By Melissa Hohaia, Naturopath
Through my own journey as a female and then with the knowledge that I have gained through my career…I have had some big light-bulb moments about what us women really need to reclaim…I want to share them with you…
As a teenager I remember the inconvenience of ‘that time of the month’ (although for me it was never the same time every month). I have vivid memories of my mother trying to convince me to record when I got my period in my diary so that I could keep track of it – but I had no idea what I was actually keeping track of, or what relevance this had. I was never told (because I don’t think the women around me even knew) what to accept when it came to the ‘ideal’ monthly menstrual cycle, and what my body was trying to tell me if things were not following this ‘ideal’ pattern.
I would regularly be embarrassed by stains on my school uniform from leakage (walking around the school yard with a jumper tied around my waist) and often wearing a tampon and a pad to ensure that I had ample back-up. I found gym class was regularly a ‘no go’ zone, due to the cramping and intense migraines I would suffer. When I went to bed at night, I would secure two ‘jumbo’ pads end-to-end in hopes that they would work as a team and catch any overnight flooding (but even this wasn’t always successful).
After just carrying on (not knowing any different) for a couple years, I was put on ‘the pill’ by my doctor at the time, and magically my irregular, heavy, painful periods just disappeared. I thought it was a miracle! I had never known that periods should be easy – come and go at regular intervals, with no obvious discomfort or uncontrollable blood loss. My ‘normal’ had been so different from what the ‘normal’ should be and I had no one in my life telling me that there was something worth investigating further. I stayed on the pill for over a decade – loving the regularity and ease of life with controlled hormones. It was bliss – or so I thought at the time.
When I was studying Natural Medicine in my late 20’s I was inspired to start living my life ‘pill-free’ again, but I was so unaware of the journey that lay ahead of me. One morning I took a deep breath, threw the pill packet away and waited to see what happened. This was the start of me discovering my true womanhood, what it meant to listen to my body and truly understand what it was trying to tell me it needed. It came with challenges but I gained so much respect for what my body was capable of and how if I gave it the right support it would quickly thank me for it by muting any discomfort. 10 years on, two children later, this consistently-inconsistent hormonal journey has lead me to a place where I am SO ready to help other women connect with their hormones and regain control over their hormonal health without the use of artificial control mechanisms.
It boggles my mind as a Medical Practitioner, that I see so many women placed on the oral contraceptive pill (OCP) or other contraceptive devices (such as the Implanon or Marina) as the first option to ‘eradicate’ undesirable hormonal symptoms. Recent statistics have discovered that over 30% of women under the age of 36 are on some form of birth control for reasons other than birth control – with the most common being to ‘regulate’ the menstrual cycle or control PMS symptoms.
This can feel like a reliable ‘fix’ for many women who are suffering with whacked-out hormones, but what I find most women do not understand (as I once didn’t) is that these options do not actually ‘treat’ the situation by correcting hormone levels within the body – they merely manipulate and control hormone levels by introducing an external hormone into the body at specific times. This process of introducing hormones into the body will only ever mask the condition and symptoms – it will never correct them. Many women, like myself, will stay on these artificial hormones for many years, only to find that when they chose to stop taking them the symptoms return with a vengeance (things can often be worse after using these ‘treatment’ options).
Having hormones that are out-of-balance has become one of the primary issues for women of all ages. Poor diets, toxicity, lifestyle choices and lack of movement, combined with xenobiotic (foreign) hormones or hormone mimicking substances in food, cosmetics, plastics, and personal care products are responsible for an array of health conditions ranging from:
- Weight gain and difficulties with body composition management
- Digestive issues
- Fluid retention
- Mood swings, and mental health concerns
- Irregular cycles
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Endometriosis, and Fibroids
I am seeing an explosion of women who are taking charge of their health and looking for other alternatives though. I believe that we are in a space where there is more and more information emerging from the shadows on the health risks associated with medications and artificial hormones. Women are becoming tired of being told that their menstrual symptoms are ‘normal’ even though they know things are not ‘ideal’. No longer will we accept being in the dark about the signs our body is giving us and how we can look after our health before things become more of an issue.
The first thing to accept is that the standard medical approach ONLY has the OCP and other birth control devices as their treatment to these conditions. So, in accepting this, we need to stop expecting something from these professions that they are not equipped to provide. You would not call an electrician to unblock your pipes – they don’t have the same knowledge or tools available.
As much as we would like to think that a doctor should be able to help us make sense of our hormones and give us some effective strategies to help us improve our hormonal health, they are limited in what they can do, and it is going to work best if you can seek out the right support and advice from medical practitioners that make this their career.
As a woman who has walked this journey (and is still walking this ever-changing journey), I am passionate about helping women understand, honour, and celebrate their femininity with enthusiasm.
Your beauty, dignity, and essence should be nurtured and you should never feel disempowered, or discouraged by your body at any time. You deserve to rediscover the joy and fulfilment of living within your body as a woman and all of the hormonal fluctuations that come with the territory!