Reclaim the power of your body & prepare for birth
The menstrual cycle is a natural and physiological process of the female body. It not only gives you the gift of fertility and the ability to create life, but it holds the key to your health and wellbeing. When you are trusting and listening to your cycle and your body, you can heal the aches and pains you may experience during menstruation and also the aches and pains of your life. You’re probably thinking, how so? And how does this have anything to do with birth preparation? Stay with me!
The menstrual cycle is generally a 28-30 day cycle, but for some women, it can be longer. The purpose of the bleeding time, on a physical level, is to shed the uterine lining, cells, blood, and tissue. This happens if an egg is not fertilised by sperm. Each month, your body lets go of what you don’t need for the next cycle. On an emotional level, you have the same opportunity to let go of what is no longer working for you.
We have been led to believe that our menstrual cycle is just for making babies, but did you know that menstrual blood contains stem cells? Each month these stem cells play a role in growing and repairing new tissue in the uterus and vagina. There is no need for store bought feminine hygiene products that harm the natural PH balance. Your menstrual blood is your own personal system for healing and cleaning the vagina itself. How amazing is that?
A lot of women experience a shift in moods, or PMS, pain during bleeding (5-7 days) and discomfort. These symptoms can often have a significant impact on your working life, relationships and your general outlook. Your week of bleeding can feel like an inconvenience, and our culture’s expectations are clear: you must keep working, you must keep doing, and you must ‘keep it all together’.
What if you could shift your perception? What if the pain of the cycle was trying to tell you something? What if there was a way to heal the symptoms of PMS through investigating the monthly patterns in your life?
While you are reading this, notice how you feel about your own cycle. What words come to mind? What is your reaction to the words ‘blood’, ’vagina,’ and ‘menstrual’? The way you feel about your cycle is influenced by the events and experience of your first menarche or menses (first blood). How were you initiated into your period? Did your mother encourage you and educate you about the gifts of the cycle, or were you taught to get on with it and then handed a pad?
The way that we feel about menstruation, and how we were initiated into the menstrual cycle, forms our beliefs about our bodies and ability to birth. I’m not just talking about the birthing of human babies, but the process of birthing all creative projects, and our ability to let go and go with the flow. Because of the shame that is passed on generation after generation, we are becoming more and more disconnected to this natural process of our bodies. This continues to have a deep impact and lasting effect on how you birth.
Here is an example of how the experience of menstruation can impact the process of birthing:
Sally got her first menstrual cycle at 15. She remembers getting her cycle at home and her mother handing her a pad and smirking: “You’re a woman now!” - and that was that. Every month she was in a lot of pain, and she often spent the first day lying on the couch. She also had troubles inserting tampons, and they used to get ‘stuck.’
So how does this have anything to do with birth? In Sally’s first birth of 25 hours her son got ‘stuck’ in her pelvis. After many hours of trying to help the baby move down, she was told she needed a caesarean birth.
Sally had formed an opinion, or had a story passed down to her, based on her experience with tampons, that her pelvis or vagina was too small to birth her baby. She didn’t think her body ‘worked.’ If tampons don’t fit, how can a baby?
On observation, she also noticed this pattern of her body ‘not working’ or being ‘too small’ in other parts of her life - including in relationships, in the workplace, and in sexual experiences. When Sally fell pregnant the second time, she did the ‘inner work’ to heal the wounds of her menstrual cycle, how she feels about her body, and the emotions associated with her first birth.
After 9 hours of labour, Sally birthed a 10.2 pound baby vaginally!
The work you do to heal your menstrual cycle for your health and wellbeing will not only have a positive influence your life, but that of your daughters and sons. Your daughter’s relationship to her body will benefit from the knowing that she has the ability and power to heal herself, and will set her up for relationships in the future. She will learn to respect her cycle, build her confidence, and slow down when her body calls her to, rather than forcing and pushing through. You son will have a healthy understanding of this normal bodily process, and support women not only in relationships, but in the workplace and in daily life.
Unfortunately, we have a lot of work to do to heal the women coming through. The Victorian Women’s Trust undertook a study between 2014 and 2016. With nearly three and a half thousand participants self-selecting to answer the survey, as well as 22 discussion groups across Victoria. When asked “Did you know what was happening when you got your first period and saw blood?” 35%, or more than one in three, were not sure, or had no idea. Many expressed confusion about ‘the blood.’
69% of girls between 12-18 said “overall I don’t like it,” or “I dislike everything about it.”
These results are worrying.
How can we be the leaders in taking responsibility for our health and wellbeing, for ourselves, our sisters, friends and daughters in the future? How can we heal our menstrual cycle so that we can trust our bodies to birth?
Here are some ways to help you to get on the path to healing your own cycle:
Journal about your first menstrual cycle. Do you remember the details? What were your feelings of your first blood? Do you feel ashamed of your body and your blood? Write about how this feels in detail. This practice will give you insights into how you feel about your body and what steps you might need to take to heal those stories you’ve held for so long.
Move from tampons to the Ju Ju cup/moon cup and pads. You’ll save over $300 every year. Your tampons will absorb the stem cells and you won’t be getting the healing you need each month through allowing the blood to flow. This way you’ll get to notice your cycle and your blood. If this makes you feel uneasy, perhaps there is some ‘inner’ work to do to heal this feeling.
Talk to your daughters about menstruation in a positive and open way. It’s not just a cycle for making babies, it’s about reclaiming her power as a woman. This cycle holds the wisdom of her life within. When she understands her cycle and the messages of each month, she can make clearer decisions about what she needs and wants in her life. This connection with her body will make her more confident, and more connected to her intuition.
Be a leader, educate yourself, do the inner work and share your healing with other women. We are all in this together. We have a responsibility to heal our birth culture and our bodies for generations to come, whether we are conscious about it or not.
Lauren Horton is a childbirth educator, prenatal yoga teacher, healer and Menstrual Mentor. She holds one on one sessions with women to heal their menstrual cycles. She also runs women’s retreats and Menstruation workshops and is a graduate of the School of Shamanic Womancraft. www.singingbirdyoga.com