Archives for September 2019

Meet Jasmine – Living, Bleeding Proof that Problem-free Periods Are Possible

Meet Jasmine. Jasmine has been getting her period for more than 25 years now. If you were to ask her (we did), she’d say her period problems weren’t so bad compared to some of her friends’ horror stories. Her period was irregular, she was tipped off that it was coming via breast tenderness, lower back pain, light spotting and sometimes cramps. Once her period was flowing, she mainly just had cramps and back pain – but Advil and a heating pad did the trick. She felt lucky that her period problems weren’t worse.

Then she tried Brazen and, in her words, it felt like a miracle. We’ll let her explain:

We know that Jasmine’s not the only one who’s been accepting her period problems as normal and “just dealing with it” for years. We tend to see adapting to pain as a strength. But when it comes to cramps and PMS symptoms, that’s not the case. If you’re suffering, it’s unnecessary.

Our formulas were designed to stop period problems before they start. These tips will help too. 

How to Improve Your Cycle – For All People With Periods

In our Healthy Period Handbook, we share specific tips tailored to what your cycle looks and feels like (ways to improve your flowcolor and clottiness of your bloodthe length and frequency of your periodPMS symptomscramps, and more). While it’s important to work on each of the underlying issues that shape your cycle, you also have to work on your overall cycle and health –– because everything is interconnected.

These tips will help all people with periods improve their cycles:
Manage your stress.

Stress affects both your overall health and your cycle as it causes constriction, which leads to issues like cramping and clotting. There are countless ways to reduce stress. Whether it’s meditation, surfing, cooking, doing yoga, walking, spending time with friends, painting, or something else, find something that works for you and stick with it. Consistency is key.

Track your period.

If you’re not already doing it, start – you can do it in a journal, on your calendar, or on one of the period tracking apps. If you’re already doing it, keep going and be sure to reflect on the data, not just record it. Keeping tabs on the length of your period, your flow, the color of your blood, the symptoms you experience, and how much it varies (if at all) will help you better understand what’s going on in your body. If you identify irregularities or issues, you can work to fix them.

Get more sleep.

This may sound too general, but it’s one of the most important things for your health and, by extension, a healthy cycle. Make sure you’re getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night. If you’re currently getting less than that, try getting into bed 15 minutes earlier. It’ll make a difference.

Monitor your energy.

If you’re awake, your energy should be seven out of ten or higher. If you had to down five coffees to get there, it doesn’t count. Fatigue of any kind is an indicator that something is awry. If you notice your energy level is lower, take note of that and act accordingly. You shouldn’t, for example, do strenuous exercise, like CrossFit, when your energy is lower than a seven. (More exercise isn’t always better.)

Exercise regularly.

You already know that exercise improves your overall health, but did you know that it directly affects your cycle too? When your blood is flowing, your body will have an easier time shedding the uterine lining, which means less need for cramps. While you should make it regular, you don’t need to go hardcore. Research has shown that moderate, regular exercise is effective at significantly reducing cramps associated with menstruation. Even daily walks mixed with some yoga can get your blood pumping enough to improve your cycle and reduce cramps.

Talk to your doctor.

If there’s something irregular about your cycle, talk to your OB-GYN about it at your annual check-up, even if it seems like no big deal. We know that there are many doctors who will tell you that issues like cramps and clots are normal, but there are also doctors who, like us, know that nobody should have to suffer because of their menstrual cycle. If your doctor is not helping you manage your cycle or your pain in a way that you find acceptable, you might want to look for another doctor – one who knows that a healthy cycle is a symptom-free one.

Ask us questions.

We are not a substitute for your doctor, but our founder is a women’s health expert and reproductive acupuncturist with over twenty years of experience fixing periods. She’s a wealth of knowledge and she’s committed to answering every question we get. So, if you’re left with doubts about your cycle, ask away.

Why Using Birth Control to Fix Your Cycle is a Bad Idea

According to the 2018 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), almost one in three people with periods take the pill because they’ve been advised that it will regulate their cycles. It makes sense when you consider that 80% of women have life-interrupting period problems and over 30 million people in the US have cramps so bad that no amount of drugs will tackle their pain.

When your period sucks, nothing’s working, and you’re suffering from unbearable pain, your doctor will likely tell you that taking oral contraceptives (aka birth control) will make you feel better.  It seems so easy to just take a pill and magically make it all go away, right? 

We get it. There are millions of people using the pill to suppress their periods in the hopes of controlling symptoms like PMS, cramps, anxiety, heavy bleeding, and irregular cycles. When we’re desperate for relief, we will do almost anything to feel better – especially if it comes doctor-recommended.

Oral contraceptives are effective at controlling symptoms and making your period less painful. But here’s the thing: what birth control is really doing is masking the symptoms. It does not have a corrective effect on your period problems – the underlying issues don’t go away, and in many cases, they worsen behind the scenes.

The risks of using birth control

Earlier this year, Holly Grigg-Spall, the author of Sweetening the Pill: Or How We Got Hooked on Hormonal Birth Controlshared data on the links between oral contraceptives and the following issues:

Depression. Taking oral contraception can increase your chances of depression and even suicide. Two large-scale studies from the University of Copenhagen revealed that for users of the combined pill, the likelihood of a diagnosis of depression is increased by 23 percent, and for users of all hormonal contraceptive types, the risk of suicide is increased threefold. And for teenage women, the diagnosis of clinical depression is 80 percent higher and the suicide risk doubles after just one year of use.

Cancer. A systematic review of twenty-eight scientific studies revealed that the risk of cervical cancer doubles for women who use the pill for a decade or longer. Another study evaluated data on about 1.8 million Danish women and found that the use of any hormone-based contraception, including progestin-only pills and hormonal IUDs, was linked with a higher risk of breast cancer.

Blood clots. Compared to older combined oral contraceptives, many newer contraceptives carry a higher risk of developing blood clots – which come with potentially serious or even fatal complications.

Fertility. Some women are under the misconception that taking hormonal birth control actually preserves your fertility by preventing ovulation. It’s a logical conclusion since we’re born with all of our eggs and preventing ovulation could be a means of extending our fertile lives. But the data simply does not support this. Being on the pill can affect your fertility in multiple ways, including:

  • AMH: Oral contraceptives can negatively impact your Anti-Müllerian hormones (AMH) levels, which are measured to assess fertility and ovarian aging. Essentially, AMH refers to the number of eggs in your ovaries and the higher your level of AMH, the more eggs you have left.  A 2015 study showed that AMH was 19% lower in people taking oral contraceptives, suggesting their overall fertility was reduced.
  • Uterine health: Long-term oral contraceptives have been linked with a thin uterine lining, something that can significantly impact your ability to both become and stay pregnant.
  • Absorption of essential vitamins and minerals: Taking the pill can significantly impact your absorption of vitamins and minerals that are essential for regular ovulation, as well as conceiving and sustaining a pregnancy. This is linked to the concurrent side effect of thinner uterine linings, mentioned above. If you can’t break down the food you are eating, turn it into energy, and absorb it to make the building blocks of bone marrow, you aren’t going to be making much of a uterine lining, either.

While the risks mentioned above may be concerning for anyone, oral contraceptives are especially risky for:

  • People who have or had breast cancer
    Hormonal contraception can encourage the growth of some types of breast cancer. If you have breast cancer now or have had it in the past, the WHO recommends you don’t go on the pill.
  • Smokers over 35
    Hormonal contraceptives that contain estrogen and progestin increase the likelihood of blood clots, stroke, and heart attack. Smokers over 35 are especially susceptible to these risks.
  • Anyone with uncontrolled high blood pressure.
    The heart-related downsides of birth control pills outweigh the benefits.
  • People with factor V Leiden
    This inherited blood-clotting disorder is considered very common and hormonal contraception increases your risk for developing blood clots. If you’re considering going on the pill, ask your doctor to test for it first – all it takes is a simple blood test.

We know. It’s a lot. But don’t get us wrong, we’re not against oral contraception. It’s great when it’s used for, well, contraception – it makes birth control easy and effective. We know there are other legit uses for it too (like the ones covered in this study) and we believe that oral contraceptives should be readily available to the millions of people who rely on them each year, whether it’s for contraception or other health reasons. We just don’t think that it’s the best way, or the safest way, to deal with period problems, and we know there is a solid alternative.

Studies have shown how effective contraceptives can be at “controlling” some of the more bothersome symptoms, such as dysmenorrhea, menstrual migraines, PMS, menorrhagia (super heavy periods), ovarian cysts, endometriosis, and pelvic pain. What those studies leave out is that these conditions have also been shown to respond to modifiable lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, stress management, and herbal supplementation. And when you tackle your period problems with lifestyle changes and herb supplementation, you’re actually addressing the underlying issues and improving your overall health – not just masking the symptoms while the issues stew under the surface.

If you’re thinking that your period problems are SO bad that a few lifestyle changes and herbs couldn’t possibly help you, know this: in our founder’s 20+ years of clinical experience, 90% of the people she worked with were able to fix their periods and the underlying causes this way. If you’re not sure where to start, check out our Healthy Period Handbook.

An Intro To This Guide

You’ve heard it before, and it’s true: everyone’s cycle is different. Because of that, people tend to think that what is common for them is normal. But despite the range in people’s menstrual cycles and symptoms, there actually is such a thing as a normal period and cycle, and that standard doesn’t vary person to person. In this case, normal means healthy, and a healthy cycle is shaped by these factors:

Throughout this guide, we’ll unpack what a healthy cycle looks and feels like and we’ll teach you how to read your own. As we explain the causes for abnormal flow, blood color, symptoms and more, you’ll begin to understand what these markers are telling you not only about your cycle but also about your overall health. You might be tempted to Google ways to ‘fix’ whatever you’ve identified

A word of caution: there is no miracle cure and self-diagnosing can be dangerous if you don’t have complete information. We are confident that you can improve your cycle (our founder has helped over ten thousand women do so!) but we know that it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and requires behavioral changes, not just popping a pill. At the end of each article in this guide, we’ll provide recommendations as per what you can do to improve your cycle – but the first step is knowing where you currently stand and why.

Afterward: What Comes Next?

If you’ve been reading the articles in this guide in order, congrats, you’ve made it through to the last one! By now, you should have a better understanding of what all your key period markers are telling you. Reflecting on your cycle frequency, duration, blood color, clots, flow, PMS symptoms and cramps, you should be able to draw some links between some of the underlying issues. For example, maybe you observed that your blood color is darker than what’s considered healthy, your period is longer than four days, you have clots AND you have cramps. If that’s the case, you can deduce that your body is having a hard time shedding your lining. That’s not bad news, it’s good news – because once you have identified an issue, you can begin working to solve it.

7 Tips to Improve Your Cycle – For All People With Periods

Throughout our guide, we’ve shared specific tips, tailored to what your cycle looks and feels like – ways to improve the flow, color and clottiness of your blood, the length and frequency of your period, PMS symptoms, cramps, and more. While it’s key to work on each of the individual underlying issues that shape your cycle, you also have to work on your overall cycle and health. Everything is interconnected.

These tips will help all people with periods:

  • Manage your stress.
    Stress affects both your overall health and your cycle as it causes constriction, which leads to issues like cramping and clotting. There are countless ways to reduce stress. Whether it’s meditation, surfing, cooking, doing yoga, walking, spending time with friends, painting, or something else, find something that works for you and stick with it. Consistency is key.

  • Track your period.
    If you’re not already doing it, start – you can do it in a journal, on your calendar, or on one of the period tracking apps. If you’re already doing it, keep going and be sure to reflect on the data, not just record it. Keeping tabs on the length of your period, your flow, the color of your blood, the symptoms you experience, and how much it varies (if at all) will help you better understand what’s going on in your body. If you identify irregularities or issues, you can work to fix them.

  • Get more sleep.
    This may sound too general, but it’s one of the most important things for your health and, by extension, a healthy cycle. Make sure you’re getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night. If you’re currently getting less than that, try getting into bed 15 minutes earlier. It’ll make a difference.

  • Monitor your energy.
    If you’re awake, your energy should be seven out of ten or higher. If you had to down five coffees to get there, it doesn’t count. Fatigue of any kind is an indicator that something is awry. If you notice your energy level is lower, take note of that and act accordingly. You shouldn’t, for example, do strenuous exercise, like CrossFit, when your energy is lower than a seven. (More exercise isn’t always better.)

  • Exercise regularly.
    You already know that exercise improves your overall health, but did you know that it directly affects your cycle too? When your blood is flowing, your body will have an easier time shedding the uterine lining, which means less need for cramps. While you should make it regular, you don’t need to go hardcore. Research has shown that moderate, regular exercise is effective at significantly reducing cramps associated with menstruation. Even daily walks mixed with some yoga can get your blood pumping enough to improve your cycle and reduce cramps.

  • Talk to your doctor.
    If there’s something irregular about your cycle, talk to your OB-GYN about it at your annual check-up, even if it seems like no big deal. We know that there are many doctors who will tell you that issues like cramps and clots are normal, but there are also doctors who, like us, know that nobody should have to suffer because of their menstrual cycle. If your doctor is not helping you manage your cycle or your pain in a way that you find acceptable, you might want to look for another doctor – one who knows that a healthy cycle is a symptom-free one.

  • Ask us questions.
    We are not a substitute for your doctor, but our founder is a women’s health expert and reproductive acupuncturist with over twenty years of experience fixing periods. She’s a wealth of knowledge and she’s committed to answering every question we get. So, if you’re left with doubts about your cycle, ask away.

We hope that this guide serves as a starting point and that you choose to move forward with the changes needed to improve both your cycle and your overall health. If you need help along the way, we’re here to answer your questions and cheer you on. Feel free to reach out to us via email at connect@foreverbrazen.com or follow us on Facebook.

And stay on the lookout, our next guidebook will be coming soon!

Part 1: Frequency and Duration

Two of the most straightforward things to track during your cycle are how often you get your period and how long it lasts. Knowing this is an important first step to decoding your period – but your period is just one phase of the cycle. In this section we’ll explore the three phases of your cycle and answer the following questions:

  • How long is a healthy cycle?
  • What happens during each phase of your cycle? 
  • How long does a healthy period last and how frequent should it be? 
  • What does it mean if your period is shorter or longer than normal?
  • What does it mean if your cycle length is longer or shorter than normal?
  • How does cycle length and duration relate to fertility issues?
  • Why are fertility issues relevant to everyone, including people not interested in having kids?
  • What can you do to achieve a normal, healthy period?

What does a healthy period look like in terms of frequency & duration?

A normal, healthy cycle is 28-30 days long, with four days of bleeding, and it doesn’t vary much from month to month. While a 28-30 day cycle tells us that everything is working as it’s supposed to in terms of how your body is responding to hormonal signals, cycles outside that range tell us that there’s room for improvement. 

Cycles that are 26-32 days long are not cause for alarm, but the closer to 28 days, the better. Throughout this article, we’ll use the 28-day cycle as the standard, as that’s what’s considered optimal. 

A 28-day cycle is important because your menstrual cycle has 3 phases and each phase is carefully timed to produce different effects in the body. If your cycle is less than 28 days, it means that one or more of the phases is being cut short. If it is longer than 30 days, something is taking too long. Short cycles, long cycles, and cycles that vary widely from month to month may indicate health problems. 

What happens during each phase of your cycle?

  1. Bleeding Phase – 4 Days
    The bleeding phase begins (you guessed it) on the first day of your period, which is also Day 1 of your cycle. During this phase, the uterine lining is dissolved and expelled from the body.
  2. Follicular Phase –10 Days
    The follicular phase is when estrogen and follicle-stimulating hormones work together to help your egg develop before ovulation. It takes 10 days for a high quality, ready-for-fertilization egg to be produced. This takes place during day 5 through day 14 of a healthy cycle.
  3. Luteal phase – 14 Days
    The luteal phase is the final phase of your cycle. It begins with a surge in luteinizing hormones that trigger ovulation (which is instantaneous, by the way) and it lasts until your next period begins. This phase takes up the whole second half of your cycle, normally day 15 through day 28. During this time progesterone helps build and stabilize the uterine lining so that it’s ready for implantation.

What does cycle length have to do with fertility? And what does fertility have to do with our overall health?

Research shows that cycles that don’t fit the 28-day pattern are associated with fertility issues, in some cases decreasing the chance of delivery by up to 50%. Even if you’re NOT trying to get pregnant, not now and not ever, fertility issues are still relevant to you and your overall health as they indicate that something isn’t working right.

Essentially, fertility issues are a sign that your reproductive system isn’t responding well to the hormonal cues that your body is sending. There are two key causes for this, which relate to the length and frequency of your cycle: 

  1. Your ovaries aren’t as receptive to hormones as they should be.
  2. The blood supply to your reproductive organs isn’t optimal. 

 

If your ovaries aren’t as receptive to hormones as they ought to be, your body will produce MORE hormones to get your ovaries in line. This increase in hormones can lead to hormone-related symptoms that may affect your mood, give you acne, mess with your body’s temperature regulation, and even increase lifetime hormone exposure risk. Blood supply issues, on the other hand, can cause bleeding issues like scanty bleeding, clotting, and cramping. 

What does it mean if one of the three phases is shorter or longer for you?

  • The length of your period is a good indicator of the health of your uterine lining, and a healthy uterine lining is what allows for the implantation and nourishment of a fertilized embryo. Both short and long bleeding phases are associated with a decreased chance to conceive each month AND menstrual cramps, but the underlying causes and implications are different. Short bleeding phases can indicate that your uterine lining is too thin. Long bleeding phases may mean that your lining is very thick or that your body is having issues fully expelling it after each cycle.  
  • Both short and long follicular phases indicate that something is off in your reproductive system and you might be experiencing fertility issues, but once again their causes are quite different. If the follicular phase is too short, egg quality can suffer. If you have an abnormally long follicular phase, it could mean your ovaries aren’t responding to hormonal signals your brain is sending. 
  • When it comes to your luteal phase, there isn’t much to sweat in terms of duration. In part that’s because it’s uncommon for someone’s luteal phase to be shorter or longer than 14 days – it’s much more likely that your follicular phase length will vary. If your luteal phase is longer, it actually doesn’t change much. If your luteal phase is significantly shorter, it may decrease chances of conception, but probably won’t affect much else.

How can you improve the length and frequency of your cycle?

Even if your cycle really doesn’t line up with a ‘normal’ cycle in terms of duration and frequency, improvement is possible. That said there is no easy fix – everything that’s going on in your body is interconnected and you have to work on the whole to achieve optimal health and a perfect period. What is going on with your cycle is just one piece of the puzzle – you need to look not only at your menstrual symptoms but also at your day-to-day symptoms and habits.

Here are some tips to help you on your way to a ‘normal’ cycle in terms of frequency & duration:

  • Track your period.
    If you’re not already doing it, start – you can do it in a journal, on your calendar or on one of the period tracking apps. If you’re already doing it, keep going and be sure to reflect on the data, not just record it. Keeping tabs on the length of your period, the length of your cycle, and how much it varies (if at all) will help you better understand what’s going on in your body. If you notice one of the phases of your cycle is longer or shorter than normal, you can come back to this article to unpack what it means.

  • Try taking our PMS Support formula.
    It is designed to regulate hormones and keep your period on track. (Shameless plug, but we wouldn’t be making it if it didn’t work.)

  • Work on improving your cycle and overall health.
    Regardless of the length and frequency of your cycle, there are steps you can take to improve it. Because everything is interconnected, addressing your overall health will help you achieve a healthier period. Here are the key tips we recommend for all people with periods.

  • Talk to your doctor.
    If your cycle or your period is shorter or longer than what’s considered healthy, be sure to mention it to your OB-GYN about it at your annual check-up.

  • Ask us questions.
    We are not a substitute for your doctor, but our founder is a women’s’ health expert and reproductive acupuncturist with over twenty years of experience fixing periods. She’s a wealth of knowledge and she’s committed to answering every question we get. So, if you’re left with doubts, ask away.

Tying it all together

Now that you understand what the length and frequency of your cycle and period are telling, it’s time to look at the bigger picture. Your cycle has lots more to tell you. The color, clottiness, and flow of your period are important, as are the cramps and PMS symptoms you may be experiencing. Our goal is to help you feel empowered to take charge of your cycle and your health, not to overwhelm you with information. That’s why we’re breaking it all down into different sections. In the next article, we’ll decode what your flow is telling you. Are you ready to get to know your flow?