Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

I am a pro-choice menstrual cycle advocate

January 9th, 2013 by Laura Wershler

As 2013 begins, I give thanks to each and every one of my colleagues at the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research and all my blogging buddies at re:Cycling. Without them I’d feel left out in the cold.  

Are menstrual cycle advocates left out in the cold? Photo by Laura Wershler

I’ve been a menstrual cycle advocate since 1979 when, during a year of post-pill amenorrhea that totally freaked me out, I began to research the ill effects of hormonal contraception. It is not an understatement to say that reading  Barbara Seaman’s national bestseller Women and The Crisis in Sex Hormones changed my life. It started me on a path of self-discovery, and commitment to the idea that healthy, ovulatory menstruation is integral to women’s health and well-being. If you don’t know about Barbara Seaman and her work in women’s health activism, please read about her.

My menstrual cycle advocacy took what could be considered a counter-intuitive path. I aligned myself with the pro-choice sexual health community, committed to comprehensive access to sexual and reproductive health information, education and services. I’ve been as much a contraception and abortion rights advocate over the last three decades as I’ve been a menstrual cycle advocate. But I was a successful user and ardent advocate of the fertility awareness method long before I became a board director at the pro-choice Calgary Birth Control Association in 1986. I went on to serve 10 years on the board of Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada and worked for six years as executive director of Planned Parenthood Alberta, which became Sexual Health Access Alberta in 2006. I’m currently on the board of Canadian Federation for Sexual Health, the former PPFC.

I stress my pro-choice credentials because I think I’m often suspected of being anti-choice. Surely any woman who advocates for healthy, ovulatory menstruation and speaks out against the health concerns inherent in hormonal birth control methods must be anti-contraception and anti-choice. I am neither. More broadly, I’ve written and talked a lot about the value of body literacy for women’s health and well-being.

I wonder sometimes why I’ve stuck it out with the pro-choice sexual health community. While many have been open to my ideas, I have seen little effort to learn about the health benefits of ovulatory menstruation or acknowledge the need – let alone act – to better serve women who want to use non-hormonal contraception. It’s frustrating to be a lone voice, but I keep talking.

It took me over 20 years to find the community that serves and appreciates my menstrual cycle advocacy. I attended my first Society for Menstrual Cycle Research conference in 2005, and that’s how I came to belong to this diverse group of academics, medical professionals, researchers, activists and artists committed to advancing knowledge and awareness of the menstrual cycle. We come from different perspectives, we ask different questions and we focus on different aspects of women’s menstrual lives. But we all hold true to the same idea: #menstruationmatters.

Menstrual cycle advocacy can be lonely and oh so frustrating. Chris Bobel’s recent post about how difficult it can be to help others make the menstrual connection included this quote from me:

Caring about menstruation and the menstrual cycle makes me almost a freak in the pro-choice world. I get ignored or criticized a lot because people don’t want to ask or answer some of the questions I keep trying to pose about choice around non-hormonal contraceptive methods. 

Thanks to SMCR and re:Cycling, I’m not going to stop asking hard questions, or challenging the ignorance and avoidance that many in the mainstream sexual health-care community demonstrate when it comes to ovulation, the menstrual cycle and fertility awareness. I’ll keep chirping and chipping away.

It’s My Period and I’ll Have a Party If I Want To

April 6th, 2012 by Elizabeth Kissling

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Is Coming Off the Pill a Growing Trend?

January 11th, 2012 by Laura Wershler

The Internet abounds with articles, posts and forum discussions about coming off the birth control pill. Women are looking for information and advice. Many are trying to get pregnant, others are just done with hormonal contraception.

It’s a topic that interests many of us connected to the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research (SMCR) because of

Created at an a menstrual arts and crafts event, Andrea, 25, said this piece depicts the multiple emotions she feels around menstruation. Photo by Laura Wershler

how the pill and other forms of hormonal contraception impact the menstrual cycles of the women who take these medications. Some of us are experts in menstrual cycle function and dysfunction, most are advocates for healthy, positive menstrual cycle experiences from menarche to menopause.

A recent blog post at on the topic of quitting the pill caught our members’ attention.  Re: Cycling blogger Elizabeth Kissling included the post in Weekend Links on November 19.

A young woman in Paris was looking for advice and comments from other blog readers about how to manage the effects of coming off the pill. Siobhan O’Connor, the blog co-editor, shared Paris girl’s story with a graceful, inclusive invitation to readers:

There’s no judgment—implicit or explicit—on anyone who is on or has been on birth control pills. Some people love them, some people have to take them for medical reasons, some people abhor them. Here, we want to talk candidly about what happens when you go off them. Because, whoa. That can be hectic.

The post drew over 80 comments, with a few coming from SMCR members. What struck me was how many women:

1)  had already ditched the pill or were planning to
2) expressed a desire for the return of regular, normal menstrual cycles
3)  were concerned about their skin (it often breaks out after quitting the pill).

SMCR member, endocrinologist and guest blogger Dr. Jerilynn Prior answered the concerns about acne and bad cramps in a comment posted on November 22, and included a link to Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research website where readers can find information about all things related to menstrual cycle health.

Holistic Reproductive Health Practitioner Geraldine Matus, another member, commented on November 26 that it was concerns and experiences like those expressed by posters that prompted her and colleague Megan Lalonde to write the guide: Coming Off the Pill, the Patch, the Shot and Other Hormonal Contraception.

I invited No More Dirty Looks readers to visit this blog to learn more about the menstrual cycle and the issues raised by their online discussion.

Regular visitors to re: Cycling know that we cover a broad range of topics, but bloggers frequently address hormonal contraception as it relates to women’s health issues.

Check out this sampling from the re: cycling archive:

Several of the women who responded to the Paris girl post at expressed eagerness to reclaim healthy, ovulatory menstruation and a willingness to learn how to  manage their fertility without the aid of hormonal contraception.

Over the next few months, I intend to explore many aspects of the coming-off-the-pill experience through personal stories, media analysis and interviews with SMCR members with expertise in this area. I’ll include opinion pieces based on my 25 years experience as a pro-choice sexual and reproductive health advocate.

If coming off the pill is a growing trend, then may it be accompanied by a renaissance in women’s understanding of their menstrual cycles.





Searching for Menopause Blogs

January 6th, 2012 by Heather Dillaway

Lately re:Cycling has featured several posts on menopause, and I have begun to think about the other menopause blogs that might be out there. Turns out there are plenty – maybe not as many blogs as there are about reproductive experiences like pregnancy or childbirth but still a lot. There are even blogs that compile info on menopause blogs such as Menopause the Blog.

Blog Series 13 by Richard Smith // CC BY-NC 2.0

If you start searching for these blogs it becomes clear that many talk about hot flashes as a major sign or symptom of menopause (or perimenopause), and offer either strictly biomedical or more natural/alternative remedies for signs or symptoms (e.g., Menopause Symptom Report or I Hate Menopause). Other blogs are written primarily for their comedic value (e.g., Menopause Maniac), support value (e.g., Menopause Goddess Blog), or purely informational value (e.g., Menopause the Blog). (Menopause the Blog does a good job of summarizing some of the major blogs out there, just FYI for those who are interested.)

Many of these menopause blogs conflate the menopause transition with midlife in general (you only have to read a few blog entries to know that women talk as much about the bad and good of midlife as a life stage as they talk about menopause) but some are very specific to menopause. I find it very interesting that there can be so many different kinds of menopause blogs. I also find it interesting that so many of these menopause blogs seem to be trying to work out what midlife as a life stage means as well, which resonates with Paula Derry’s earlier post this week about how little we know about women’s midlife in general.

Perhaps what interests me the most, however, is that all of these menopause blogs seem to be either aligning with or struggling against very negative definitions of menopause. Based on my quick perusal, no blog seems to have moved past or risen above the constant negotiation of biomedical definitions. Even if bloggers are writing about how happy they are at menopause or how much they’ve learned about themselves at this life stage, blog entries still seem to be written in response to negative definitions (or at the very least, in response to the ghosts of negative definitions that still hang around menopause even when it is defined more positively).

To me this means that researchers Antonia Lyons and Christine Griffin are correct in proposing that there is only one “master narrative” of menopause and that women, doctors, women’s partners and children, medical institutions, workplaces, strangers, women’s friends, etc., have no choice but to deal with this master narrative in some way.  This also means that Abbey Hyde and her co-authors are correct in asserting that even when women aren’t using biomedical definitions to describe their menopause transition, these definitions still shape women’s perceptions of their experiences.

So, my question is, have others read these menopause blogs? And if so, does anyone have a different take on these blogs? Perhaps I’m being too harsh and using a very specific lens to look at these varied blogs. But perhaps not. What then? If you agree with me, is this what blogs are ultimately supposed to be in the end – a response (be it direct or indirect, conscious or unconscious) to the master narratives in our lives?


Looking Back – Best of 2011 at re:Cycling

January 1st, 2012 by Elizabeth Kissling

This site is tracked by Google Analytics, WordPress’ StatPress, and at least one other web tracker. But instead of digging through all of our statistics of most commented, most linked, most page loads, etc., when I was recently asked about the best posts of 2011, I went through the archives and picked my own subjective list of favorites.

  • What to tell the girl in my life about menstruation?, by Alexandra Jacoby
    Ever since I saw this uterus pillow, I have been thinking about what to tell the girl in my life about menstruation. She’s ten years old.
  • Boxing and Bleeding, guest post by Robin Percyz
    In the boxing ring, droplets of blood are often an indication of triumph. In fact, if you’ve ever had the opportunity to fight, seeing blood on an opponent’s face will often evoke a primal, animalistic pleasure.
  • Menopause isn’t for Dummies, by Elizabeth Kissling
    Roseanne’s Nuts was one of the delights of summer 2011, especially for those of us who have missed the comedic talents of Roseanne Barr.
  • Curb Your (Menstrual) Enthusiasm, by David Linton
    From time to time menstrual references show up in TV programs, mostly on situation comedies and, unsurprisingly, they are usually played for laughs. The most common inclusions have had to do with menarche with menopause coming in second.
  • Feeling Uncertainty, Confusion, and Frustration about Menopause, by Heather Dillaway
    Last Friday I attended a conference on autoethnography and was privileged enough to listen to Carolyn Ellis give the keynote speech on this new and upcoming qualitative methodology. Sitting there and listening to Ellis talk about the need for all of us to be reflexive and put ourselves into our research projects, I realized that I probably do need to acknowledge my own feelings of uncertainty and frustration as I study menopause and midlife.

What do YOU think were the best posts of 2011 at re:Cycling? What were the best menstrual cycle posts at other blogs?

Menopause in the funny pages

January 6th, 2011 by Elizabeth Kissling

Widely distributed U.S. comic strip “Zits” — the ongoing story of the life and times of 16-year-old Jeremy Duncan — began a storyline about menopause this week. Apparently, Jeremy’s mom has begun experiencing signs of perimenopause. So far, it’s not awful. The humor is based on the unpredictability of hot flashes and Jeremy’s apparent embarrassment at seeing his mother spontaneously remove her blouse.

© 2011 ZITS Partnership

© 2011 ZITS Partnership

It’s open to interpretation, of course, but so far (see yesterday’s strip), it seems to me that we’re invited to laugh at how easily the teenage boy is embarrassed, and to sympathize with the menopausal woman.

Happy Birthday to Us!

September 15th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

birthday cupcakere:Cycling is one year old today! We began with a few warm-up posts in the summer of 2009, but we launched officially (and sent out a press release to damn near everyone in the feminist blogosphere) on September 15.

In that year, we’ve had more than 300 posts (this one is #307) in 50 categories, and 747 comments. Menstruation and advertising are the most used tags, and humor is a close third. The most visited posts are tagged endometriosis, vulva, or celebrities. An average visitor spends two minutes and forty-five seconds on a page. Approximately one-third of visitors to our site are return visitors.

But enough statistical analysis.

To celebrate our anniversary, we’re growing! Please welcome our two new bloggers, Heather Dillaway and David Linton. Heather Dillaway is associate professor of sociology at Wayne State University, but you probably know her as the author of re:Cycling guest posts on menopause research and Saturday Night Live‘s misogynist series about 1980s ESPN hosts. David Linton, professor of communication at Marymount Manhattan College, has also contributed numerous guest posts about menstruation and popular culture, including a post about why tampons remain associated with Prince Charles long after one ill-fated phone conversation and period-tracking apps for men.

I’m absolutely delighted that both will be contributing to re:Cycling on a regular basis, and I hope that you are, too.

Saturday Surfing

June 5th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

In case you missed these stories this week:

Saturday Surfing: Linkworthy recommendations

May 21st, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

Saturday Surfing

May 8th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

Your weekly links:

Vanity license plate: Monster V8

Originally posted at Jalopnik (part of the Gawker network) , where they speculate that it’s intended to mean “Monster V8”.

Readers should note that statements published in re: Cycling are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Society as a whole.