The other day, I was scrolling through my various social media channels, when I was came across this headline: ‘Here’s how to stop your period from coming if you’re sick of this sh*t every month’.
I was confronted and shocked when I read the article by Cosmopolitan, instructing readers on how to stop their periods, more or less painting them as nothing more than a Big Fat Inconvenience for women. Apparently, women could just “opt out” instead (“risk free”) if they felt like it.
Now, as a 31-year-old woman myself, I’ll admit my relationship with my menstrual cycle hasn’t always been a smooth one. Flo and I have been through a great deal of ups and downs over the last 19 years. But I can say with certainty that never in those nearly two decades have I ever seriously contemplated stopping myself from getting a period for good.
Why? For starters, bleeding is part of what makes me a woman. It is the reminder every month that I am fertile, and that I have the gift of being able to create life and it also reminds me that like everything: life is in a constant state of flux.
So my question is: Should a reputable and trusted brand like Cosmo really be giving out potentially damaging advice to young, impressionable and vulnerable girls?
We already live in a very shame-embedded culture when it comes to menstruation. As is, nobody likes to talk about it, and periods are still considered “dirty” and out of bounds when it comes to discussions of everyday life. Despite many technological advances in other areas of our lives as women in the 21st century, society still very much lives in the dark ages when it comes to it’s attitude to periods. It’s very rare for women to feel comfortable to talk openly about having their periods, vaginas are still marketed as something that needs “cleansing” and periods still appear to be something that need to be kept secret or hidden. That is, despite the fact that half of the adult population bleed, every month – it’s a bit ridiculous, I know.
So, have we now reached the stage where we’d rather sweep something so inherently female under the rug altogether?
When I speak with Stacey Foat, a nutritionist and naturopath with over 12 years experience, she shares my shock, questioning the safety and risks that Cosmopolitan seem to have ignored. “Hormones do so much more than just help us get pregnant. When we suppress that natural cycle, it can affect our mood and [it] completely disconnects us from our body and particular our feminine energy,” she says. “These hormones are the reason why women have soft feminine traits, curves, sensitivity and supple skin and when we start to muck around with them, agitation, anxiety, depression, mood disorders and weight gain issues become more prevalent.”
It’s not as though hormonal contraceptives don’t come with risks either. Risks that Cosmopolitan seem to have completely forgotten to mention. Foat agrees: “When the oral contraceptive pill is used to suppress the cycle not only do we run the risk of major fertility problems down the track, the result is oestrogen dominance, the primary cause of conditions such as endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome, conditions which are rapidly increasing in this day and age,” she says. There is also evidence to suggest that long-term use of hormonal contraception, especially in adolescent females, is associated with the subsequent use of antidepressants, as well as evidence confirming the use of oral contraceptives is linked with a number of autoimmune conditions. Now, that doesn’t sound “risk-free” at all, to me.
Many women use the contraceptive pill as a way of managing debilitating periods. However, Foat warns that when a women experiences pain and discomfort during her period, this might be a good time for her to tune into her body, as it may be a sign something is not right. “Painful periods are common, but they are not normal and merely suppressing these symptoms with synthetic hormones only gives rise to far greater problems down the track if the cause isn’t addressed,” she says.
According to Foat, a healthy balanced diet free of processed foods, limiting exposure to chemicals and ensuring the liver and digestive system is adequately metabolising and eliminating toxins and hormones is the best way to support health periods. With so much emphasis on avoiding or ridding the process of menstruation all together, we as women shouldn’t be so quick to rid ourselves of this female experience. There are positive aspects to having a monthly flow, and I encourage women to embrace having their cycle and even take it as an opportunity to slow down and slather on some gentle and often much needed self-care.
“As a health practitioner, my fear is that the message that Cosmopolitan is promoting is conditioning women to view their monthly cycle as a ‘inconvenience’ and ultimately we are disconnecting from the miracle that is womanhood. To have a womb, carry a child for 9 months & the ability to birth life, is something that should be cherished, not taken for granted,” she says. So rather than finding out how to stop our periods all together, we could direct our attention to websites like Adore Your Cycle or MoonSong and choose to radically embrace our bleed, instead.