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Why menstrual suppression is a thing...and why it shouldn't be.

We live in a world of convenience, of instant gratification and of copious amounts of stimulation. Everyone wants a quick fix and relief from the pressures of life to just keep going. And when it comes to our health and our bodies, the approach is often the same. The advances in medicine and surgery have meant that when something is not ‘working’ it can simply be removed. Whilst in some cases this is a life-saving option, in many cases it is certainly not the only option.

Menstrual suppression is one of those things that has been discussed amongst medical professionals since the inception of the hormonal birth control and more so since the introduction of hormonal devices and medications such or Norplant, Depo Provera, then we had Seasonale and Lybrel - all reducing women’s periods from 3 months to a year. Implanon came along in 2006 and can eliminate a woman’s menstrual cycle for 3 years.

In saying that, a woman on the oral contraceptive, can also take the pill continuously if she wanted to without having a withdrawal bleed (not a real period). In some cases these drugs are being used as medications, yet it is important to know that even though the symptoms may be relieved with these synthetic hormones, there is no real addressing of the issue. In fact the issue is only buried, only to inevitably resurface when a woman decides to come off the medication. We’re often told that these medications such as the pill, will ‘regulate’ our cycles. This is medically and physiologically impossible in the way that hormonal contraceptives work. In other cases, women will take these medications to willingly suppress their menstrual cycle, perhaps for medical reasons but also for convenience.

So are there health benefits of your period? Apparently not, according to a recent article published by The Guardian. Apparently, we don’t need it and we should just do away with it all together. To start with, the article fails dismally, to acknowledge that a period is more than just a period. Let’s just talk on a physical and physiological level here. A woman doesn’t get her period if she doesn’t ovulate. And she doesn’t ovulate if the succession of hormonal responses don’t all synergistically talk to each other to make it all happen. The beautiful thing about hormones and about our body as a whole is, that it is always communicating.

Just like when we get a cold, our immune system responds, inflammatory markers go up and we feel the body working away to let us know something has invaded and it’s doing its job to sort it out. We then need to do our part and rest, go to the doctor or other health care provider and potentially take some medicine. We can even ask ourselves if we are run down or are we doing life in a way that is not supportive, hence the need for a stop or a correction. We certainly don’t shut down the lungs and respiratory system and insert a synthetic one to avoid further infection do we?

Well this is essentially what is happening when we decide to shut down our hormonal and reproductive system with medication because we don’t like the communication that we are getting. I understand, sometimes the symptoms are extreme. I’m not being insensitive to when it may be appropriate and needed, I’m talking about a standard practice approach that this article and these medical professionals are suggesting. The fact is, women need hormones. Period.

The hormones mentioned in the article, that the pill and other hormonal contraceptives provide, are not real hormones. Just to be clear, synthetic hormones are not real hormones. They do not provide what real hormones provide, in fact they are detrimental to a woman’s health rather than supporting her, evidenced by a plethora of reports women have made and make about the effects of these drugs in their various forms. Oestrogen and Progesterone, made by our own bodies support over 400 physiological functions that include protecting our bones, protecting against cancers and stabilising mood. And we’re still just talking about the physical here! Even the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology states that the menstrual cycles should be used as a vital sign of our overall health.

The bottom line is, if our body is communicating something, we should be listening. There is a much bigger picture going on, on so many levels.

There’s a few things going on here. One, we are not educated about our cycles in a way where women understand the importance of it. Two, we are not reflected a way of being with ourselves nor a connection to our bodies that shows us a way to be. And three, on some level we must be wanting to not know all of this because should we be aware…we then cannot avoid what this would then mean. Knowing and understanding what is going on in our body and how life is affecting us, requires potential change and a new level of responsibility. Kind of like that old saying, what you don’t know won’t hurt you. The thing with that one is, it will always catch up with us. We cannot deny an entire body system and not feel the effects of this at some point…

  • Do women know about their bodies and what how their hormones support them?

  • Do they know about ovulation and how this is an essential marker of their overall health?

  • Do they know that every month, they are getting a very clear reading on what’s happening in their body?

  • Do they know that changes in their cycle can pre-empt medical conditions that may surface years down the track?

And we really don’t know the long-term effect of putting young girls on hormonal contraception as young as 13 and 14. To shut down the development of her reproductive system as it is maturing and finding its way, is a travesty. It’s been said before, if there was a medication and movement to shut down men’s testosterone, I wonder how much traction it would get? I doubt we’d be 50 years down the track and still trying to find better ways to eliminate the hormone all together…

So why women? We could just blame it on a patriarchal society and fight for equal rights. Important yes. But haven’t we done that already? Perhaps we could consider the fact that there is something much more to a woman and her cycle that has been shut down, not only by men but also by women. The physical is but one very important aspect of a woman and all of the above needs to be deeply considered. But a woman and her cycle is so much more than this.

Menstrual suppression is only a thing because we have asked for it. Maybe not directly, but hear me out on this one. By virtue of not connecting to what is on offer through our menstrual cycle, we are in menstrual suppression anyway. Menstrual suppression with or without drugs, underneath it is all the same. There is a wealth of wisdom and a life of enrichment that comes with a woman who knows her inner most qualities…and her cycle is like a gateway back to this innate part of who she truly is. This Sacredness is a quality, a vibration, that cannot be attained or learned…but rather it is something that is simply returned to by way of honouring the natural cycles she is already a part of. And that includes the cycles within her own body.

A woman brings this to the world and she asks us all to step up, men and women alike, because her standards do not allow herself or anyone to be less.

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