstrual cycle can be used as a tool for empowerment. This is just the tip of the iceberg because when you start to connect deeply with your body’s wisdom, you unlock an entirely new reality. Imagine navigating each cycle with gratitude, knowing that you are equipped to honor each phase of the cycle.
1. The Fifth Vital Sign
The female menstrual cycle is the fifth vital sign because, like your pulse or respiratory rate, the menstrual cycle provides so much valuable information and insight into the state of a woman’s health2.
A straightforward example is pain and pre-menstrual symptoms. Societally, we have normalized PMS when it is typically a sign of a problem in reality 3. It could be a hormonal imbalance, chronic stress, or something else: but long story short, your period can and should be a pain-free event when you are experiencing vibrant health!
The week before your period and the bleed itself can almost be seen as a monthly report card: your symptoms, the quantity and quality of your blood, and your mood all tell the tale of what’s going on inside. And so, every month, you get the opportunity to tailor your lifestyle and get live feedback next month on your pre-menstrual and menstrual experience.
2. Knowing How to Honor Your Body
Each of the four phases of the menstrual cycle is marked by different moods, energy levels, and gifts. When you learn to chart your cycle and know which stage you are in, you can start to live in tune with each different phase 4.
The menstrual (bleeding) phase starts and ends with your actual period. This phase requires more rest, stillness, and introspection. Ideally, you want to nourish yourself, stay warm, and avoid socializing and exercising. This is the winter period of your cycle when intuition is highest. Prioritizing rest and nourishment will pave the way for a much healthier, more vibrant rest of the month. This is also the time to take inventory of the previous month and let go of anything not serving you.
The follicular phase starts when your bleed finishes and goes until you ovulate. After the bleeding ends, estrogen is on the rise, and you will feel more energized and social and have a greater desire to be active. This is the time for more social events, exercise, and lighter meals. During this phase, you want to get stuff done, achieve goals, and focus on what you want to do in this lunar cycle. This is the spring of your cycle, and like in nature, the follicular phase feels like you are coming to life!
The ovulatory phase is the window in which you ovulate. This is when you are most expressive, sensual, communicative, and clear. This is the perfect time to schedule a date, an interview, or make a big presentation. You are energized and ready to take on the world; this is the summer phase of your cycle. Aim to complete your project, send it out into the world, and prepare yourself to slow down with the upcoming fall stage of your cycle.
The luteal phase is when estrogen starts to drop, and progesterone starts to rise. After ovulating, the body wants to slow down, go inwards, and tie loose ends. During this time, it helps to wind down the social events in favor of small, more intimate gatherings and ditch the cross-fit or intense workouts for gentle walks and yoga.
3. Natural Birth Control or Conception Support
One other way that knowing your menstrual cycle can help you thrive is by helping you avoid or achieve pregnancy. Women have a fertile window each month that lasts about five days, and by charting your cycle, you can use this information to avoid pregnancy or conceive 5. Be mindful of sexual intercourse during this time if you’re trying to avoid or focus on intercourse during this time for conception.
Learning to chart correctly is vital, especially if you use fertility awareness to avoid pregnancy. You should seek our proper instruction and guidance from a coach and take at least three months to chart before implementing your newfound body awareness as a form of natural birth control.
Helping Women Reclaim Menstrual Pride
The first step in making any change in the world is first addressing your inner wounds, and in this case, how they have manifested in menstrual shame. This may look different for every woman but requires examining the unfolding of your life and how you were raised may have influenced your relationship to how you perceive your menstrual cycle.
- Chart your cycle. Learning how to chart your menstrual cycle using a symptom-thermal method of fertility awareness is key to truly understanding and harnessing the power of your cycle. By charting, you can gain vital information about your health, use the information to help you conceive or prevent pregnancy, and you can tailor your life to honor the landscape of your inner world.
- Talk and share with other women. Opening up about your relationship to your menstrual cycle and connecting with other women can help dispel the topic’s shame. This could be at a women’s circle or by seeking guidance from a practitioner who supports women’s reproductive health. In addition, various holistic practitioners can teach you how to chart properly and guide you through understanding how your chart relates to your overall health and well-being.
If the opportunity is there, connect with your matrilineal line (the women along your mother’s bloodline) and talk to as many as possible about their birth and menstrual stories. Especially your own, if it is possible to speak to your own mother. Understanding this experience and perhaps seeing patterns in the affairs of women in your family may help you see what kind of wounds might need healing within your own story.
- Raise conscious, proud daughters. Even better than re-writing your traumatic relationship to your menstrual cycle is not having a trauma-based menstrual relationship with your body in the first place. This occurs when women enter their power and emanate a healthy body relationship with themselves. Mothers who understand the power of their menstrual cycle will pass on that wisdom to their daughters through experience, and help raise proud, confident young women.
Honoring your daughter’s first period with a ceremony or celebration is a great way to generate pride instead of shame. Also, having her witness your menstrual cycle as a part of everyday life as she is growing up is so important. Make sure not to hide pads or tampons, and show her that you honor the phases of your cycle.
- Educate boys and men. This process begins when women reclaim pride and honor in their bodies and natural bodily functions. Once you have connected to your body and menstrual cycle, you can open up to the opposite sex and share your experiences to help educate boys and men in your life.
Some things as simple as letting men in your life know when you are bleeding and how they can help support or honor you during these times are a profound way to shift the narrative.
- In the workplace. Conventional workplaces hold no space for the cyclical nature of women. To start making changes, women can first express their wants and needs surrounding this subject. For example, we can begin normalizing taking a sick day on the first day of your bleeding to rest. Depending on the nature of your work, you could also try asking to spend the first day or two of your bleed working remotely from home. Whether or not your employer is on board, there is immense power in opening up the topic of conversation.
Why not speak with other women in the workplace and see how they feel? Conversations are catalysts for immense transformation.
The mainstream patriarchal narrative has long suppressed the power of the feminine wisdom embodied in the menstrual cycle. For women to reconnect with this power is to reclaim a lost part of their ancestry and can have a profoundly positive change in the world.
The power of the female menstrual cycle runs deep. It includes the capacity to use your menstrual cycle as a fifth vital sign, learning how to honor your body as it fluctuates through the month, and using the information for natural conception or prevention of pregnancy.
We can all play a role in shifting society for the better by getting to know and honor our bodies, making the menstrual cycle a part of the conversation, and raising boys and girls who are educated and proud of this integral part of the cycle of life.
Medical Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended to share knowledge and information. This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD, for the accuracy of the information provided, but we encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
- Ehrenreich, Barbara, and Deirdre English. Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers. Last Work, 2016. Print.
- Hendrickson-Jack, Lisa, and Lara Briden. The Fifth Vital Sign: Master Your Cycles and Optimize Your Fertility. Fertility Friday, 2019. Print.
- Briden, Lara, and Jerilynn C. Prior. Period Repair Manual: Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods. Greenpeak, 2018. Print.
- Vitti, Alisa. Womancode: Perfect Your Cycle Amplify Your Fertility Supercharge. Harper Collins. Print.
- Wilcox, A. J. “The Timing of the “fertile Window” in the Menstrual Cycle: Day Specific Estimates from a Prospective Study.” BMJ 321.7271 (2000): 1259-262. Print.