There’s been a lot of positive change in women’s health over the last several decades. But we still have a long way to go. One thing women can do to take charge of their health is to become familiar with their menstrual cycle. It’s more important than you might think— and has much more to do with health than deciding whether or not to have children.
Read to learn about some of the top menstruation myths to overcome, and what you can do if your period is making life seem unmanageable.
This article is based on the Fempower Health interview with Dr. Lara Briden, Your Period: What Your Doctor Never Told You.
Dispelling the Common Myths About Periods
Dr. Lara Briden, the author of Period Repair Manual, is a naturopathic doctor and period revolutionary. She’s helped thousands of women find relief for period problems such as PCOS, PMS, endometriosis, and perimenopause.
With more than 25 years of experience with women’s menstrual cycles, Dr. Briden has seen what works and what doesn’t. Here are the top myths that prevent women around the world from achieving better health and better periods.
The period is the “main event” of the menstrual cycle.
The biggest misconception about menstruation is that someone’s period is the main event of their cycle. Not true. Ovulation is the main event, which is when the ovaries release an egg and the body surges with hormones. This isn’t often discussed between doctors and patients or taught in sex ed classes.
While the actual period is noticeable and needs to be cared for, it’s an aftereffect of healthy ovulation. Ovulation itself contributes to many vital health components in women every month.
Learn more in this podcast episode with Dr Lara Briden and Dr Jerilynn Prior Why Ovulation is Critical for Women’s Overall Health.
If you don’t want to make babies, ovulation is irrelevant.
Why is ovulation the main event? It’s not only about conception, although that’s part of it. It all comes down to hormones.
The menstrual cycle is what manages hormone production in women. As women, we need all the hormones that ebb and flow throughout our menstrual cycle. The two main hormones, estrogen and progesterone, both have serious benefits to long-term health. Without them, our bodies can be prone to certain disorders and diseases.
Estrogen and progesterone are vital for:
Brain health and mood
Vitamin and mineral absorption
Reducing risks of disease after menopause
Dr. Briden explains it this way: “Ovulation during every menstrual cycle is like a deposit into the bank account of long-term health. It's building what's called a metabolic reserve… Both hormones are good for the heart, both hormones are good for the brain, and they affect the microbiome; the gut. They're beneficial for us, just as testosterone is beneficial for men.”
If you have period problems, taking the pill will solve them.
Another common myth women experience today is the socially-assumed solution to menstruation problems: the birth control pill.
Progesterone increases your risk of breast cancer.
There is concern that progesterone contributes to the risk of breast cancer. Progesterone that’s naturally produced in the body and progestins from the pill are not the same. Studies have found that progesterone lowers the risk of breast cancer while progestins increase the risk of breast cancer.