Have you ever sat around with a group of other women and compared notes on your periods? Someone might say they get the craziest cravings while on their period. Another says that they can’t believe how much blood she can lose without passing out. The woman sitting next to you may say that she misses out on an entire day and a half because she can’t even muster the energy to get out of bed. The worst is when men dismiss our emotions because it’s that time of the month again. No, scratch that. The worst is when we dismiss our own emotions because “I’m just being hormonal again”.
M is a 39 year old woman who started seeing me a few months ago because her periods were long, irregular and uncomfortable. She had been diagnosed with having a fibroid and a polyp. She shared that her body just never felt quite “right” after the birth of her son 5 years ago. When we started our work together, she was having menses that lasted 6 days and were unpredictable. They could be short one month and long another. She had very heavy bleeding and needed to change her super + tampon every 2 hours accompanied by severe cramps that she consistently needed to take medication for. She said the color of her menses confused her as it could be anywhere along the spectrum of pale red to black. She was also passing black, dime-sized clots. Her PMS was uncomfortable and she complained of having severe mood swings, breast tenderness, soft stools, fatigue and bloating leading up to her period.
While M”s symptom picture may not look exactly like yours, most women will find some familiarity in her story. Almost every woman I talk to has some horror story about their periods that they just endure every month. Recent social culture has brought the movement to empower women to the surface. I’d like to add to the conversation and say that not only should we feel empowered in the way we share our stories, but also in the relationship that we have with our bodies. Often I hear women who share that their doctors put them on birth control to avoid the negative symptoms of their cycle.
Our bodies speak in a language of signs and symptoms. If we understand this, we need to be asking different questions in relation to our bodies. Our question should be “What is my body trying to tell me?” and not “How do I silence this uncomfortable symptom?”. We need to be asking “How can I bring my body into balance?” and not “How do I fix this?” Our bodies are not a problem we need to “fix”. It is the vehicle in which we get to experience this life and unlike a car, we cannot just break it down to its parts to replace. In this, we are inextricably tied to our bodies and need to be kind to ourselves and ask “What is my body trying to tell me?” and listen.
I find that most women have so little experience with what normal is that they do not understand what an “ideal” period is. So ...“What is the ideal period?” Well, I’m glad you asked.
The length of the menses should be 3-4 days.
Cycle length should be regular and 28-30 days.
Color of the menses should be a bright red that begins spontaneously without spotting and tapers off naturally over the course of the 3-4 days.
The quantity of flow should fill a regular tampon every 3-4 hours.
There should not be any clots bigger than the size of a pea (blood naturally coagulates when it meets oxygen so it is ok if there are small clots).
The days leading up to the period should be like any other day. PMS symptoms like breast tenderness, moodiness, cramping, digestive changes, headaches, and bloating are indications that there is something a bit out of balance.
A sensation of abdominal heaviness and distension is normal. Cramps are not.
The philosophy around Chinese medicine is that we approach the whole body when it comes to treatment. M’s chief complaint was her difficult periods, but as we began chatting, it became clear that there were other systems in her body that were trying to speak up as well. As a mother to a young child, she shared that she couldn’t remember the last time she slept more than 2 hours in a row. She also struggled with constipation for years and would regularly skip days. She also shared that she was feeling stagnant in her work life and her marriage. As we found balance through regular Five Elements acupuncture treatments, a customized herbal formula and a tailored supplement regimen, the other symptoms also were being heard and addressed. After a few months of treatment, not only is M having “perfect periods”, but she is sleeping much more soundly and her digestion has improved and she is having a bowel movement every day. Not only that, but just the other day, she emailed me to share that she had landed her dream job. Things are still a bit rocky with her husband but through her Five Elements acupuncture sessions, she is learning to speak up for herself and establish boundaries so she doesn't feel depleted.
Are you tired of having painful periods every month? Are you ready to slow down and listen to what your body is trying to say? I’d love to support you and help you translate. Call Acubalance at (831) 678-8600 for a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation to see if we’d be a good fit for each other.
Kathleen Lee FABORM, R.TCMP, L.Ac. MTCM