Rebecca Elia's Blog

All about Feminine Health, Healing, and Greece

Monday, December 27, 2010

Without Cycles

I lucked out. I was headed to Chris Guillebeau’s Unconventional Book Tour for The Art of Non-Conformity, by myself, at night, in the traffic and the pouring rain. (Chris Guillebeau is an amazing soul. I’ve named him a Freedom Teacher of this generation. Check him out!) The usual twenty-minute trip took over an hour. And as I was madly wiping off the windshield steam (note to self: apply that anti-fog stuff that’s sitting in the back of the car) and had lost the ability to daydream (dangerous move, given the weather and traffic), I felt myself slipping into regret and, then, dragging myself out of it. Pep talk time. Chris will be amazing. He’s such an inspiration. It will be well-worth it. (…if you make it there alive…Go away, saboteur!).

I lucked out. Not because I made it there alive (although I am truly grateful), and not because Chris exceeded all expectations (he did), but because one of my dear friends, Marjory Mejia (@sacredflow), showed up. I saw a flash of her, in the darkly-lit room, and, then, as quickly as she appeared, she disappeared, and I thought I was hallucinating. You see, she had told me that she wouldn’t be able to make it, because she was attending a women’s conference. But there she was. When I expressed surprise, she answered, her hot Peruvian blood boiling, “I can’t believe what that doctor was telling us!” Say what? What doctor? She continued [paraphrased]: “At the conference. She was saying that it was okay for women to skip their periods, to not have any bleeding. Not just okay, but that it was preferable. She said there was a lower risk of ovarian cancer when women are on hormonal suppression. That’s ridiculous! Like we’re all supposed to not have periods!”

She was so upset I couldn’t get a word in. I nodded in agreement. Ah, yes, the predominant M.O. of our American society. Obtain study results that show a lower incidence of ovarian cancer (true, a deadly cancer, but, also true, an unlikely one), and healthcare professionals and individuals alike are more than willing to support the hormonal suppression of most women’s cycles. Evidently, this doctor’s talk about the benefits of contraception had morphed into a plug for hormonal-based contraceptives (such as birth control pills and the hormone-containing IUDs).

It was difficult for me to stay out of reactive mode. It wasn’t too long ago that I shared my friend’s heated reaction. In fact, in my talks, I often use our society’s willingness to override or suppress our menstrual cycles as an example of how out of balance the masculine and feminine have become. This strange position we hold seems even stranger after my frequent trips to Greece. Greek women are quite hesitant to place anything foreign in their bodies-- oral contraceptives, IUDs, tampons even! [To my healthcare colleagues: please do not conclude erroneously that I am against contraception. Quite the contrary. I wholly support contraceptive choice and feel they can be credited for empowering women and, equally important, conscious conception. I’ve seen far too many women with undesired pregnancies and motherhood.]

I find it fascinating how easily we, as a society, are willing to override the natural cycles of our bodies for the sake of convenience, that our everyday lives have become so out of balance (i.e., out of control) that this is our “best” alternative. I had this very same discussion with my acupuncturist many years ago, when he noticed, while taking my pulse, an imbalance in the energy related to my cycles. Then he remembered I was on the pill, and said “Oh, that’s right. You’re on the pill.” I was, understandably, alarmed that he could detect something out of balance because of the pill, and asked him if I should discontinue it. I will never forget his answer: “Because the situation you are in right now (residency) is so abnormal, your body on the pill is probably in a more natural state than off, so, no, I wouldn’t advise you discontinue them at this time.”

The cycles of our bodies and of our lives are so important that I am devoting an entire third of my book project to just this. Our current state is so out of whack that being on the pill can be more beneficial to our bodies than being off. This speaks to the conditions of our lives and the choices we make. True, being a health and wellness renegade isn’t easy. Everything conspires against us. Furthermore, using medications to treat an underlying imbalance is usually, at best, a secondary or tertiary cure. Often, it does not address the underlying cause. It’s like my childhood friend, an insulin-dependent diabetic, who used to increase her insulin dose to cover her triple dose of candy.

To make different choices from those dictated by the conventionally-structured world takes courage, or desperation, or both. This is where our conversation about overriding our cycles actually overlapped with the content of Chris Guillebeau’s talk.

Hmmm. Funny how that happens.


  1. The whole idea about menstruation suppression being good for you is because when women have babies and breastfeed them, they naturally and beneficially do not have a flow for 9 months of pregnancy + up to 2-18 months of breastfeeding. It is not just the cessation of flow but the whole hormonal cycle of childbirth that impacts cancer rates.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Donna. Yes, you are correct. This is the rationale behind fairly universal support amongst the medical community for hormonal suppression - because of the lowered incidence of ovarian cancer noted after long-term suppression (usually ten years is what is quoted). Also, this effect occurs regardless of whether or not a woman has withdrawal bleeds on hormonal treatments. However, we need to recognize that synthetic hormones do not have all of the same effects as pregnancy and breastfeeding.