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chachaheels
Maddy, you hit the nail on the head, for me. It IS all about the society around us never being accepting of the way our bodies demand that we need time for ourselves, particularly during our periods. Someone down the thread wrote that if men had periods, there'd be monthly 4 day holidays...and, in fact, there have been human societies where this was the status quo for women during their menses (remember, women "link up" dynamically if they live in any kind of community, so all women in the group menstruate at the same time). I wonder if the kind of crushing pain we've all experienced, as well as the whole hormonal upheaval affecting so many women today, would even be a reality in a community where the profound reality of women's lives was actually respected instead of "overlooked".

There are literally hundreds of ways you can try to address the symptoms that come with your period. For some, drugs like anaprox can do wonders (though, for me, it did absolutely nothing). Others do well with ibuprofen (again, no go for me) and the opportunity to rest. Others find that making dietary changes which actually support their own individual needs and respect their individual sensitivies in terms of foods takes care of problems they face. Many more women also find that learning to love their cycle and love their bodies because they are female bodies gets rid of so much of their pain and discomfort.

Point is, you can use nutrition, acupuncture, massage therapy, exercise, chinese medicine, herbs, homeopathy...so many options are open to you and all of them have been used for centuries without causing harm. You have to find what's right for you as a means for restoring your health--especially your menstrual health.

As for sunscreen: I hate the stuff and I don't see how any of it can help you. We need some sun exposure in order to synthesize vitamin D, and sunlight exposure also helps with hormone balance...staying out of the sun, or blocking out its helpful, necessary rays can't be anything except harmful, really. You don't need to tan yourself into a mole with irregular margins, but you don't need to hide from it like you're afraid of it.
pepper
maddy, tatina, nothing worked for me for cramps when i was younger. not off the shelf pain killers, that's for sure. midol, aleve, ibuprofin, t-3's, nothing. just the anaprox or another version of same, it's perscription.

sunscreen, another one of those things.
danger of sunscreen use.
vit d and sunscreen use.
pollystyrene
For someone who burns in less than 30 minutes of sun exposure at peak hours, yes, sunscreen is necessary.

The link you posted, pepper, supports sunscreen usage,at least until they can get some definitive guidelines worked out:
“For now,” says MacArthur, “the best advice is to continue use of sunscreen whenever you are working or participating in activities outdoors where solar exposure is likely. Don’t be fooled by cloudy days…UV rays penetrate clouds. Make sure you use plenty of sunscreen and fully coat all exposed body parts. At the same time, to improve general protection against cancer, it makes sense to try to increase your vitamin D intake through dietary choices.”

My line for people who mock my whiteness- I'd rather be pasty white than extra crispy.
lucizoe
Word, polly. I know that some sun is healthy, especially for my depression, but I'm unavoidably outside for five hours a day in peak burning times. I've had enough sickness from solar overexposure (and my mother has had two cancerous moles removed) to slather my ass up before I leave for work. As with everything else, making informed decisions and all that is good.
venetia
"Instead of promoting wearing UV protective clothing and cutting down on exposure to sun, we (society) just tell people to slap on sunscreen and things will be a-ok."

Ha ha your society must be soooo different from mine on the sun front. We brainwash our kids with "slip slop slap" (slip on clothing, slop on sunscreens, slap on a protective hat) - all school uniforms involve sunhats and toddlers are covered neck-to-knee at the beach.

I felt sad actually, on toddlerblock duty one day when my niece was playing in her paddling pool. At 3 1/2 she was already conditioned to jump out of the pool and re-apply lotion every so often all by herself. My childhood was nothing like that. Though, by the end of it my beloved cat's ears had curled up and dissolved.

The idea of not wearing sunscreen in nz is ...laughable. I wear four sunscreens every day in summer and one all winter. Even so I have sundamage, freckles, moles, etc that have to be checked each year. In the absence of sunblock I would wear mud, like a pig. Living in a society where the radio broadcasts the UV level and the "burn time" for the day all summer (Burntime is how long you can be in full sun for before you burn - and I've tested it, it's true), the alternative to going without sun protection is to stay indoors.

A few years ago, M and I accidentally used an old expired sunblock when on a snorkelling trip. I was also wearing a tshirt and knee-high socks in the water (as extra protection against the sun) but even so... we both got so badly burnt that we could hardly walk because our feet had swollen up so much. It was quite terrifying. I know a woman who sunbathed all day without block and she was hospitalised with third degree burns to the stomach. I was so worried that I was going to get something like that.

Go without sunblock and get skin cancer like every second farmer or fisherman I know? Not to mention painfully burnt all summer? No way. I get plenty of UV right through my SPF40+ thank you.

/rant

It's funny, we all think about this stuff and make informed choices, and so many of our choices are so radically different from each other's.
venetia
It's too late to edit it away but I want to apologise for the obsessive, somewhat off-topic rant below. Must've pinched a nerve of mine, releasing the crazy.

Sorry Ladies!

tatiana
venetia, it is very different here. I went to Oz and Nz about 7 years ago. The concept of UV protective clothing and rating clothing for SPF is almost unheard of in North America, yet it seemed to be very common down there.

We are only brainwashing 'slop', no 'slip', no 'slap'.
bklynhermit
it bothers me that every time the fact is mentioned that one CAN be active on their period, CAN be sexy on their period, etc. we have to stress again that some people have painful symptoms that preclude that.

painful periods that do not disappear with dietary/lifestyle changes and aren't helped by over the counter medication are part of a pathology called dismenorrhea (which i am probably massacring the spelling for).

if you are one of the individuals out there who does have that condition, then yeah, maybe this drug is for you. this is something that can only be determined through consultation with a medical professional who is trustworthy and not a pill-pusher.

but most women don't have dismenorrhea, and to varying degrees they can pursue their usual routine (including sex, physical activity, etc.) during their periods. the fact that dismenorrhea exists doesn't mean that everyone has it, or that 'getting rid of those pesky periods' is a good option for most women.

and the marketing of this drug in my experience is not to women with dismenorrhea. it's to women who feel dirty having sex during their periods or are embarrassed to be seen with a tampon. women who are inconvenienced by bloating or the occasional stain on the sheets during sex. and that is not something one should be on hormone treatments for. it is unhealthy, dangerous, and morally wrong to market this drug for cosmetic ('eeeew, periods are icky!') reasons.

just as it is unhealthy, dangerous, and morally wrong to market the pill as a complexion clarifier/breast enlarger/boyfriend pleaser, or to market viagra for a normal loss of sexual appetite as one gets older.

and notice i said "TO MARKET" this drug, not to take this drug. we all have our reasons, and we all make our choices. but i would hope that women would read up on the facts before pestering their doctor to put them on this thing just because they find menstruating inconvenient.
tatina
Interesting detour, anyway! I was wondering about this issue for a while. I used sunscreen regulary since I lived in India. I have girlfriends who were here for years without protection and are getting facelifts now, the damage is so immense. It is sad to see a 45-year old friend who's age is estimated "around 60".

Back to menstruation: Chahaheels, I tried it all. I exercise an hour a day, eat vegetarian, get acuptuncture, tried herbs and psychotherapy - but I still have major pain when I have my period. The core question remains: Why on earth does society force women to function and to perform when they are seriously in pain? It's true: A guy with a pimple on his ass would get a doctor's note. While women are still seen as "hysterical hypochondriacs" - by men AND sometimes also by other women - and expected to pull themselves together. If we want to see any change, sistas, we have to stick together and not go into the kind of split that is also happening in this thread. Bkylhermit, I never met a woman who went on the pill because she found her menstruation "inconvenient". Not one. Women often chose this as a last refuge because they are simply afraid to lose their jobs.

I am totally in favour of natural remedies and used them all my life. But there are many cases of painful menstruation where the woman will not get major relief from herbs - what she actually needs is rest rest rest. The question should not be pill or natural remedies - which are, in the case of acupunture and massage very expensive and often not covered by insurance. The real question is to change the image of menstruation - it is not a time where all women can work, but it is a time where they can dream, sleep, have intuitive insights and restore their energy.
pepper
have you read 'the red tent'? fabulous.
girlygirlgag
word, bklyn!

We teach the kids to slop and slap. I have never heard of UV Protected clothing, but we make them wear hats and sunscreen.

I never wear it up here, the sun is not very strong and though I am somewhat fair, have always browned easily.

Now, if I am somewhere tropical, I wear a hat and sunscreen.
maddy29
love the red tent. the first two days of my period, i do just want to curl up and sleep. it feels like a time when i turn inward, and yeah, i wish i could cherish that time instead of have it get in the way of this busy life.

hummingbird
bklyn, WORD! That's right!

Loved the RED TENT! Actually, I gotta find the biotch that has my book, shit, I havn't seen it in ages.
chachaheels
Oh, I agree with you on the "rest" stuff, Tatina, but you still can't ignore the symptoms you're suffering from --in my mind, paying full attention to getting some real treatment for them is tantamount to giving yourself exactly what you need, despite the overwhelming pressures and dictates of the world around you. Painful menstruation symptoms are just another way your body is telling you that something is wrong, and you should take steps to make sure you are healed of whatever is taking place. The pathology doesn't just go away when you decide to take a pill to do away with the cycle that makes the symptoms surface.

Herbs will--yes!--actually provide relief and cure for some people, as long as they seek treatment from qualified herbalists who know how to use herbs to restore health. They are very powerful medicines in themselves, so don't discount them. It was just one suggestion which might be the answer for someone. There are lots of others. "Major relief" is the outcome of good, healing treatment; you're trying to find out why the symptoms are taking place (are there cysts? If so, what's creating them? Is there a nutrient deficiency? Is the pain a result of a sexually transmitted disease you don't know about? All things you need to find out and treat--not suppress with a hormone pill). So, Tatina, you've tried a few things but you still have major pain--well, there are lots of other options you haven't explored yet. Or maybe you've got to give the options you've tried ongoing attention and time to work. All I know is I thought I was going to suffer no matter what I did. Turns out nutritional changes were effective for me if I continued to supplement with omega fatty acids. After I found a good homeopath, however, I didn't even need to worry about the supplements again either. Just a couple of doses of my remedy and whatever caused my troubles for over 20 years corrected itself for good, immediately. It's been almost 10 years and I've never had any return of the kind of symptoms I'd suffered through since my period began. So it was definitely worth the effort of seeking out a qualified homeopath, in my case, as it turned out to be what worked for me.

You can't treat any of this stuff with "over the counter" patent medicines. Alternative medical treatments are not "over the counter"--they only work IF you see someone who is well trained in their modality of choice. Even so, you have to be committed to doing what's necessary--sticking to any dietary changes suggested, knowing that you need to continue seeing the practitioner so that he/she can manage your case as you go, being honest with yourself and with your practitioner about the realities in your life, etc. etc.

As for sunscreens--the idea of it being dangerous stuff comes from the fact that they block out the beneficial UV rays from the sun (the ones that enable us to make vitamin D, which is damn nigh impossible to "supplement" dietarily, let me tell you) and expose us fully to the rays which are actually responsible for skin cancer. You may not burn, but you are extending your exposure to the most dangerous UV rays thinking you're "protected". Ironic.

People actually go out in the sun here with tons of sunblock, and inappropriate clothes. Not many realise that you still have to use a physical block--that means long sleeved shirts and pants, hats with brims wide enough to cover the full face and neck. People here now go out into the sun for hours at a time, wearing things like tank tops, bathing suits, and ball caps--and they go out into the sun when they shouldn't (peak period times should be spent in the shade). People are getting skin cancer at far higher rates than ever before, yet the use of sunscreen is also quite high--I know we're going think "ozone layer", but the truth is we're not respecting the reality of the sun's power.

tatina
Chachaheels, many thanks for your indepth and thoughtful reply. Nevertheless - I have to clarify a few things, it seems. I did not tried "a few things", I tried it all. From Homeopathy to Tibetan and Chinese Medicine to Ayurveda to Acupuncture to Herbalists to Flaxseed Oil to Rebalancing to Psychotherapy to intense Pilates and Yoga trainings to Alexander Technique. I am an hypnotherapist and have helped clients with menstrual dysfunction but not myself. At the risk of sounding harsh: I find it ridiculous to be told by you, who does not know me or my medical history that I am "ignoring my symptoms". Or that I received "overwhelming pressure from the world around me". Hu? That's absurd. And not cool.
I put a lot of energy into dealing with menstrual pain and I value all these techniques and have enjoyed most of the treatments. But my pain remained. I am glad to hear that Omega Fatty Acids and Homeopathy worked for you - but all bodies are different.

PLUS
My issue is not pill OR natural treatment.

The pill is not an option for me due to my previous medical history (braintumor with estrogene receptors). It is not a choice I have at all. But I don't judge other women who make other decisions and take the pill. I would rather see my 16-year old goddaughter taking the pill than ruining her life with a teen-pregnancy. I also wish my Indian employee would have taken the pill instead of having six children, no husband and forever a life in the slums.

I had painful periods for now 30 years and I am slowly learning to accept and relax with my condition. Not every symptom needs to be "fixed". Not everything can or has to be "healed". My process is to learn to live with my limitation, to love my body, to love my uterus and to make my life as easy and pleasant as possible - inspite of the symptoms.

As for sunscreens. I think the solutions is simply. Fair skinned people like me don't belong in the sun. Our skin is not made for frying at the pool. But when I go shopping I don't leave the house without sunscreen.
venetia
I don't understand how so many people in the US don't believe in climate change. That is so odd to me. I've seen the climate change so much, the frost lines shift lower and then vanish on the land where I grew up, fruits that need frost die out, tropical things do better and better - crops that couldn't be grown here now can. We get immigrants from places like Tuvalu where their islands are literally going under water now. Is it all in our imaginations? When I look at what the sun does to a sign or an awning or the ears of cats and dogs, I'm not at all surprised that it does things to us at a greater rate than ever before.
chachaheels
Who says people in the US don't believe in climate change? It's obviously happening, right before our eyes--and after seeing things like the massive storms come through over the last year alone...people certainly know change is taking place.

I think the debate, if any really does exist, happens around whether or not the change is being completely perpetrated by our wasteful, polluting, cataclysm-producing activities here in the first world, or whether or not climate change patterns take place in continuous cycles, over long periods of time, for decades or even centuries, as part of earth's natural state.

bklynhermit
tatina, FYI, this LoEstrin stuff is basically the same thing as birth control pills, but even stronger doses of hormones.

and if you're all gung ho about learning to live with your symptoms as they are, why are you so psyched about the idea of completely healthy women taking these drugs?

frankly, it shocks me that someone who considers herself a health practitioner would reccommend cosmetic amenorrhea in asymptomatic women in order to make up for something that is clearly more in the realm of marketing-induced psychological stigma and NOT an actual health problem.

you must do a fantastic job with your patients' menstrual issues...
tatina
Strange, Bklynhermit... I wonder...Are we talking about the same product? I just googled for LoEstrin, both on the manufacturer's site and on independent consumer sites. What I read is that LoEstrin is a low dose birth control pill - the amount of estrogene is significantly lower than in previous generations of the pill. LoEstrin causes the usual side effects (slight mood swings, water retention) and the usual benefits (reduction of cysts, no cramps). Like any other birth control pill LoEstrin can be used/or misused to supress menstruation but that's not the basic idea. Most consumers described that their period got lighter but has not disappeared. LoEstrin is clearly a contraception device. Nothing new, nothing to write home about. If a woman educates herself and decides to go for this, I would respect her choice.
bklynhermit
i thought supression of menstruation is what this whole thread is about? and i don't know if you've lost track or played too much devil's advocate, but your original position here was that you were in favor of it.

the only way to supress menstruation via birth control pills is to skip the 'reminder' pills so that you're taking a real pill every day. the extra 7 doses are what stops you from bleeding. it doesn't matter whether you're using a low-estrogen pill or not, you're still getting more hormones than you normally would if you used the pills as directed (21 per cycle rather than 28).

also, the 'low dose' birth control pills are nothing new, they're the norm these days. you're still pumping your body full of hormones. if you weren't, it wouldn't work.

also, as far as i know, lighter periods aren't necessarily a common side benefit of any form of hormonal birth control. all any birth control pill does wrt periods is standardize them in length and distance from each other. you will get a period every 28 days, and it will be a maximum of 7 days long. which is an improvement if your cycle is dramatically shorter or you normally bleed longer.

i have never heard of anybody's period getting lighter, and it only gets shorter if you were previously bleeding for more than 7 days. i also did not experience any lessening of symptoms -- i was just as crampy, pissy, bloaty, achy, etc. on the pill as i was before and am now. i guess it's possible depending on the individual, but that was never mentioned to me as a possible benefit and i've never met anybody who bragged about less symptomatic periods after going on the pill.

again, i'm surpised that as a health professional who often works with women who have menstrual disfunctions, you didn't know how the birth control works and what it can and can't do.

so now i'm really confused -- i googled LoEstrin and it's just a regular low dose pill. from the beginning of the thread, i thought sueunique was talking about a specific pill pack that supresses menstruation, which is something that has been discussed at length in the media and is being directed at women who think periods are icky and unsexy. sueunique's original message sounds just like ad copy i've seen for those types of pills. i have to say i wondered why you'd call a special no-period birth control 'loestrin' when in order to supress the periods you'd need to be getting a higher dose than most current packs give. but honestly i didn't give it much thought. weird...

ETA: just did a bit of googling and apparently the FDA has specifically NOT approved the menstrual suppression birth control pills that started this whole media brouhaha over the past month. this should be a pretty big signal that it's not a widely accepted thing in the medical community. again, i think exceptions are sometimes made for certain cases of extreme dismenorrhea, but it is quite specifically as of the last few days NOT accepted by the medical establishment for cosmetic use.
venetia
I didn't get that from Tatina's posts in this thread...
bklynhermit
agh. tatina and tatiana in one thread, posting kinda similar stuff. oy. i'm extremely confused now as to who said what and what their point was.

though i did check and tatina seems to be pretty a-ok with menstrual suppression, so my points still stand.

but oy gevalt. between zoya and zora and tatina and tatiana, i think i'm going either blind or senile or both.
pollystyrene
crap, I didn't even notice tatina AND tatiana (zoya and zoya I knew about)!! I just saw someone whose screename starts with "tat" and assumed it was the same person.
tatina
No, Bkylhermit, I am not pro-supressing periods. I am pro choice. Totally. When women can decide to have an abortion or not, they can also decide which contraception they use and if or if not they want to have periods. It is their mind, their body, their decision - not mine. Ok? And since my professional attitude seems to be a concern for you: In Europe, where I am trained, hypnotherapy and counselling are not considered a part of health care and medicine. It is not my job to give medical advice - I am actually not allowed to do that. I only support women in making their own individual choices.
bklynhermit
ah. cool. sorry for any misunderstanding. i think i got confused between you and tatiana, confused about what the original poster was referring to, etc. etc. interesting that counseling is not considered part of health care in europe.

i have to say i really disagree regarding the 'right to choose' whether to have periods or not. especially after googling around and finding out that the FDA specifically declined to approve a birth control pill that would be intended for use as a menstrual suppressant. i think that if a woman's doctor determines that it's the best treatment option for an illness, then ok whatever.

but i have to say that just about everything i've read about cosmetic menstrual suppression via hormone therapy really really really creeps me out. it plays so much on media-created and patriarchially supported insecurities that women have about their periods, and a lot of the science of it seems misleading. for instance, check out noperiod.com. eerie.

an uninformed choice is not a choice at all, in my opinion. and everything i've seen about this set-up leads me to believe that interested parties are deliberately trying to obscure the facts on this. check out noperiod.com, for instance. ick.
tatina
No problem, Bkylhermit. I think the US law is actually pretty simular. Psychotherapists and counsellors are not allowed to prescribe medicine or to give medical advice - unless they have a medical or psychiatric degree of course.

Just checked the website. Creepy, obscure and negative. I wonder who finances this..... On the other hand, there is a point that was made by a woman here earlier in the discussion. In nature no mammal ovulates and menstruates continously like we humans in modern society. Our ancestors were either pregnant or lactating and that means they did not ovulate and menstruate for very long periods. So the question remains if our life is really that healthy and natural. Some researchers say that continous monthly ovulation - every ovulation is a mini-injury for the ovary - could be one of the reasons for the rise in ovarian cancer .
quietmadness
Down here, on the radio--
"If you are a woman, and you're through your child-bearing years, but still experiencing heavy periods for more than 4-5 days every month--keeping you from enjoying life, Dr's So&So are now offering a medical procedure that will either change your flow to 3 days of light bleeding or eliminate it completely, with no change or affect in your hormonal balance."

They're of course talking about an "endometrial ablation." One time, one procedure. No hormonal effects. No more heavy periods--maybe no more periods at all!

Interesting!

chachaheels
Endometrial ablation is absolutely not fool proof (in fact, the failure rate of the procedure is pretty high). It should only be performed if a woman suffers from menorrhagia--prolonged, excessive periods--which does not occur because of hormonal imbalances (although, you could argue that such a state is impossible). The complications are pretty numerous, and the likelihood that this procedure would actually stop any heavy bleeding or cramping which used to accompany the period is actually pretty small (in fact, everything I've read about the procedure pretty much points out that the failure rate is quite high). There is also a huge risk of hemorrhage and infection, since "ablation" literally means to destroy and remove the endometrial tissue (using a fluid to flush it out). It's usually a "last ditch" effort to forestall hysterectomy.

But, just like the hysterectomy, it is one of those procedures that many doctors have been told to use on women who "no longer need" their uterus for childbearing (there continues to be a prevailing belief in gynecology that once a woman's stopped having children, the uterus and ovaries are just lying in wait to create deadly disease...so they all have to come out).

Again, that's a pretty sick understanding of the female body...even as a treatment for menorrhagia. As a treatment for dysmenorrhea, it's a failure (the symptoms return as soon as the period starts again, as it does for most of the women who undergo the procedure).

In my mind, it sounds like the equivalent of removing the prostate gland for men the minute their PSA levels look "iffy"--and doing it as painfully as possible (apparently, cramping post procedure is quite pronounced and lasts for over 24 hours...and subjects are "out of commission" for a week or so while they recover). Which, curiously, is never even considered, is it?

I guess that's how I would view such procedures in medicine: is there some kind of parallel surgery or hormonal treatment being touted as a highly questionable cure-all where men are concerned, whenever they face pains or dysfunction in their reproductive systems? Has any proctologist even dared to say, "Listen, mister, you're way past wanting to have any more children...so let's lock up that vas deferens and pull out that prostate before you get the inevitable cancer there, shall we?"

I just don't buy the idea that "no animal has ever ovulated and menstruated continually in nature". Women have always been able to use forms of birth control which didn't depend on being pregnant or nursing--that was only one type of birth control. There were obviously so many kinds of other options for controlling menstrual pain, bleeding, ovulation, conception and contraception, and whatever took place during pregnancy, birthing, and post-birth. How do we know? We have so much information about the use of plant, mineral, and animal substances which have exactly these effects in the body, and that information has been amassed empirically for many, many centuries, all over the world. Who else but women would have gathered that information and disseminated it, so that we still have it and use it today? So much of that knowledge is still at the very core of modern medicine. If all women did to regulate their fertility was get pregnant and keep nursing, why would they have bothered to learn about and use medicinal substances to control their fertility? Where would such extensive information about these substances have come from, if not from the women who used them?


tatina
Which plants or minerals are known as reliable and non-toxic contraceptives?
bklynhermit
that whole "in nature women have fewer cycles things" is incredibly, incredibly suspect.

firstly, it's true mainly for the following reasons:

*women of the past had far shorter lifespans than modern western women do, and were much less likely to survive until menopause.

*women of the past experienced menarche far later than modern western women do, due partly to nutrition but at this point also because girls are now exposed to borderline dangerous levels of hormones in food (esp. dairy), water, etc. western women in the 19th century began menarche around 16. during the 20th century advances in nutrition levels brought it down to 13 or so. over the past 20 years or so it has become common for girls as young as 7 and 8 to have periods.

* poorer nutrition levels increased the chances that a woman would cease menses due to lack of body fat. this is still common in certain parts of the "developing" world.

thanks, but i'll pick living out a nice long life and getting enough to eat over not getting reproductive cancers any day of the week.

and as for the menarche issues, more and more research is showing that early onset of puberty is being caused by overexposure to hormones -- which would logically indicate that continued and voluntary exposures to same is probably not terribly healthy.

there has been some research that has shown that modern western women's longer reproductive lives may be one of the causes of reproductive cancers. but no research seems to have shown that the simple cessation of menses will counteract that.

the idea that it is "natural" for women to be constantly reproducing (the old-style european agricultural model) is simply false. also, other than for a short period of a few centuries in certain parts of europe, i'm not sure that the excessive childbearing thing was really and truly all that common. the popular conception of women as slaves to reproduction until The Miracle Of Hormonal Birth Control is, well, hogwash.

pre-modern women had many birth control options to choose from. firstly there was intentional spacing through prolonged breastfeeding. also, it is reasonable to imagine that women of the past were able to follow their menstrual cycles and practice something not unlike Natural Family Planning. there are several herbal abortifacients which have been proven to work reasonably well, especially very early in a pregnancy. if you go through old recipe books and books of folk medicine and home remedies, there are a great number of birth control methods provided. most of them are barrier methods using sponges soaked in acidic substances like vinegar, lemon juice, or old wine. there is evidence that women of the ancient world used rudimentary IUDs. women had a lot more control over reproduction pre-pill than is common knowledge. in fact, in the early 20th century Margaret Sanger started agigtating for birth control in the form of the right to provide information about birth control methods by mail and send birth control devices and supplies through the mail, which was illegal as of that time. if accurate birth control hadn't been invented yet, what the fuck was she so worked up about? and why would the US pass a law censoring birth control literature and banning the shipment of birth control supplies if no such thing existed at that time?
pepper
if anyone is really interested in reading more about herbs in regard to female issues (contraception as well as general reproductive health, pregnancy, menstruation, etc) there is a GREAT book written by jeanine parvati baker called 'hygieia, a woman's herbal'. she died last year so it may be hard to find a copy but it's worth it. very beautiful and informative book.
another herbal book i recommend is the herb book by john lust. if you want to use herbs as contraceptive you have to do so carefully and exercise a level of responsibility that most women today aren't willing to take on. it's more work than spitting on a slide every morning or taking your tempurature.
tatina
Bklynhermit, I agree with you that most herbal "contraception" was actually herbal abortion. There are very few herbs that have actually contraceptive properties, and no known herb will protect a woman reliably from getting pregnant. Even SisterZeus, a women's group that works on issues like herbal contraception says: "For those of us who want to minimize the risk of getting pregnant, herbs may not be the best option for our primary method of birth control". Check http://www.sisterzeus.com/HContra.htm for more infos.

Wild Yam targets the estrogene receptors and Neem Oil was used in the vagina as a spermicide, but all of these herbs are far from being only remotely reliable. In the West Indies women used the half of a lemon as a pessar - but try that if you haven't given birth yet.

As you say, there are plenty of herbs which can induce abortion and they were widely used, from Pennyroyal to Parsley. Of course we could discuss if it is smart and healthy for the hormonal system to use abortion as birthcontrol. Or not. Another practice was abortion induced by massage, acupressure or acupuncture. In the Phillipines you can see this being done by midwifes until the 6th month of pregnancy. It is a traditional method but risky for the health of the pregnant woman. The midwife will basically sit on the woman's belly and forcefully initiate an abortion. In Indonesia midwifes use more gentle and sophisticated practices and they target acupunture pressure points in the back to induce abortion.

A lot of this talk about the "good old times" when "women had control over their fertility" are feminist fairytales, dreamt by wellfed 1st world women who know native people from Discovery Channel - nostalgia that has little to do with reality.

All in all nobody will seriously doubt that women in ancient times had fewer periods and fewer ovulations, for all the reasons you mention yourself: Shorter lifespan, later menarche, poor nutrition plus frequent pregnancy and long periods of breastfeeding. These are simply facts. And yes, these facts might be used by the pharma industry to talk women into taking the pill. I absolutely support women who are looking for alternatives and want to try herbs - but they should know that herbs as contraception are anything but safe.

An excellent source for all those interested in ethnopharmacology and sexuality is the work of anthroplogist Christian Rätsch.
chachaheels
Yeah, I'm not too ready to believe that women lived shorter lives and ate less foods in the past. That simply is not true across the board, in every society. There is a great deal of information regarding nutrition in every culture and how certain foods were grown, hunted, and foraged, and for what purposes. Dr. Weston Price did extensive research in the nutritional traditions of "native" peoples from every part of the world to see just what made them so traditionally healthy...and compared those ancient and still practiced diets to the
"modern" ones he felt were responsible for creating the common physical deformities he was seeing as long ago as the 1930's in our own fat, wealthy, "long-lived" society.

I find it quite insulting to be told I have a Discovery Channel understanding of "native peoples" and of women's health, but I'll let it slide cause even though I have good training in nutrition I can't say I know everything about every single human cultural group across all times in our history--but I do know for a fact that the short-lived, starving peoples who menstruated twice and lactated till death just were not the norm. Even in societies as old as Catal Hayuk (that's over 10000 years ago) there is a great deal of evidence that women lived long after their menopause took place. In other societies there is so much that women were expected to contribute, once they passed menopause. There is so much mythology built around this even in western tradition that it just doesn't "fit" with the idea that our ancestors didn't experience this.

When I am told that "modern" people like us live longer and are better fed than our "ancestors", I know it's simply not true. Every society experienced times of famine and times of plenty--as for length of life, we don't really live that much longer than people did hundreds of years ago (although some European peoples whose food supplies and sanitation conditions were threatened by decades of war and just plain old overcrowding...would give you the short-lived, underfed "ancestor" we're always told about. Until they could grow food again and "re-organize" living conditions to avoid creating conditions conducive to disease).

There's one truth I know just from my studies in alternative medicine, however: we sure are lied to an awful lot about the history of medicine, and in particular we are lied to a great deal about the history of women's roles and contributions in medicine. You can bet your bottom dollar that women knew about all kinds of ways to control their fertility--including ways to make men less fertile, as well (you need only open up any "herbal", such as Cowper's, to see all kinds of plants listed for such purposes). "Modern" conventional medicine is still drawing from this vast body of knowledge (the synthetic estrogen used to make the first birth control pills came from dioscorea--wild yam, which women had used for centuries as a food to aid glandular health). From the IUD to the Birth Control Pill, all of these so called "modern" birth control methods have their bases in the knowledge gleaned, practiced, and disseminated by women. Pity modern medicine doesn't respect that information and the established usage methods, and practices monopharmacy with it instead.

bklynhermit
oh, and then there's my all time favorite old style traditional method of birth control:

fellatio and cunnilingus.

much more comfortable than shoving an entire lemon up your girlie bits.

also, chachaheels, the most realistic 'traditional' model of childbearing looks a lot like our own notions of happy and healthy reproduction. marriage for women younger than 17 or 18 has not been the norm during most of human history and culture, though. children were generally spaced five or more years apart through a variety of means. which means that if a woman experienced menarche at 16 and menopause at 45, even if she had her first child right away she would still be likely to have no more than 5 or 6 children, which is still within normal modern range.

and that's if she began having children right at menarche and had another child regular like clockwork every five years until menopause. i read a really fascinating article about this for an anthropology class, once. unfortunately i no longer either have the textbook or remember the name of the article.
bklynhermit
found the article! mad props to the far reaches of my memory for coming up with the editor of my anthro 101 text! and a shout out to the Amazon.com "Inside This Book" feature!

Ancient Bodies, Modern Customs, and Our Health, by Elizabeth D. Whitaker. 1998.
jasmith
bklynhermit, just read your post a way down the thread. Regarding periods getting lighter on the pill: I can honestly say mine has indeed gotten lighter. And shorter. And has eliminated what symptoms I had pre-pill.
lucizoe
You know what? This is almost OT, since I'm not on any kind of birth control, but my period has gotten lighter and shorter and less painful as I've gotten older. It's really odd. It used to last about five days, during three of which I would bleed profusely and have pretty consistent cramping. I never spotted. But ever since I had a really intense Strep C infection it's been like this...hmmmm...maybe it rotted my ovaries...

sorry...OT
jasmith
Strep C? What parts does this affect/effect (heh, don't know which one to use)
lucizoe
heh, jasmith...affect :-)

It was in my throat, but I honestly think it moved to the girly bits too (not that I've been able to get a doctor to take that connection seriously since). What I was able to learn about it was that it usually strikes bovines and piggies and those of the human persuasion over the age of 75. NO freaking clue where I picked it up. I'm not fully convinced I don't still have it, considering the infection coincided with many changes in my body's chemistry that I really can't attribute to anything else, and it doesn't respond to treatment.

Argh, again, sorry for derailment. Back to bleeding! (Or not, if you prefer :-) )
tatiana
As long as we're derailed:

affect=verb
effect=noun

Sorry, just finished 8 months of grammar courses, it's a reflex.
pepper
i took some refresher grammar courses recently that dealt with just such things and still, i forget nearly every time. oh well, you know what i mean.

as i age my periods get lighter and shorter as well. used to be 7 days, now it's barely 4 and i only really bleed on the first two, spotting for the rest.
chachaheels
Let's ride this derailment out, shall we?
"Affect" and "Effect" are each both nouns and verbs. I'd cut and paste definitions here but you can look it up at merriam-webster.com or dictionary.com.

We never actually discuss this often enough, but the vast majority of pregnancies in nature end in spontaneous abortion (this happens in all mammals, not just human beings). Miscarriages happen so often, and often so early in the pregnancy that many women aren't even aware they are miscarrying. I suspect this is one reason women were not all inundated with a vast number of children to raise as a result of a typical life of sexual activity. "Unprotected" sex did not always result in a birth.
tatiana
They can both be verbs and nouns, but the most common usage is the one I gave and it's the easiest for people to remember. Affect is rarely used as a noun except in psychiatry, and effect is mostly used as a verb in business speak.
bklynhermit
this is a bit off topic, but it's also interesting to note that our bodies are designed not to become pregnant when conditions would make childrearing difficult. for instance natural menstrual supression due to periodic malnutrition. irrregular periods during times of extreme stress. a lot of women will have trouble conceiving just prior to an experience that would make pregnancy extremely undesirable (the onset of a disease, marital problems, etc.). the things we don't understand about women's bodies and reproduction would fill a small solar system.

interesting short anecdote: in the days just after 9/11, i got my period 2 weeks early even though i was on the pill. my uterus just spontaneously shed its lining due to the psychological stress at the onset of all the uncertainties of living in post-terrorist New York. weird, but fascinating.
venetia
I know someone who miscarried the result of a rape. She was booked in for an abortion but her body just went, hmm, let's not do this.

We have covered affect/effect pretty well in Lingua Mania a while back... we seem to go there periodically ha ha ha.
maddy29
periods are pretty amazing, really. even just the simple stuff, like women who live together or whatever becoming in synch with each other's cycles.

some people feel that it'slike the source of their power and when we suppress it or sterilize it etc, we are blocking our personal power....i prolly didn't say that right.

jasmith
Ha! Learned something new today. I always felt kind of dumb for not knowing the difference b/t affect and effect, so thanks for clarifying!
bklynhermit
i wouldn't say i believe my period is 'the source of my power', but i do attribute a lot of (probably very hippy dippy) spiritual significance to it. my mother, grandmother, and all my female ancestors had periods. my daughter (if i have one) will have a period. i like the rhythm of it. i like seeing how my cycle lines up with weather changes, the phases of the moon, and other natural phenomena.

i've always been annoyed that my cycle is EXTREMELY resistant to change and thus i have never just naturally synched with female friends, family, roommates, etc. though at the same time Regularity At All Costs is kinda fascinating, too.

i may have all these mystical notions about my own menses because i have pretty light and symptom-free periods. and a lot of my symptoms are more fascinating than painful. strange moods which are not necessarily pissy, just odd. i have a bionic sense of smell during my period. i also feel oddly sensual.

i can't say i look forward to it every month, but all in all i have to say i'd be sad to see it go.
venetia
Bklynhermit!! You're the first other woman I've heard of with the Bionic Sense of Smell! I get that too - I often use it to "smell out" areas in the house that could do with a clean, and also go around smelling flowers. Occasionally I forget I get that, and get disturbed by some smell or other until M reminds me "honey our oven doesn't really smell "strongly" of garlic" etc. Hey do you also get an increased sensitivity to hot and cold?

Hmm, can't say I've ever felt mystically inclined towards them though.
chachaheels
Funny thing about that sense of smell--most women actually "lose" a bit of their sense of smell during their periods (the old adage is that that's the time of the month when it's the least sensitive...but it's still stronger than most men's sense, even at that time). It's amazing to know that some women actually experience an intensification in this sense during menstruation.
I think greater and lesser sensitivities during this time seem to be the norm, though--heat and cold, sensitivity to sounds and noises...increased creativity and vitality...everyone's definitely feeling some change on a level that's physical, yet emotional and spiritual too. Not everyone's as aware of those changes, though.

As for not synching up with other women...other women have probably synched up with you, bklynhermit! That synchronization is quite an amazing demonstration of dynamic energy, not really a "mystical" notion, just a great example of physics at work.

Which can be pretty mystical too.
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