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Your Period? It's Key to Your Fertility
Do you know what a normal period looks like?
Readers seem puzzled and they ask questions all the time: Is diarrhea before a period normal? If I bleed through a tampon in an hour, is that normal? Is spotting between periods normal? What about clots?
Uterine linings are all but ignored in Western reproductive medicine, but are considered at least as important as egg quality, according to Chinese medicine. In Chinese medicine, the uterus itself is thought of as “the palace of the child.” Doesn’t that make sense?
“The attention the body pays to the uterus is directly related to the attention the body pays to the ovary,” says Dr. Lewis, “and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) considers them a unit, affected also by the messages they receive from the brain chemistry, blood, and hormones. The uterus is an incredibly complex organ, and must secrete proteins and chemical messages to communicate with the embryo in order for implantation to occur.”
Here are Dr. Lewis’ general guidelines:
- A period should come on almost invisibly every 26 - 32 days.
- It is normal to experience slight premenstrual tension due to the fact that, as progesterone levels drop, the body's energies are directed inward, inducing liquification of the uterine lining and initiating menstrual flow. But it’s not normal to experience crazy cramps, etc. (Case in point, my mother, coming from the Eastern culture where perhaps she was already more balanced, has no concept of things like “cramps” and now “hot flashes.”)
- The normal period should last from 3 - 7 days.
- During this 3 - 7 day flow period, the normal quantity is expected to be from 50 - 100ml. Flow less than 50ml indicates deficiency; more than 100ml indicates excess.
Ready to get into the nitty-gritty? Here’s a rule of thumb for a regular tampon and pad:
- Tampon: 1/3 full = 1 ml, 1/2 full = 5 ml , full = 10 ml
- Pad: 1/3 full = 1 ml, 1/2 full = 10 ml, full = 20 ml
The color is expected to be fresh to dark red, sometimes with a little bit of brown at the end as the blood flow tapers and oxidizes. If the color is largely brown or black, it indicates the menstrual blood is not able to be released properly, which may mean your lining may have difficulty regenerating. Bright red, thin blood that flows rapidly like a fresh cut indicates the lining isn't being properly liquefied along with the blood.
Also, consistency: If the blood is too thin and watery, it indicates a deficiency in the underlying reproductive energies. If it is thick, clumpy, stringy, or clotty, it indicates an excess condition where the flow is compromised.
Sharp pain is not normal, nor is heavy cramping. A light ache in the center of the pelvis is considered normal as well, as the contractile function of the uterus is involved in releasing the blood.
One more tidbit I’ve picked up is to NOT have sex during your period as this is the time the cervix is slightly open and the last thing you want to do is introduce infectious pathogens there.
If your menses are weird or painful in any way, might I suggest seeing an alternative practitioner, such as an acupuncturist, who specializes in these conditions? Once I started seeing an acupuncturist/herbalist, I started to realize that these conditions (mine: spotting, clots) are very common and I got treatment. My menses has gotten a lot better — brighter, better flow — since I’ve been following his protocol.
And think of it, if your Palace of the Child is not fresh, springy, and healthy, how can you expect an embryo to thrive there?
BTW, For this article - I consulted with Dr. Randine Lewis, L.Ac., Ph.D, author of The Infertility Cure and The Way of the Fertile Soul. Dr. Lewis has spent much of her career as a traditional Eastern medicine practitioner looking at just that — the menses — for clues to fertility and overall health.