Every day our menstrual cycles are communicating important information about what is going on in our bodies. As discussed in previous blog posts (here and here), this information can be used as a reliable and all-natural method of birth control. But when we truly learn to read our cycles, they can tell us much more than which days we can and can not get pregnant. They can become our allies in finding our way to true health and well-being.
The signs we chart in the menstrual cycle (mainly cervical mucus and basal body temperature) gives us a reliable map of what is going on with our whole-body health. This is because the function of the hormonal system (which the menstrual cycle is part of) is intertwined with every other system of the body.
Regardless of our mental and emotional wishes and plans for our lives - a healthy body will want to reproduce. That is kind of the body's thing - to multiply and secure the species and all of that. Whereas if a body is not in optimal health - it recognize that it is not an optimal time for a pregnancy, and will divert energy away from the menstrual cycle and focus on its own healing rather than on creating new life. Thus: a healthy woman means a healthy menstrual cycle - and if the menstrual cycle show signs of imbalance, it is usually a sign of something lacking in the body.
In fact, many healthcare practitioners and researchers thinks that the menstrual cycle should be recognized as a vital sign; alongside with pulse, breathing, blood pressure and body temperature. Because just as high blood pressure indicates an underlying health problem, so does a too heavy or too light menstruation. And just as the doctor is concerned if the pulse is irregular - so should we be concerned if the menstrual cycle is irregular.
When working with holistic menstrual cycle care, we look at both the pattern and symptoms in the menstrual cycle, and symptoms in the rest of the body. In this way we get the full picture about what is going on in the body, which gives us the possibility to address the root causes of the problems.
Each person will have their own symptoms and their own triggers, and charting our cycles helps us figure how our own bodies works. Someone will realize that she always gets menstrual cramps after eating dairy products (because the dairy causes inflammation in her body), another will realize her PMS gets much worse from drinking alcohol (because the liver's ability to metabolism estrogen gets compromised by alcohol), while a third will see that the regularity of her ovulation is really sensitive to her stress level (because stress tells her brain that it is not a good time to get pregnant). In all of these cases, the triggers (alcohol, dairy and stress) are probably causing other problems in the body as well - but it is the menstrual cycle that is "calling out" that there's a need for attention and nurturance.
In this way, the menstrual cycle can become our steadfast communication partner on our roads toward taking the best care of our bodies - where we in real-time can see whether changes we are making in our diets, lifestyles and other treatments is having an effect. A client of mine once told me that it felt like having her "own personal doctor", who was giving her daily reports on her health progress.
It is important to note that menstrual cycle charting is not about "perfecting" our cycles - but about developing a deep sense of listening to our bodies. It can be really hard to see our cycles behaving strangely and "imperfect" - and it can feel like every day we are getting the fact of that imbalanced shoved in our faces. I suggest to take this as a practice in not blaming ourselves or our bodies - but instead developing a deep sense of listening. What is it truly that your menstrual cycle is trying to tell you?
Health has become yet another thing to be good at, to achieve, to post pretty Instagram posts about. And it can makes us cringe at the thought of "having to be healthy". So we rebel, and say "F**k you - I'm not going to align to yet another ideal!". And that is a very understandable (maybe even very sane) reaction.
But what if health - true health - is not about achieving at all? Not about making ourselves and our bodies into something different, but the complete opposite: To nourish a love relationship with our bodies, exactly as they are. To take the best care of them, simply because we love them. To explore how good I have the potential to feel in my body. In my own way, on my own premises. To nurture a deep and loving and personal relationship to myself.
On my own health journey, menstrual cycle charting has been a loyal ally in learning to listen to myself, and taking loving care of myself - and I meet women every day who have the same experience. It is the true core benefit of Fertility Awareness - what makes it into something that that is deeply valuable knowledge to all women and other menstruators, regardless of whether or not we want to use it as a method of birth control.