I want to preface this conversation by making it clear that I am no doctor, no nutritionist, and I’m not here to make scientific claims about what a woman’s menstrual cycle is and is not. I am here to speak purely from intuition and experience, so take all that I say with a grain of salt and put it to the test with your own inner-understanding. I also want to make it known that here, I am specifically referring to a time when a woman fully loses her period for multiple months or years on end. I am not so much referring to irregular periods, which is another topic for another day.
This is a sensitive topic, I know. And as a woman who has been through amenorrhea (the scientific term for losing your period during childbearing years) I realize how difficult it is to open up about. I lost my period for a little over a year during my freshman and sophomore years in college due to an eating disorder, depression, anxiety, self-induced stress, too much alcohol and no spiritual practice. It scared the shit out of me, and I didn’t tell anyone about it. I knew that something was wrong, and I knew why. Yet it took me a good year to be able to own up to what was really going on, and make a change. This was a rough time in my life and it’s no surprise that my body went into radical survival mode in order to hold onto what it could to keep me going. I won’t go too deep into the full story here (if it’s something you want to hear more about, let me know, I’m an open book and down to share) but I will say that it wasn’t until I began to learn to love myself so much more and therefore take care of the sweet vessel I’ve been given that my period came back — it’s been healthy and predictably regular ever since.
I feel a sense of duty to talk about this sensitive subject, because as women, we desperately need to come together in vulnerability and lift each other up during these wild times of the modern world.
Many of my girlfriends over the years have experienced amenorrhea, and I currently know a few who still do. This subject has similarly been popping up for me a lot lately. When Evan and I recently came out about our shift in diet (from strictly vegan to incorporating some animal products) it baffled me how many messages and comments came through from women both young and older saying how when they were vegan (doing all the “right” things that they thought were so healthy) that they lost their periods for months if not years or decades at a time, and that when they switched up their diet back to something a bit more ancestral and balanced, their periods returned and their fertility came back online big time. This post is by no means to advocate against a vegan diet — not at all! You do you when it comes to your diet. My only intention is that this may serve as a catalyst in this conversation between us, and stimulate your own exploration when it comes to your sacred cycle.
As I’ve dug deep into the universe of health + wellness, I’ve heard all sorts of crazy ideas about a woman’s menstrual cycle — both from men and women. When I dug into veganism and most especially raw veganism + fruitarianism, I came across men who very boldly stated that it’s actually healthy and natural for a woman to not menstruate, and that even though she’s not bleeding it doesn’t mean that she’s not ovulating. This could very well be true (though I’ve never come across anything that can prove it) but this never sat well with me, especially coming from a man. I’ve also heard crazy claims about how a woman’s bleeding is tied to original sin, and therefore we can learn to live in purity and harmony with nature again by living a lifestyle which halts the bleeding. Wtf. I’ve had no other reason to disprove these bold statements albeit through my own very feminine and very primal intuitive knowing that as women, we should definitely be bleeding. The idea that it is natural for a woman not to bleed once a month every month during her childbearing years very instinctually feels absurd, and like more of a Garden-of-Eden-complex (chasing purity) than it does a realistic, biological surety.
Women, it is our divine biological right, our sacred spiritual practice, and our greatest power to bleed out between our legs for a few days every month.
Women, our cycles are the ultimate force of creation on this planet — as we wax and wane with the phases of our hormones, we have the opportunity to keep the human race going.
Women, it is our duty to own this primal experience within our vessels in ways that are healthful, balanced, and productive for our growth and evolution (both as individuals and as a species).
Women, our sacred cycle is where we come alive, as it is our freedom for sweet connection with ourselves. Run fast away from anyone or anything that tries to convince you otherwise.
Here, I’m going to be going into why I feel that it’s not okay to not be getting your period, and why we need to open up with each other about it more …
Firstly, a wonderful way to navigate the modern world is by asking ourselves what our ancestors would have been doing a few hundred years ago before the more “unnatural” inventions of the modern world. When it comes to the menstrual cycle, our ancestors understood it to be a very powerful process that they did not dare repress or attempt to halt.
It is said that the first measurement of time and the first calendar were based on the menstrual cycle. The Sanskrit word for menstruation and season are the same: ritu. The root word for menstruation is the same as for moon, month, and measurment: mens. In many languages, words meaning mensuration were synonymous with sacredness, the supernatural, the incomprehensible and worshipped. The ancient Indian tribes, Dogons of Africa, and Native + South American tribes Apache + Mayan have always been rooted in the belief that there is no greater time for a woman to embody her divine femininity than during her menses. Many ancient cultures have also made use of “Moon Lodges” or menstrual huts in which women would go to rest and reflect during their bleeding. These were named Moon Lodges because women’s cycles were typically synchronized to the phases of the Moon — ovulation at the Full Moon and menstruation at the New Moon. This makes such beautiful sense, as the Full Moon is a time when our energy is expanding outwards and is very fertile and creative. The New Moon is the time when our energy is focused inwards for introspection. Cultures that utilized Moon Lodges believed that women had the power to peer into the future and needed time away from the wider community in order to hone their supernatural powers.
It has also been known across cultures that period blood is designed to nourish, give life, and that it holds a lineage’s genetic information, memories, strengths, and purpose. Therefore women’s period blood was often used in ceremonies to invoke vital life force and cosmic knowledge. Some cultures even used it as a drink for people, animals, and plants who were ill as a way to revive them.
There is so much that plays into our current disconnection with our sacred cycles vs the ways our ancestors honored it. Modern inventions such as artificial light (most especially at night) have skewed our connection to the phases of the Moon, as well as with the seasons. Chronic stress from work, travel, and living in highly wired / wireless cities slowly but surely disrupts our endocrine and nervous systems, confusing our hormones and reproductive processes. Flashy advertising in the media implants endless subconscious false beliefs and expectations of what our bodies should look like and how they should perform. Diet culture has done much the same, persuading us into believing that this one new way is going to solve all issues for all unique body types. The list could go on. By losing touch with our ancestral roots + rituals, we lose touch with much of our inherent magic + creativity.
And ultimately, here is the biggest issue I’ve found around not getting our menstrual cycle: perfectionism. Our own perfectionism may be so sly that we don’t overtly realize that we’re experiencing it, but at the root of all problems associated with amenorrhea, I find perfectionism, which is just a simple term for wanting to feel / stay the same every day. This, most especially as women, is wholly impossible and severely imbalanced to attempt to do. The most obvious ways that perfectionism shows up for us when it comes to not getting our period may stem from an idealistic diet or disordered eating habits, over exercise, chronic stress, anxiety + depression, and taking birth control pills. In nature, this kind of perfectionism is very masculine, so it’s no wonder that when we’re engaged in it, our potent femininity is temporarily suppressed. There is of course nothing wrong with embodying masculinity while also identifying as a woman (this is something I am working to cultivate more, as I err strongly in my femininity and could definitely use more structure in certain areas of my life). Spiritually speaking, we need a balance between the both, because fundamentally, we are both. But physically speaking, when it comes to the sheer biological processes of a woman’s body, it is radically different than a man’s — designed to compliment his, not replicate it. Masculinity is quite linear, structured, predicable, stable, and controlled — all which have their proper space in our day to day lives and experiences. Femininity is quite cyclical, conceptual, unpredictable, fluid, and intuitive — all qualities that we easily lose touch with when we aren’t experiencing regular periods. Through an underlying desire to feel the same every day, we are denying our femininity — we are denying the wax and the wane that makes us so powerful, so unique. By denying our changes day to day, we are robbing ourselves of the opportunity to experience the seasons of nature on a micro level. Here’s what I mean …
A great metaphorical view of the four phases (four weeks) of a woman’s cycle are the four phases (four seasons) of Mama Earth’s cycle:
Week 1 (Follicular) = Spring: a time of high motivation and new beginnings
Week 2 (Ovulation) = Summer: a time ripe for creation, open communication, and authentic relating. This is also the most fertile time both within a woman + within nature.
Week 3 (Luteal) = Autumn: a time of slowing down and withdrawal, with energy spiraling inwards towards introspection
Week 4 (Menstruating) = Winter: a time of deep introspection and rest, when a woman faces her bodily emotions and sensations, has full permission to nurture what arises, practice setting boundaries, and make conscious changes to create more balance for a new cycle to begin.
It’s also worth noting that four stages of a woman’s life are just the same: Spring = Maiden, Summer = Mother, Autumn = Maga, Winter = Crone.
By seeking perfectionism through the control of our body and external reality, we are denying and disowning the most natural rhythms of our inner being, and therefore losing touch with our totality and power. We dull our magic by expecting ourselves to feel / stay the same every day. By seeking perfectionism, we slowly but surely lose our sense of our inextricable connection to the rhythms of the Earth and Moon and how we dance sweetly with them on every level, especially the levels that we don’t directly see. Whether we desire to have children or not does not matter — as women, it is our sweet spiritual practice to keep in touch with these rhythms and flow through them together. Though this cycle holds the power of creation, it is not entirely about creation, but is about connection. Connection with forces beyond and within us that day to day menial activities dull away. Connection with the creative totality of who we are as women. There is nothing to be ashamed of or fear — our blood is our power.
I love this quote from Teal Swan, and couldn’t say it better myself:
“Know that in the same way that the moon reflects the sun, your period is a direct reflection of your life leading up to your period. The way your period manifests is a direct reflection of things such as the food you ate, the thoughts you thought, the emotional conditions you experienced, how well you listened to and heeded your inner rhythms and inner wisdom and needs. So if you want to make a change to your period, make a change to these elements of your life. The more that you embrace and become an embodiment of your own unique expression of divine feminine and the more you adhere to the natural cycles taking place within your body along with the messages they speak to you from within, the more pleasant your periods will be. But we cannot live in resistance to a part of ourselves. We, as women will be bleeding for an average of 10 years of our lifetime. That means an average of 3,500 days of our life will be spent on our periods. Think of the pain that will cause us if we are resisting it instead of celebrating it.”
We lose our period during prime childbearing years (for reasons other than taking birth control pills, having a reproductive condition such as PCOS, or breastfeeding) it is because the body is literally going into a highly stressed survival mode — the body’s innate intelligence knows whether or not it is safe and nourished enough to conceive, grow, and birth life. And again, whether we want to have children or not does not matter. What matters is that the body is not in a state of healthy equilibrium which allows it to go about its normal hormonal processes (which in turn affect way more than just the reproductive system, but is interconnected with all bodily systems).
I could go on about this subject forever, but I feel it’s best to leave it here and expand on the topic in further posts and videos. I’m also working on a little ebook on getting to know your cycle, so stay tuned for that :) Please leave any questions in the comments below, or any ideas of ways you’d want to keep this conversation flowing further! Myself and this community would greatly appreciate it.
If you currently aren’t getting your period but feel like you should be, may this serve as a catalyst and permission for you to tune in to yourself, to your current lifestyle habits, and to your connection with your spirituality in whatever ways that feels like for you. May you do so without judgement, and with sheer curiosity and openness about your own body and it’s rhythms. May you embrace your divine femininity and the intuitive nature of your being with unapologetic fierceness and juicy creativity.
Here are a few resources if you want to tune into this topic further: