An interesting question about menstrual cycle health.

My response follows the question. Enjoy!

Hi Katie,

I wanted to write this morning and ask your advice on problems I have been
having with my cycles. 

I am 26, almost 27, and I'm having trouble with my cycles. I don't smoke,
have never had an abortion, and have no known gynae problems. My husband and
I decided that we were ready to start trying to conceive last April (2009),
so went to see my GP (general practitioner - we're in New Zealand!). My GP
recommended I come off of the pill, and gave me a pamphlet on Fertility
Awareness. I had been on a second generation pill, because I had had trouble
with my skin as a teenager. I had been on it since I was 16, but still I
assumed that everything would resume as normal when I came off of the pill.
That said, I have no real idea what my cycles were like before I went on the
pill. I don't remember ever paying much attention to them. 

Around the same time, I started a course with a pro-Weston A Price
nutritionist. I started eating this way and found that its really natural
for us. I have basically stuck as close to their principles as possible
since then - I make our own breads (mostly sourdough), eat home made
sauerkraut and kimchi, take cod liver oil, and we drink raw milk. I do my
best to soak our grains (though occasionally don't get there). We live in
the country, so we have our own free-range chickens, and because my husband
hunts, 80 percent of our meat is wild game. I also stopped drinking coffee,
and started avoiding sugar, though it does sneak in a bit, in the forms of
sauces, chutneys, chocolate and home baking.

It was also around this time that I came across your article in Nourishing
Traditions, and looked forward to using Fertility Awareness to track my
cycles. I was so excited about regaining what felt like my natural birth
right that I had been rejecting, without even being aware of it.

However, initially, my cycles did not return. I didn't have a period until
October. In October, I woke up one night and discovered that the phone
beside our bed was casting a light strong enough that I could see my hand. I
removed this, and three days later began bleeding.

Following this, I decided that night-lighting was clearly the way to go to
help regulate my cycles and to help us conceive. That said, it felt
unnatural to me to artificially light when we lived in the country, where
there is very little light around. So I left us in complete darkness, until
the time of the full-moon, when we opened the curtains. While this was a
long way into my cycle (Day 31) I ovulated, and then conceived.

I miscarried in December, at 6 weeks. Following the miscarriage, my husband
and I decided that waiting a few months was a good idea, as we were both
pretty upset. So we did, using condoms to prevent pregnancy. 

At first, my cycles returned, mostly normal. While I didn't really have a
period bleed with the miscarriage, two weeks later, though it was the dark
of the moon, I found myself at a friends house sleeping under a street
light. I ovulated (with lots and  lots of fertile mucus), and though my
luteal phase was short, my period followed normally.  In January I was away
from home, and slept under light right after my temperature rise, which came
on day 21.Though my temperatures were more erratic then the last time, I
ovulated with still some, though slightly less, fertile mucus and my luteal
phase was 11 days. I bled on the full moon. In February, though, I was at
home, and so instead of artificial lighting, I slept in complete darkness
until the full moon, four weeks later. I ovulated on Day 17, folowing 4 days
of scant egg white mucus. I bled two days after the full moon shinign in our
windows. My luteal phase was 12 days. In March, I didn't ovulate, and the
full moon brought on light, spotty, bleeding. The following cycle (April)
was short - I ovulated on day 14, (though with practically no show of
fertile mucus) and had the heaviest period I have had yet, with lots of
cramping and crying. I bled just before the full moon, and so left the
curtains shut. I have come to think that maybe I should just be sleeping in
darkness because my cycles are so out of kilter. This cycle, I have come
close to ovulating. I had a show of Fertile-quality mucus, though not a lot,
and my cervix softened and rose. But there had been no long temperature peak
- my temps have been all over the place. I am now at day 23, and have only
had creamy mucus for a few days.

When my ovulation stopped again in March, I considered my lifestyle, and
what I may have been doing to cause this. While I was continuing with our
traditional way of eating, and regular infusions of nettle tea, I had also
been drinking much more alcohol then in the six months previously. I had had
a few hangovers after large weekend nights. So I decided to stop drinking
again, but completely this time, and see if this helped. With the resumption
of my period in April, I felt like this was the right choice, even though it
was a difficult one to make. I enjoy wine, and think it is a natural partner
with good food and good company. So I miss being able to share the pleasure
of it in our lives, though going to the effort of forming new habits is
worth it if it helps strengthen my cycles and health. But now, this cycle, I
haven't ovulated again, and I feel frustrated and quite helpless. Why bother
stopping id it doesn't make any odds? In your opinion, how much of an effect
does social drinking have on fertility?

While we had been waiting to try for another pregnancy following the
miscarriage, we are both now ready, and not been using any protection since
March. I feel like by waiting, we have missed our chance somehow - as my
cycles have become increasingly irregular. Like I ignored the clear signs of
fertility following the miscarriage, and now they have slipped away. I'm
sure that sounds silly, since it's only been a couple of months, but it's
now been a year since we decided it was the right time for us to have a
baby.

Anyway, I know you're busy, but I'd love to know what you think -
particularly about the night-lighting. I am happy to try lighting mid-cycle,
but I do feel like introducing artificial light, when the moon is available
to shine in our windows, is somehow not right. i also worry that if I get
pregnant lighting artificially,  I would need to continue this monthly
lighting throughout the pregnancy - so that my internal rhythms would know
another month had passed.

Also, I have been taking nettle infusion, from local nettles. I've ordered
Susan Weed's book 'The Child Bearing Year' and will consider her advice on
other herbal remedies. Do you think this is a good idea, or something worth
exploring?

Thank you Katie.
**********
I salute you your goal of restoring the health of your menstrual cycles.
I've learned over the years that the menstrual cycle cannot be controlled.
We can nourish and support it, but it often doesn't go in the way we think
it should. We need to be gentle and patient with ourselves.

Given that you were on the Pill for so many years, the cycles you describe
sound pretty good to me. It also sounds wise to continue experimenting
with nightlighting as your intuition directs you, and to quit alcohol
consumption all together.

I am also suggesting at this point that people experiment with cutting
back on their use of mobile phones and WiFi. At least, turn the WiFi off
while you sleep and keep all electric appliances (including phones and
clocks) at least ten feet from your head. Unplug the devices while you
sleep  if you can. Try this for a few months and see if you notice a
difference.

Very best,

Katie Singer

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