03 Aug How much do you know about your cycle?
Around 15 years ago I started delving further into the topic of fertility education. After studying a Health Science Degree, and having had periods for over 10 years of my life, I realised there was still so much that I didn’t know. I was totally amazed by what I learnt and the sophistication of the menstrual cycle.
Education around fertility is essential for understanding more about the menstrual cycle, and all the weird and wonderful things our bodies do. It’s the basics that all women should know and have access to. For many women, the ‘puberty talk’ at school and a chat with your mum or friends may be the only menstrual education they have had, which means there’s a lot that women just don’t seem to know about their bodies. For instance, many women don’t know that the window for pregnancy each month is limited to a specific window of each cycle – they only discover that when they start thinking about a baby. Or that being overweight or underweight can significantly disrupt their body’s ability to release an egg each month.
Fertility education is also not just for women wanting to get pregnant. It’s about educating and empowering women of menstruating age to better understand their bodies’ natural menstrual signs and cycle. Commonly referred to as the monthly report card, there’s so much your body is telling you every month if you observe the signs. Understanding your cycle helps women to better understand the vast information that their whole body is telling them.
Menstrual health is considered so important that in 2015, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, together with the American Academy of Paediatrics, stated that doctors should always ask patients about their menstrual cycle, acknowledging its importance in assessing overall health.
Whether you are stressed, overworked, exercising too much, eating too little, travelling or pregnant, your body responds to these changes with its own changes. These changes can be subtle or overt – they can affect the length of your cycle, or how heavy your flow is, as well as the menstrual pain you have experienced, or the levels of anxiety you may have at certain times of the month. All of these changes provide us with the information to better understand our overall health. I personally find this fascinating and extremely helpful as a tool to look at what is going on both for myself, and for the women who come to see me. As a naturopath with a passion for women’s health, these are things that guide a lot of my recommendations and treatment plans.
Fertility education is particularly helpful when trying to conceive a baby. The critical knowledge around menstrual health and cycle can really support women who want to optimise their chance of conception. Understanding the key signs around the fertile window each month allows for greater accuracy in timing of intercourse. It also allows women to recognise when things aren’t how they should be. This knowledge can support women to seek out support sooner.
It’s important for women to recognise that menstruation is an important reflection of what is going on each month. If things are consistently not right, it’s time to sort it out!