Lately, my face has been breaking out with acne, especially around my lower jaw. It is not a figment of my imagination; my friends have asked what has happened to my face. Is it due to a lack of sleep? Or a result of too much stress? In fact, it is probably neither. Then I began picking on my husband – what he is not doing well in our relationship, and could do better. And, for the past few days, I have been feeling tired and irritable. Today, finally, it is here. That’s right. I am talking about what every pre-menopausal woman goes through: I’m having my period.
It has not always been so bad. I had been on the Pill (otherwise known as the oral contraceptive pill) for many years. I have read enough literature to finally understand what I was actually doing to my body: “playing” with my hormones. Since cancer runs in the family, I decided to err on the side of caution and stop taking the Pill. When I was on the Pill, my complexion was actually better, my temper was more even, and I bled very little during menses.
The manipulation of the dose of hormones in the Pill can destabilise the uterine lining enough to cause some bleeding. This slight bleeding which occurs during the seven days in a cycle when a woman is not consuming the Pill is also known as a fake period. This ‘withdrawal bleeding’ and the true menstrual period are not the same thing.
So my period is here again, and it also happens to be a full moon tonight. It brings to mind how a woman’s menstrual cycle has long been associated with the cycle of the moon. In fact, the word “menstruation” is etymologically related to “moon”. The terms “menstruation” and “menses” are derived from the Latin mensis (month), which in turn relates to the Greek mene (moon) and to the roots of the English words month and moon. Charles Darwin believed that menstruation was linked to the moon’s influence on tidal rhythms, a legacy of our origin in the sea. A female’s increased desire for sexual intercourse (known as estrus) is also thought to occur around the time of the full moon.
A 1979 study of 305 women found that approximately one-third of the subjects had lunar period cycles, (i.e., a mean cycle length of 29.5 days plus or minus 1 day). Almost two-thirds of the subjects started their cycle in the brighter half of the lunar cycle, significantly more than would be expected by random distribution. Another study found a statistically significant number of menstruations occurred around the new moon.
Some authors believe women in traditional societies without night lighting (no electricity) ovulated with the full moon and menstruated with the new moon. In fact, a few studies in both humans and other animals have found that artificial light at night does influence the menstrual cycle in humans and the estrus cycle in mice.
Whether you believe the occurrence of a woman’s period has anything to do with the moon is probably irrelevant. In fact, nobody knows for sure.
My husband thinks I should try to reign myself in a bit when I show signs of PMS (premenstrual syndrome). While I had sometimes apologised for what my raging hormones have led me to say, I also recognise that they are helping me to be more sensitive and authentic to the areas in my life I am not happy with. These same hormones have helped me to verbalise and “right” the supposed wrongs in my life when I would not have the courage to on a “normal” day. True, the words may not always come out the right way (akin to a misdirected arrow), but bottling up resentment and supressing anger may be worse in the long run. We talk things through and our relationship is stronger as a result of such frank discussions.
Rather than succumb to folklore and call my menstruation a “curse” and treat it as such, I am learning to re-embrace my monthly period. This is the time when I take things more slowly, contemplate life, and re-examine my goals and desires. I use this time to be more gentle to myself and recharge my battles. I might write entries in my journal, daydream about the future a little, and rest more, all to rev myself up for the journey ahead. Rather than fight the “moon within”, I listen to my body. Do you?
Dr Martha Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching in Singapore. She is a certified sexuality educator with AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists), as well as certified sexologist with ACS (American College of Sexologists). She holds a Doctorate in Human Sexuality from Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality as well as certificates in practical counselling, life coaching and sex therapy. She is available to provide sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conduct sexual education workshops and speak at public events in Asia. For more, visit www.eroscoaching.com.