At first glance, MONA may seem like a product speaking only to women trying to conceive. Yes, we do the dance with soon-to-be mammas, but we are also here to help women of all ages and stages navigate their menstrual cycle.
We all get periods, and let’s face it, they suck. Cramps, ruined underwear, bloating, you name it. We’ve been there. Throwback to that time in middle school when you unexpectedly bled on your khakis and ran to the bathroom, only to emerge horrified and unsure what to do. At that point, the only option was to have the school nurse call your mom to pick you up. Or worse, wear your gym clothes for the remainder of the school day in shame.
For most of our blooming teens and formative 20’s women, a period is a period and it’s no one’s favorite time of the month. Period. But, who says it has to be that way? MONA doesn’t. Many women don’t menstruate regularly or even know that their lack of a period is a problem. With each persona we cover, we hope to educate you on the importance of bleeding and help you celebrate periods, not hate them.
When being normal isn’t a bad thing.
Amenorrhea, a word in no one’s vocabulary, is when a woman misses 3+ periods in a row, according to the Mayo Clinic. There are two types of amenorrhea: primary and secondary. Primary is when a woman has never had a period, and secondary is when a woman has a period that stops for a given amount of time.
Being normal doesn’t have to be a bad thing. A normal cycle is between 24 and 31 days of length, averaging at 28 days.
TL;DR (too long; didn’t read): “Normal” is considered menstruating every month.
Why you might not be “normal.”
BC (hormonal birth control)
Ah, the birth control (BC), those tic-tacs you’ve been popping since you were 16. We’ll save our deep dive into BC for another post, but here’s the quick and dirty. There are different types of hormonal contraceptives: oestrogen and progesterone combined (think combined hormone pill or the NuvaRing) and progesterone-only (IUD, progesterone-only pills, or an injection like Depo Shot or implant). The combined form of BC works to release synthetic versions of the two hormones into your bloodstream, causing your natural hormones to be suppressed and no ovulation to occur (hence, no egg to fertilize and make a baby). For progesterone-only BC, only progestin (the synthetic form of progesterone) is released, causing your natural progesterone to be suppressed and your cervical mucus to be thickened. This ultimately prohibits sperm from traveling up your fallopian tube and fertilizing an egg (again, no babies).
When you take a combined form of hormonal contraception, you are suppressing your natural hormones and thus your normal “fluctuations'' that occur in a traditional cycle, do not occur. The longer your body is trained to go without regulating its hormones naturally, the easier it is for your body to forget how. And to confuse things more, the period you experience on these hormonal contraceptives isn’t even a real period. While taking active pills, your endometrial lining develops and when taking placebo pills, your lining is shed resulting in what is known as withdrawal bleed (or what you think is a period).
Regular life stress
When we are stressed, our body activates what is called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. When this happens, our bodies produce increased levels of cortisol and corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). Unfortunately, the release of cortisol and CRH can suppress the release of reproductive hormones, ultimately leading to abnormal ovulation, anovulation (no ovulation) or amenorrhea (absence of menstruation).
There’s a wide range of research on how diet affects women’s menstrual cycles. We’ll skim the surface and touch on the key takeaways.
Caffeine - increases cortisol levels (which noted above can impact reproductive hormones)
Organic vs. Non-Organic - ingesting pesticides flushes your body with compounds that mimic hormones, making it difficult for your endocrine system to function properly
Salt - limiting salt in your diet can help reduce fluid retention, abdominal bloating, breast swelling and pain
TL;DR: any major shifts in diet (becoming low-carb, cutting meat out entirely) can shift your body’s ability to regulate hormones. Often these large diet shifts lead to weight loss, which can trigger amenorrhea.
Body composition and exercise
It’s annoying - first, you’re not exercising enough to maintain a healthy weight ideal for menstruation. Next, you're exercising too much to maintain a healthy weight ideal for menstruation. We get it, it can be confusing, frustrating and downright annoying to get some simple answers. Yes, rigorous exercise combined with low body fat puts unnecessary stress on the body, which leads to a decrease in reproductive hormone production. Apart from exercise, being underweight can cause your body to not produce enough estrogen, which is necessary for building a uterine lining and menstruating.
Being overweight can also keep menstrual cycles irregular (or keep them absent entirely). Excess fat cells result in elevated levels of estrogen, which can keep your ovaries from releasing an egg. Without an egg releasing, your endometrial lining continues to thicken, making your next period heavier than expected. Obese women tend to experience infrequent and long-lasting periods.
Underlying medical issues (we’re not doctors, but this is what we know)
It goes without saying that if you are experiencing amenorrhea, anovulation, or irregular menstrual cycles, you should contact a medical provider to discuss your specific scenario. Hopefully the above serves as a good jumping-off point for your research into a healthier relationship with your period. There are many factors that can affect your period, especially underlying health issues such as PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, etc).
So who gives a sh*t about being normal?
Being normal doesn’t have to keep you from standing out. We hope to encourage women to learn more about their periods and harness those hormones to keep you as the raddest b**ch around. You’ll have better control over getting pregnant, you’ll have better sex (yes, please) and you’ll be in a better mood. Besides, think of all the money you’ll save by not staining your favorite pair of panties.
Period Power, Maisie Hill, © 2019