From the beginning author Kirsten Karchmer talks about using the menstrual cycle as a diagnostic tool, which I had never considered. She says if all bodily systems are healthy and functioning optimally, women should have a 28-day cycle with a four-day period where she changes a tampon, pad or cup every four hours, and her blood should be a bright, healthy red. Ovulation should occur on day 14. Anything significantly different than this is indication that something is internally awry. Karchmer goes on to elaborate on blood color, type of clotting, length of cycles and what each could mean in terms of illness or an unhealthy ecosystem.
She emphasizes the fact that everything in our bodies is connected. We can’t manage symptoms in isolation and expect our periods to improve comprehensively. Putting band-aids on headaches, cramping, fatigue, bloating, etc. won’t improve our menstrual experience, but if we can work to achieve optimal health and get our bodily systems in sync, our periods will be less debilitating.
Karchmer also discusses the stigma that historically surrounds menstrual cycles and how some cultures still see it as unhygienic, vulgar or a time where women should be cast aside or hidden from the rest of the community. Karchmer offers an alternative story where the period is held in high esteem and is the core power of a woman. It allows us to sustain and grow human life, which is a beautiful, wonderful gift and necessary for the evolution of our species.
One of my favorite parts of the book comes toward the end when a friend of Karchmer’s offers advice on talking to adolescent boys about menstruation. As the mom of two boys, this section resonated with me. She suggests holding an authentic conversation with your son telling him that girls’ bodies will start changing just as his body is changing. Tell him that girls will start menstruating, which is certainly not something to think is disgusting, but something to honor. She even suggests telling young boys to assist a young woman if he sees a spot of blood on the back of her jeans or skirt and offering a jacket or sweatshirt to tie around her waste. The book goes into detail about adequately and factually explaining menstruation to boys without being inappropriate or overly intimate.
When millions of women are sick each month due to their periods, they cannot contribute their genius, Karchmer says. And that just will not do. If women can collectively get control of their menstrual cycles and eliminate the shame they feel toward menstruation, the entire world could benefit. In the book she offers actionable steps for varying ailments such as PMS, PMDD, PCOS, infertility and menopause. But even if you’re not suffering from any specific condition, you can benefit from getting control of your period and no longer seeing it as two weeks out of the month where you feel unhappy, exhausted and less than productive.
Karchmer encourages every woman to use their period as a diagnostic tool to get healthier because, “Healthy women make trouble. Healthy women don’t put up with shit. Healthy women fight back for themselves, their kids, for their planet. Healthy women don’t put up with oppression. Healthy women don’t buy lies. They change the story and tell the truth. Healthy women join together, assume control and rule the world.”
With that being said, let’s get healthy, girls.