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Why It's Important to Understand Your Menstrual Cycle

Why Getting To Know My Cycle Was The Best Thing I Ever Did

I first got my period when I was 12 years old and at 15, I went on the pill. The pill my doctor at the time prescribed was Yasmin. Most females have heard of Yasmin . . . Maybe you've had a good experience on it or maybe, like me, you were put through absolute hell.

I had my period for over a month when I first started taking the pill, which isn't uncommon. What wasn't normal about my experience was that I was constantly light-headed, to the point where I even began passing out at times. After about three months of praying it would get better, I went back to my GP who prescribed me a lower dose pill — Loette. My experience on this was much more bearable.

For the next three years I would continue to take the pill without issues, aside from a little weight-gain and some mood swings — again, both very common for women on the pill.

After a breakup with a long term boyfriend I decided to go off the pill, give my body a break. When I did, it was like a veil was lifted. My mood swings (which I didn't realise were somewhat out of hand) disappeared. My cycle returned, shorter and lighter than normal, and I felt better. Like things weren't as hazy.

About a year later I found myself in my next relationship, and he and I decided together that it would be best if I went back on the pill. We were in no position to fall pregnant. I went back to the doctor and resumed taking a low-dosage contraceptive pill. About six month in, my boyfriend and I began to notice my mood swings becoming more severe and I confided in him that I thought the pill was messing with my hormones too much and that I wanted to go off it. He agreed and I went off it. Again.

A few months later something just didn't feel right, I was hyper-stressed and battling severe anxiety. My period was wildly irregular, I had a candida overgrowth and I was unusually tired 24/7. After a discussion with my naturopath, I decided to get my hormones tested to see if everything was OK.

Test results would show that due to years of taking the contraceptive pill, and add to that the large amount of stress and anxiety I was now suffering from, my body had been converting my Progesterone hormones into Cortisol, causing a massive imbalance in my hormones. It shocked my doctors, so much so that they had me tested twice more, and I was immediately placed on progesterone tablets to help rebalance my hormones.

If it weren't for this test and finding out I had such a drastic hormone imbalance, I someday might not have been able to have children.

After six months of battling the highs and lows of taking artificial hormones (weight-gain, mood swings, acne) while waiting for my body to balance out, my doctors and I decide that taking the contraception pill was no longer a safe option for me.

My naturopath and GP also suggested I keep a diary tracking everything that was going on with my body — cramps, bloating, when my period came and went, if it was heavy or light, the colour . . . Every gritty detail. All so that we collectively could make sure the treatment was working and my body was leveling back out.

During this time I learnt a lot about my period cycle. I learnt about the number of days between each of my periods, 28. I learnt how long my natural period was supposed to last, 4 days. I learnt the signs my body would show when I was ovulating — fun fact: I can now tell you which side I'm usually ovulating from. All the things my contraception pill once dulled I began to notice again. I learnt what foods I should incorporate into my diet to reduce cramps — hot tip: nuts, avo, dark chocolate and pumpkin seeds work a treat. And I learnt that stress is often the main reason I'm late (unless one day it turns out I'm pregnant, that'll be a real spanner).

Getting to know my body this way and becoming this in-tune with it has helped me to treat it with a lot more patience and respect than I ever used to.

I'm now a firm believer that we should be letting out bodies do what's natural, having a regular period, producing its own hormones, going through exactly what it was designed to do. I'm not a medical professional, so I can only speak to my experience . . . But I can say that knowing my body this well is empowering. Most of the time I know how to care for it, I know when to get expert help and how to make it through my period with as little pain and disruption as possible.

Sure, when it comes to sex it can make the conversation around protection a little more complicated but honestly, most guys I've dated don't have a problem with using other means of protection. And if they're not, they're probably not the kind of guy I want to be dating anyway.

If you're thinking about going on the pill, or coming off it, be sure to consult your local GP or medical professional first.

Image Sources: Getty and Bellesa Instagram
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