I am committed AF to giving women the truth (and nothing but the truth!) about periods and hormones.
So when I started thinking about how many articles I’ve read in the past few years claiming that women don’t “need” to get a period every month — I began getting real fired up and decided to take a step onto the proverbial soapbox.
I have a spicy hot take on this nonsense, so you may want to hang on tight for this blog post!
Here are a few of the articles that have got me all upset:
1. Cosmopolitan’s “Here’s How To Stop Your Period From Coming If You’re Sick Of This Sh*t Every Month.“
Here’s a major publication that’s widely read, is responsible for shaping body and health-related views of many young women…and it’s suggesting that a period is just something we should completely shut off. Like we’re made defective or something and the only way to really make us whole is to gobble up a pill, slap on a patch, or have a piece of plastic inserted into our uterus…
Whew, there’s a lot to unpack here, and I find it extremely troubling that it’s becoming a trend to simply shut off and dismiss the female body. This literally reads like an advertisement for the patriarchy.
The doctor whose opinions are featured in the article is quoted as saying “Some people like to get their period to know they’re not pregnant, but there’s no other health benefit.”
I’m sorry, but no other health benefit? How about the ways your period indicates thyroid and overall hormonal health? What about the fact that surges in hormones create your sex drive? It’s appalling to think that so many medical professionals have gotten behind these kinds of ridiculous suggestions.
2. New York Times article by Dr. Jen Gunter, titled “Period.Stop” on why a period is not a requirement for good health. And her companion piece, “For the Teen Who No Longer Wants a Period.”
I’m sorry, but really?
We can choose the narrative surrounding periods. We can view this part of womanhood as a gift, rather than a burden. When we choose to curse the very thing that makes us female — and do nothing but treat it as an inconvenience, we are majorly short changing ourselves.
The real issue here is that terrible cycles have been normalized. We’re told that PMS, cramps, depression, anxiety, all of it — are normal and that periods have to suck.
But there’s a better and more accurate way to experience this life as a menstruating woman.
Our periods are part of who we are — the ultimate feminine expression. Being told that we either have to endure a monthly cycle of torture or silence it completely with pharmaceuticals are NOT the only two options here.
I know for a fact that thousands of women (myself included) are able to enjoy pain-free, symptom-free periods and we don’t have to use artificial medicines to make that happen!
Take my free quiz HERE to identify the likely cause of your period problems and get a free 7-day jumpstart plan that will help you to start improving your period, rather than shutting it down!
3. An article in the usually flawless Atlantic entitled, “Women Don’t Need to Have Periods.”
Normally I’m a fan of the pieces that get published by The Atlantic but the misinformation and broad-brushstroke generalizations in this article have compelled me to make a critical response.
Below are my comments on the key points made within The Atlantic’s piece. I have also included the scientific studies that I refer to at the bottom of this post. The Atlantic made no references to any studies that could corroborate the blanket claims within their article. There’s a reason for this…there aren’t any!
ATLANTIC: “There are also many women who just don’t want to have a period every month and who take the pill continuously. This carries no harm, either short- or long-term.”
Wow, what a statement! I wonder how this doctor defines “harm”. I talk to women every day who have experienced serious “harm” due to hormonal contraception. How these doctors get away with these half-truths and outright lies is beyond me.
Here are just five ways taking the pill “won’t harm you!” (backed up by scientific studies)
1. The pill royally messes with your digestive function.
No joke, 95% of women who come to me with whacked-out hormones also have some form of digestive disorder and almost all of them have taken oral contraceptives at some stage. A 2012 study linked BC pills with a higher risk for inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. It appears that synthetic hormones change the permeability of the gut lining and synthetic estrogen does a number on the “good” bacteria in our guts.
Symptoms ranging from migraines to infertility, endometriosis, psoriasis, chronic yeast infections, PMS, depression, fibromyalgia, digestive disorders, and many other seemingly unrelated health problems have been attributed to gut bacterial imbalances. If you’re on the pill please include fermented foods in your diet and/or take a good quality probiotic.
2. B vitamins and minerals too?
The pill messes with your gut’s ability to adequately absorb B vitamins, especially folate and vitamin B12. It also inhibits the absorption of zinc and magnesium.  If you’ve ever read anything about fertility and hormonal health, you know that these vitamins and minerals are crucial for us. Hint: Zinc deficiency literally equals infertility for some women. You can read my take on B vitamins here. I recommend a good Vitamin B Complex and a quality mineral supplement while taking oral contraceptives.
3. You might be attracted to the wrong partner.
Whoa, what!? It turns out that the BC pill alters how we choose our mates. Humans tend to choose partners based on their differences rather than their similarities, but women on the pill choose partners based on their sameness. One study even suggested that when “a woman chooses her partner while she is on the pill and then comes off it to have a child, her hormone-driven preferences change, and she may find she is married to the wrong kind of man.” I wouldn’t believe this if I hadn’t seen it happen with a client!
4. Feeling kinda dry “down there”.
When a woman is on the pill, her body will cease to send signals to her cervical crypts (producers of fertile cervical fluid). Extended use of the pill literally shrivels these crypts up because they are not being used if a woman is not ovulating. This atrophy can be hard to reverse for many women and some find it difficult to get pregnant because of the lack of fertile cervical fluid. The only way to address this issue is to get off of hormonal birth control.
5. You’d rather be gardening than having sex.
The pill isn’t called birth control for nothin’! Not only does it stop ovulation, it literally stops your sex drive in its tracks too. The liver makes a protein called Sex-Hormone Binding Globulin. SHBG binds to testosterone and makes it inactive. The pill increases SHBG production, which lowers the amount of free testosterone — which is bad news for your libido.  A woman not on the pill typically has an SHBG level of 20-30, but a woman on the pill can have an SHBG level of 200-300 and even up to 500! Again, the only way out of this is to ditch your birth control.
ATLANTIC: “Many people have irregular and unpredictable periods that the introduction of the pill helped to regulate. People with particularly heavy bleeding or conditions like endometriosis can expect them to become more manageable with the pill.”
Having issues with your menstrual cycle can be a warning sign for problems with your overall health. Masking these with the pill only covers up the symptoms but does not address the underlying root causes. Endometriosis is an extremely painful and debilitating condition and I cannot and will not judge any woman who chooses to use the pill or any other treatment to help manage the discomfort and pain that she is chronically facing. However, to put “irregular and unpredictable” periods in this same category and imply that taking the pill is a solution to these problems is completely misleading. The pill is not solving anything, it’s just covering things up and managing symptoms while ignoring deeper health issues can have dire consequences.
ATLANTIC: “There are shift workers who cannot escape to the restroom, women in male-dominated jobs where they feel they have to hide their feminine-hygiene products to prevent further alienation, sex workers for whom bleeding is more than a hassle, and women with young children or otherwise unreliable sleep schedules who don’t need the stress of making sure they take a birth-control pill at the same time every day.”
So, let me get this straight. Society is not conducive to women so women need to change in order to better fit in? How about this, instead of changing ourselves to fit in with society, we change society to better fit with us? Humans did create societies after all so you would think that we could at least try to create ones that are humane! Crazy idea, I know!
ATLANTIC: “Getting rid of women’s periods is just a bonus—a bonus that saves them time, money, pain, and stress, with no known medical downsides. And if they ever want their periods back, all they need to do is have the IUD or implant removed.”
Yeah, as if it’s that simple! I have worked with hundreds of women who have struggled to get their periods back after coming off hormonal birth control. In fact, I was one of these women myself! Reading this flippant and ignorant claim that there are absolutely no downsides and that “all we need to do” is come off our hormonal contraception is extremely insulting to the millions of women who have had trouble getting their cycles back.
And as for “no known medical downsides”, tell that to the women in this heartbreaking trailer for the documentary from Ricky Lake, Abby Epstein and Holly Grigg-Spall called Sweetening The Pill:
ATLANTIC: But I’d like to remind people of another word commonly associated with women’s monthly bleeding: The Curse. I’ll take unnatural over hexed any day of the month.
Sorry, a “curse” is not natural either, unless you mean supernatural! I have no words. This comment just makes me so angry. I respect a woman’s choice to do what she chooses with her own body. I would never tell the author of this article that she was in any way living her life in an immoral or inferior way. But for her to call menstruating women “cursed” and “hexed” stoops to a level of ignorance and condescension that only someone who is either entirely irrational or extremely insecure can lower themselves to. The reproductive system within a woman’s body is one of the most complex and beautiful things nature has ever produced. Cursed? No darling, Blessed is more like it!
So, do you need a period?
There is technically no biological reason we need to have a period. The thing is, I think you need a period. Yes, I 1000% believe you need a period. Your period, and more accurately, your entire menstrual cycle, can and do give you all kinds of clues about your overall health and wellbeing.
If you have a period then you need to be paying attention to how often it comes, how long it lasts, how heavy or light it is, the color of your period blood, the symptoms that accompany it (menstrual cramps and how bad they are on a scale of 1-10, clots, back pain, headaches or migraines, extreme exhaustion, etc.) and the symptoms that come before it (emotional and physical PMS, PMDD, cramping, spotting and so on).
If you do not have a period, that is a sign in and of itself that something is definitely wrong. Please do not let anyone tell you otherwise. One caveat – it is normal not to have a period while pregnant, postpartum when breastfeeding and in menopause.
The presence and severity of each of these symptoms provide a whole lot of information about underlying hormonal imbalances with your adrenal, thyroid, ovarian and pituitary hormones like follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), gut health issues, and liver detoxification problems.
Wouldn’t you want to know about these problems?
I would! And I meet women all the time who say the same thing. We have this incredible system that men do not have that communicates to us every single day, and tells us whether everything is okay or if we could do with a little tuning up in certain areas of our health.
What should I do if I want to get off birth control?
These articles remind me that the misinformation and over-generalizations surrounding hormonal birth control are still prevalent in our society. It is the responsibility of women’s health practitioners and progressive doctors in the medical community to speak out against these half-truths and share our experiences so that women can see the whole picture. This has been my intention with this post and while there is a lot more information I can share regarding the negative effects of hormonal birth control I hope that the information I have provided will at least encourage women to dig deeper when considering their options and not take articles like the ones I’ve discussed here at face value.
And if you’re currently on birth control and want to quit, or if you’ve stopped and haven’t regained your period, let me help you!
My Fix Your Birth Control Protocol is the ultimate tool to easily and reliably take you from your struggles with hormonal contraceptives to the blissful place of naturally working with your body, rather than against it.
I’m all about a woman’s right to prevent pregnancy…I just want each and every one of us to be clearly informed about our options.
Doheny K. Birth Control Pills, HRT Tied to Digestive Ills: Researchers found apparent connections between estrogen treatments and Crohn’s Disease, colitis. HealthDay. May 2012; Accessed May 2012. http://health.usnews.com/health-news…digestive-ills
DDW: Estrogens Tied to Risk of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. HealthDay News. May 2012; Accessed May 2012.http://www.doctorslounge.com/index.php/news/pb/29237
Walsh N. Estrogen a Culprit in Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Positive relationship discovered between hormone replacement therapy, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease. MedPage Today. Medical Review Jasmer R. MD. May 2012; Accessed May 2012. http://www.everydayhealth.com/womens…l-disease.aspx
Kluger, Jeffrey. Why We Love. January 16, 2008.http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1704355-1,00.html.
Wedekind, C. et al. (1995). “MHC-dependent preferences in humans”. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 260: 245–49.
(2006, January 5). Oral Contraceptive Pill May Prevent More Than Pregnancy: Could Cause Long-term Problems With Testosterone. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060104232338.htm
*Furlow, Bryant., F. (1996). “The Smell of Love.” Psychology Today Mar/Apr.
Scent of a Man – New Scientist Feb 10, 2001
Elder, Rob. (2001). “The Science of Attraction,” Journal of Hybrid Vigor, Emory University, Issue 1.
Additional articles, books, and websites:
Pope, Alexandra and Bennet, Jane, The Pill: Are You Sure It’s For You? Allen and Unwin, 2009