Like so many teenage girls, I was put on the oral contraceptive pill at age 16, to ‘help’ my acne and irregular periods.
Far from ‘helping’, I believe this experience (and this very powerful pharmaceutical), contributed hugely to the anxiety, intense unexplainable sadness, and mood swings I experienced over those years. At one point, I was even placed on anti-depressants to try and ‘fix’ what I believe were simply the side effects of the pill.
This combination of two very powerful drugs didn’t do much to help me feel better, and I decided to take matters into my own hands.
I’m sensitive to chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and being on the pill never really resonated with me – so between the years of 16 and 22, I tried on many occasions to come off it – but each time, my skin flare-ups were so bad, that my young, self-concious self couldn’t handle it, and so I’d jump straight back on.
When I reached age 22 though, I began studying naturopathy, and staying on the pill wasn’t really an option anymore. I knew it was the perfect time in my life to get off it – for good – and I was surrounded by exactly the right support networks to do so.
And so, around 9 years ago, I stopped taking the pill and began the journey of reconnecting with my natural menstrual cycle.
While it was a slightly rocky journey to begin with, it was hands down the best decision I’ve ever made for my hormones – and for my mood + emotions.
Perhaps you can relate. I constantly receive emails and messages and questions from women (both strangers and people I know) telling me about their experiences with the pill – often because they’ve tried to come off it at some point, and whatever conditions they had initially started taking it for (acne, painful periods, endometriosis, PCOS, etc), had come back with a vengeance.
If this is you – I understand how hard it can be. Truly, I do.
But I also want to say, that if you can stick it out and seek the right help? Coming off the pill may be one of the best things you’ll ever do for your health – and that will create a ripple effect into your life.
Knowing when the time is right
Oftentimes, there are periods of life where dealing with deep-seated health conditions is tricky. There is no judgement from my end – I completely understand why many women remain on the pill rather than wanting to face their health challenges head on. Not to mention contraception.
Sometimes in life, we do what we need to do. I get that.
But when the time IS right, we usually feel called to make the necessary change – just like I was at the beginning of my naturopathy studies.
I wanted to be completely in tune with my body – and while doing that required dedication, and a willingness to stick certain aspects of the not-so-fun balancing phase out, I am so grateful that my monthly menstrual cycle is healthy, natural, and balanced.
This is not to say that I don’t experience PMS and / or period pain at times. I do!
It’s just that when these symptoms arise, I know it’s because there’s something I’m doing (or not doing) that my hormones (and my body) don’t like. Whether that be physical, mental, or emotional, such symptoms let me know that something needs to change.
And so, it brings me great joy that so many of my female clients – and other women in my life – are choosing to come off the pill, and do the work on their hormones.
Your menstrual cycle reflects so much about your health
As a woman, your natural menstrual cycle is one of the most potent indicators of your overall health picture.
When there are imbalances within other systems in your body, the menstrual cycle will often reflect this via it’s signs and symptoms. Likewise, when we experience stress, exhaustion, nutrient deficiencies, trauma, and so on and so forth.
When you come off the pill and get your hormones back in balance, it is truly an opportunity to become deeply connected to your wellbeing.
As you may well know – it’s no mean feat to ignore the symptoms of PMS and period pain, or any other of the chronic reproductive conditions that so frequently arise in women. The body asks for attention in these ways. And it will continue to do so, until you listen in – and take appropriate action to make change.
In this way, throughout all of our menstruating years as women, we are almost forced to tune in with out hormones and our body (as well as our mind and spirit!), in order to honour whatever it is these signs and symptoms are trying to teach us.
Many may see this as a hindrance. I see it as a total gift.
Your period is a feedback mechanism. Are you listening to what it’s telling you?
Honouring the different phases of my cycle
I also love understanding that at different phases of my menstrual cycle, I’ll be feeling a little different.
The menstrual cycle is divided into two distinct ‘sections’ – the ‘follicular phase’ and the ‘luteal phase’.
The follicular phase runs from the first day of your bleed (day 1), through to the day of ovulation (day 14)*. In this phase, the hormonal patterns lend themselves to more activity, more energy, more ‘get-go’ (especially after the first few days of bleeding, during which we may need a little more rest). In the few days prior to, over, and just after ovulation, we may (hopefully!) feel truly fabulous! The follicular phase is great for getting things done – more of a Yang energy.
On the other hand, the luteal phase runs from ovulation through to the first day of our bleed – the second half of our cycle. As we progress through these two weeks (in a ‘typical’ cycle), we may find ourselves gradually wanting to withdraw more from the world. There is more of a Yin energy to this phase. In the couple of days prior to bleeding, we may experience PMS symptoms and have more of a tendency to need to really rest, reflect, restore and just ‘be’ – rather than ‘doing’.
If you have a natural cycle, can you relate to these phases?
As much as I can, I plan my life around them. I try not to book too much in – work-wise and socially – in those few days leading up to my period, as well as my first day of bleeding. Doing this has served me well, and it means I get to honour my body and give her what she needs.
*This timing may vary from woman to woman.
Menstruation and the Moon
It has long since been taught that in centuries past, women used to menstruate with the moon.
The moon operates on a (roughly) 29-day cycle, and a ‘typical’ menstrual cycle is around 28-29 days. Many women do find themselves menstruating and ovulating with certain phases of the moon – for example, the first day of my bleed (day 1 of my cycle) is usually on the day of the New Moon, and I usually ovulate (day 14 of my cycle) at the Full Moon. For some women, it’s the opposite (ovulating at the New Moon and bleeding at the Full Moon). For some, it doesn’t necessarily sync up in this way – and it can also shift and change, as we undergo different phases of life.
I’ve found it absolutely fascinating to learn about the different phases of the moon, what they mean, and how they have traditionally been correlated with a woman’s menstrual cycle – and then to watch and observe my own cycle against these very moon phases.
Whether we are aware of it or not, or whether we want to consciously recognise it, humans ARE governed by the natural cycles of our planet – the moon cycle affects the tides as well as the shifting water content of our bodies. How amazing!
I use the beautiful Moon Diary to track my menstrual cycle – this is an amazing yearly diary that has ALL the information about the phases of the moon and the earth’s seasons plotted out in it, as well as a detailed chart at the beginning of the diary which you can use to plot your own natural cycle against the phases of the moon.
For many women, it’s incredible to watch their natural menstrual cycle sync up with the moon phases (gradually) after coming off the pill.
What you need to know when you’re coming off the pill
A while back, I wrote this post, and it is still one of my most-read blog posts today – which shows me that more than ever, women are wanting to connect back in with their bodies and their hormones:
Reading this will give you lots of extra information about the pill, how it works in your body (what we AREN’T told), what to do if you’re coming off it, and the benefits of coming off it.
And if you’re interested in learning all about your hormones, you might like to also learn about your adrenal health – and why your nervous system and adrenal glands are so VERY important when it comes to feeling great!
Adrenal fatigue is the most common condition I see in a clinical setting, and these are my naturopathic tips for tending to your adrenals so that you can be abundant in natural energy:
Personalised help for you
If what I’ve written resonates, and you know you’d love some personalised, 1:1 help? Then I would love for you to get in touch.
I offer Naturopathy + Life Coaching consultations in Melbourne, Australia, and via Skype.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would so LOVE to help you become the healthiest, most content version of yourself – whilst you get in tune with that divine female body of yours. Our menstrual cycle is a blessing, not a curse. I can help you see that.
All love –
Naturopath / Women’s Life Coach // Melbourne, Australia / Skype
Stay connected with me.
I work as a Naturopath + Life Coach in Melbourne, Australia, and via Skype.
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