Everything You Didn’t Know About Periods

I was DESPERATE to start my periods. I thought it was exciting, even a bit glam! Can’t quite work out why? From my teens until my early 30’s I was pretty blase about menstruation. Viewing it as an inconvenient thing that happened once a month.

But in recent years, probably since around the time I first begun trying to get pregnant, I have become more and more interested periods. And the more educated I become, the more I realise that our monthly cycles impact SO MUCH of daily life.

Which is why I am delighted to share this list from Natasha Richardson of  Forage Botanicals. She makes natural products for period ‘pains’ and runs an online course called Peaceful Periods.


  • It wasn’t till my mid twenties that I realised not all sex without contraception ends in babies. When I was at school pregnancy sounded like something you caught, like a cold, rather than the incredible aligning of events that it truly is. But I guess teenagers are particularly fertile, so it doesn’t take as much ‘aligning’ when you’re that age.

  • I finished my herbal medicine degree in 2010 and finally realised I didn’t have to take a hormonal  pill to stop myself ‘catching a baby bump’. I taught myself the fertility awareness method and it opened my eyes to so much I didn’t know about my body. I felt utterly cheated and lied to. As though information had been purposefully kept from me because I couldn’t be trusted to make decisions about my own body.

  • In my case, not knowing about my body didn’t give me much trouble. But in my practice as a herbalist I have seen so many cases where women weren’t able to identify their experience as unhealthy or weren’t taken seriously by their health care provider. Many period and fertility problems go untreated for far too long as a result. It shouldn’t take women with endometriosis 7.5 years (of agonising periods) to receive a diagnosis. So here’s some things I didn’t learn in school. The more we know about our bodies the more empowered we will be.

  • NO PERIODS

  • You can’t have a period without ovulating.

  • It’s pretty common to miss a period from stress and/or travel.

  • You might also miss a period if you aren’t having enough nutrients so it’s an opportunity to take better care of yourself if you miss one (and aren’t over the age of 40).

  • HEAVY PERIODS

  • The more you bleed the more iron you need, the less iron you have the more you bleed, ad infinitum, so if you have heavy periods for goodness sake, take an iron supplement! (I like Floradix).

  • If you have a really short and minimalist bleed it’s likely you’re not making a very thick endometrial lining each month.

  • We don’t know for sure, but it’s probable that brown period blood is old blood which has oxidised.

  • PERIOD PAIN

  • Period pain is worsened by stress and is a good reflector of how full-on your month was. (Hong, 2014)

  • Period pain is caused by an inflammatory messenger called prostaglandins, they can be reduced with Omega 3 (or evening primrose oil if that doesn’t work). (Harrel, 1996)

  • 1 in 4 women will have to take time off work and medication for period pain at some time in their life (Champaneria et.al., 2012)

  • If you get debilitating period pain, always see a doctor, it could be Endometriosis. (Hong et.al., 2013)

  • Avoiding foods like wheat and dairy can improve some symptoms of Endometriosis.

  • PMS:

  • PMS is so common among women it should be regarded as normal, and not treated like an illness.

  • PMS is a natural heightening of issues in your life which give you the opportunity to deal with them.

  • Communication skills are generally at a low point during PMS though so just jot it down and bring it up later, after you’ve bled.

  • SANITARY PRODUCTS:

  • It wasn’t till after world war two that women in the UK started buying ‘sanitary pads’, before then, everyone made their own reusable ones.

  • My research has led me to think they are called ‘sanitary’ because they were being made with material used to mop up wounds in the war and it was marketed as the most ‘hygienic’ option at the time. This notion of hygiene still stands today.

  • OVULATION:

  • Women smell so enticing when ovulating that strippers earn double during that time of the month than if they come to work while menstruating.

  • You’re born with many more eggs than you’ll ever use to have babies and periods. But you don’t just use up one egg each period. In fact, most have already died before you even begin menstruating!

  • You had most of your eggs for your future children whilst still in your mothers womb. Quite the Russian doll.

  • Although you can’t make eggs out of nowhere like men make sperm, you can improve their quality with lifestyle, diet and a herb called Ashwagandha.

  • It takes 3 months for the egg which ‘hatches’ in ovulation to have reached that stage, so the changes you make to your egg quality need to be happening for 3 months at least.

  • LETHARGY:

  • It’s normal to get colds and feel lethargic in the week before your period, your immune system takes a little nose dive during that time, presumably to make space for a potentially foreign life force (aka. a baby)!

  • If pre-menstrual lethargy makes it difficult to function normally you can try drinking Nettle tea throughout the month to boost your nutrition.

  • PERIOD POVERTY:

  • 24% of girls will start their periods before learning about them in school.

  • Children as young as 10 choose to stay at home to avoid the embarrassment of bleeding on their school uniform when they can’t afford menstrual hygiene products.

  • 1 in 10 teen girls in the UK have not attended school because they can’t afford menstrual hygiene products (Channel4.com, 2018)

  • THE PILL:

  • The bleeds in-between contraceptive pills aren’t actually periods. In fact, you don’t need a break between the pills at all. We just have one because it seems more natural that way.

  • I’ve made it my mission to spread body awareness through educating about periods because I think it’s a missing piece of the feminism puzzle. I currently have an online course called Peaceful Periods but I’d like to take this into schools, but I’m starting by writing a book.

  • Our concepts of many of these issues are still being defined by the patriarchal beliefs of the victorians who came up with this stuff. Unfortunately, although medical terminology may have changed and our understanding of the body become more in-depth they are still based upon fundamental definitions of the body that are deeply entrenched in patriarchy. So get talking about periods and be an empowered ovary-owner.

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5 thoughts on “Everything You Didn’t Know About Periods

  1. Is it correct to say ‘you can’t have a period without ovulating’? My understanding was that whilst you may have your period, some women don’t ovulate therefore causing fertility issues. Just wanted to clarify.

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  2. Very helpful thank you.

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  3. Kirsten I did not ovulate but had periods. I have PCOS. I ended up taking Clomid to assist fertility.

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  4. I had painful periods as a teen and not as an adult, the same as a lot of my friends. I can’t imagine it was due to stress or just age?

    Also, I have always been a very light bleeder but also anemic.

    This is a really interesting article but I don’t think there is a ‘one fits all’ approach with periods and the female reproductive system as it’s so complex and I individual.

    I’m 30 and my periods have stopped from chemo and was told that I could bleed again but that doesn’t mean I’ll ovulate.

    I completely agree that we need more information available and young girls need to be more educated but quoting things as facts Is difficult when individual menstral cycles are so complex.

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  5. Very interesting!! Thank you

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