Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What About Miserable Cycles?

I recently received a comment to my page, "My Story: A Recovering Birth Control Addict" that said, “What about girls who have miserable cycles...? Not everyone's problem's can be solved with  'vitamins, diet, and exercise'.... what advice do you have for young Catholic women in that situation? I agree that birth control is not a 'miracle pill' but what other options are there for ovarian cysts, 10-day periods, and severe PMS/PMDD?."

What an excellent series of questions. Though each portion of your question could be an entire paper, I'll attempt to address them as best I can from my training as an NFP instructor and personal experience. 

I hear you on the miserable cycles. My cycles were miserable - like longer than 10-day periods (a LOT longer), horrible pain (to the point of vomiting and never leaving my room), and cycles of all lengths (do I hear 65 days anyone?)! So I know from my experience that diet (cut out things that have hormones added to them! You are messing with your body’s natural hormones!), exercise (I’m not a marathon runner. I'm a 30-40 minute walker.), and vitamins (fish oil, Omega-3s, fatty acids) do in fact help get your cycles under control. I’m proof!

But I do completely understand that for women with severe conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis, the pill can seem like the only option. In fact most doctors will tell you something to that effect, but that's unfair that a doctor would make you feel like that. The pill DOES NOT CURE the problem! It masks they symptoms. 

For example, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms, such as anxiety, water retention, weight gain, bloating, fatigue, headaches, and even depression, most often occur during the post-ovulatory phase of a woman's cycle also known as the luteal phase, which is the timeframe right before a woman begins her period (usually 11-15 days). The cause for this is thought to be an imbalance of the proper amounts of hormones (estrogen, progesterone, etc.) and often manifests itself in a woman's cycle as a short luteal phase. However, if you are on the pill, you'd never know that because the pill tricks your body into a perfect 28-day cycle. You never fix the problem; you just mask it. If, however, a woman was charting she could see that her cycle had a poor temperature rise (an indication that ovulation has occurred) and fewer than necessary (for fertility reasons) days between ovulation and the beginning of her period. This is an indication that her progesterone levels are too low and estrogen is too high, something that can be fixed with nutrition and vitamins. How so? Take more B vitamins. A lack in B vitamins means your liver cannot "effectively inactivate estrogen, and estrogen rises." Also by eating dietary fiber, which comes from plants, estrogen is also blocked and helps hormone levels return to normal. Hello possible cure to PMS! 

So you can see that when I say diet and vitamins, I don't mean just anything. You have to learn the root causes and the dietary supplements that help correct those causes. And it's not hard. I received all that information from Marilyn M. Shannon's book, "Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition." It is my go-to resource! She has whole chapters dedicated to PMS, endometriosis, and so much more. A whole section of her book is dedicated solely to good nutrition, specifically nutrition related to a woman's reproductive cycle. And that's what we need ladies!

Obviously some problems go further than this. So what are your options. I’d say find a doctor willing to work with you. So many of us go to the same doctor and just listen to one point of view. I’ve been there, and especially as a 13-year-old girl, I had no idea I could ask to see a different doctor. But under most health care plans you have several options of doctors. Unfortunately, you don’t always have a NFP-only or NFP-open-minded doctor. I haven’t found one in my local area, but I did find a woman who was willing to hear my point of view and work with me. Find someone who at least is willing to do that or better. And if you need to go even further, there are options such as the Pope Paul VI institute and NaPro technology. Look into them if you've exhausted all other options. These are both dedicated to fixing a problem and not just masking it.

Finally, you have to commit and become knowledgable about your body. Popping the pill everyday is super easy, but it's not worth the costs. A woman shouldn't have to choose between the nasty side effects of a crazy cycle and the nasty side effects of the pill, not to mention the serious abortifacient properties. I pray that someday our medical community will put more effort into finding ways to help women overcome these serious issues without jeopardizing other parts of their health, but until then we do have other options. It's more than "diet, exercise, and vitamins;" it's about knowledge and the power that comes with to change your health for the better.


Cassie said...

When you say Vitamin B - is that different than B-12? I'm just curious because I usually have a clear shift, but then it struggles to stay consistent throughout phase 3 (even when I'm 99% sure I peaked - because I usually go back to phase 1, 14-16 days later!) I'm wondering if I should implement vitamins more regularly into my charting routine...

Karina and Ben said...

I believe when they say "Vitamin B", they mean the family. The author of the book I mentioned specifically states that vitamin B6 is beneficial for PMS and endometriosis. So that might be something to consider.

Karina and Ben said...

I believe when they say "Vitamin B", they mean the family. The author of the book I mentioned specifically states that vitamin B6 is beneficial for PMS and endometriosis. So that might be something to consider.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this. Many times when I have asked "Well, what else am I supposed to do?" to people warning me of the dangers of the pill I have been given vague, unhelpful answers. This is the first time I have received a response that actually answered my questions. And, as silly as it may sound regarding a blog post, this is the first time I have felt like someone actually listened to my questions and showed me love through their response, which helps on a much deeper level. So again, thank you so much!

Marcy K. said...

Also NaPro doctors address frequent miscarriages and infertility. This is a very important part of their practice. Thanks for such a great post!