Menstruation is on my mind – how could it not be? I am a peri-menopausal woman! What that means is that I am waiting for the 12 month space between my last period and no period at all. When that happens I will be post menopause. It is an incredibly uncomfortable place to be in both physically and emotionally. The worst part of it is simply not knowing if I am bitchy and want chocolate because I am PMS or if I am just bitchy and want chocolate!
I am so used to have my menstrual cycle being the reason for so much of my physical and emotional landscape. What happens when it vanishes? Will I still have an internal barometer? I am sure that I will – I just don’t know it yet – and it probably won’t be tied to the calendar and the moon – and I think that I am going to miss that.
When I was going through my infertility – I hated my period. It was a marker of failure. The blood meant death to me. Another chance at life lost. It was the signal of failure.
Now it is a sign of youth to me. It is a connection to mother earth in the most spiritual of way – and my period is so uniquely female and familiar to me. How my breasts feel before, during and after – is something that I could count on. I am surprisingly unhappy about my “Auntie Flow” deciding that it is time to move out.
How women feel about our menstruation is both cultural and deeply personal. Recently, I stumbled upon a new book called “Flow: A Cultural Story of Menstruation” By Elissa Stein and Susan Kim, when I was out meeting with publishers to sell my upcoming book SHAMELESS. “Flow” is published by Harlequin’s new non fiction department with whom I was meeting with. When we left – my agent and editorial consultant – we commented over the galley of the book. “Flow”? Really? Will women want to read a book about menstruation? We weren’t sure – but we underestimated the appeal of talking about menstruation! Actually we really weren’t thinking straight in that moment. Women talk about their periods all the time! And “Flow” made it to “The View”! Think about it! If you are female or listen to females talk – what do we talk about? For me and my girlfriends – we mostly chat about food, dieting, money, kids, sex, lovers, and fighting with husbands – and oh yes! We talk endlessly about our hormones and our periods! It is up in the top ten of female conversations. We talk about “getting it” and “not getting it” or “Maybe I am getting it” a lot. We blame our periods for fights with our co-workers, family members, our food issues and our sex issues. Why wouldn’t we want a book about it?
Menstruation is actually vital to our overall health as women. The reason that women talk about our periods coming and going so much is that menstrual heath can be vital to our well bearing. As women – we just know that. It is just something that I seemed to have forgotten about between the years of infertility and peri-menopause – because for me – my periods were up until recently quite regular and unremarkable. But that is not the way menstruation is for every women.
Recently, I have gotten to know a relatively new organization dedicated to menstrual health!
Rachel’s Well is an innovative, multi-disciplinary non-profit organization committed to increasing women’s health research and education, particularly around the issues of menstrual health and Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI). If you have never heard of them – let me introduce you!
I think that they say it best -
“Menstruation is a unique indicator of a woman’s overall emotional and physical well-being. Rachel’s Well seeks to identify critical issues linked to the menstrual cycle as well as address misconceptions related to POI. Signaled by irregular menstrual cycles, the term POI describes a decline in the normal functioning of the ovaries in women under age 40. POI is associated with serious, long-term health concerns, like osteoporosis, health disease, emotional issues, and infertility.
Rachel’s Well supports a collaborative approach to promoting women’s health by increasing the recognition of menstrual health. We work together with patients, clinicians, researchers, academic institutions, professional associations, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and industry to formulate an effective multi-disciplinary team.
We seek out the majority of our funding from government and private foundation grants to support specific research and education initiatives. Our key projects for 2010 include:
*Convening a meeting of experts and other interested parties to discuss gaps in current research related to the menstrual cycle and POI
*Designing patient registries for POI and Fragile X-Associated POI
*Analyzing existing data from the various academic programs and clinical centers in order to gain better insight into the specific needs of POI patients
*Investigating decision-making processes regarding family building among women with diminishing ovarian function and establishing “best practices” for effectively educating these women about their options
*Developing a health education program highlighting the cultural, emotional, and biological aspects of the menstrual cycle in order to increase agency and lower at-risk behaviors among teens
*Planning various evidence-based educational programs, including focusing on peer education, spirituality, and bone health”
Well – isn’t that cool. I love that there is an organization looking out for our menstrual health – and I love that there are books talking about a women’s unique relationship with her menstruation. It is after all – a part of us – whether it is coming or going.
Good Menstrual Resources:
“The Secret Pleasures of Menopause” By Christiane Northrup
To Order “Flow” click here.
A Great Blog entry By Dr. Edward Ramirez on Menstruation