Phrases like "your moon time" imply that our menstrual cycle should be synced up with the lunar cycle. But is there science to back that up? What's really behind our desire to bleed on the new moon?
Recently my colleague Marie Wittman and I got into an interesting conversation about the relationship of women’s menstrual cycles to the moon. Both having an academic background (she has a Ph.D. and I have an Occupational Therapy degree which included a rigorous focus on evidence-based practice, plus my husband is a medical researcher) I went to the literature to see what I could find on the topic.
I was shocked by how little research has been done on this subject, and even more surprised to find that the two major papers I did find cited contradictory evidence about whether women are more likely to menstruate on the new moon or the full moon.
Given the paucity of research to substantiate this topic, I got thinking about whether there truly is a connection between human menstruation and the moon. And if so – why?
During my HRHP training I read Lights Out which lead me to believe that the light of the moon was responsible for helping regulate women’s cycles through it's action on the pineal gland and melatonin production. This would explain why many women in urban centres don’t menstruate with the moon (because there is rarely true darkness) and why many of my clients who have spent time in rural areas report more synchronization with the moon.
However, given the conflicting research evidence, and the fact that historically our ancestors may have spent much of their time in caves – away from the effects of moonlight altogether - it’s hard to know whether this is really the case.
Another clue to a potential link between menstruation and the moon comes from research evidence about sleep. According to two retrospective studies from sleep clinics, people sleep on average half an hour more during a new moon than during a full moon. This is in an artificial environment where all other parameters are presumably controlled (like light). Given that we are 60% water, and the tides are profoundly impacted by the moon, perhaps any ties between menstruation and the moon are more linked to the gravitational pull of water? Clearly more research needs to be done. But what interests me most is why it matters?
Why does it matter if we cycle with the moon? What are we really saying when we identify that this is something we want?
There is something deeply romantic about the idea of cycling with the moon. The popularity of the book The Red Tent (and our choice to name our business after it) is evidence of that.
I would argue that our desire to cycle with the moon is really a desire to see the beauty of our ever-changing nature reflected back to us.
We live in a society that prizes consistency. No, not only prizes it but requires it. We are required to work the same number of hours per day, regardless of whether we are productive or whether it is the best use of our energy or gifts in that moment. We are valued most as women when we are embodying the archetype of the maiden – energetic, youthful, and eager to please. And we are expected to embody these qualities at all times, not just during a few days of our cycle. The archetypes of the mother and the wise woman are valued less, and therefore we learn to disdain the parts of our cycle that bring those archetypal energies forth.
Conversely, we know that the moon is beautiful in all her phases – new moon, full moon, crescent moon and half moon. We also know she is beautiful during times of shadow and transformation, such as that seen during an eclipse. We see in her that change is the nature of things.
By attempting to align ourselves with the moon I believe we are reaching for permission to be different each day and to be valued for each of the unique gifts that we bring to our lives throughout our cycle.
I also believe our yearning to cycle with the moon comes from a desire to be more connected to nature and to feel that we are in relationship with spirit. In contemporary society we are faced with a myriad of forces – technology, artificial light, stress, processed food, toxins - that pull us away from intimate connection with our bodies, our earth and one another.
So how we can work with the energy of the moon to help us live a life of deeper integrity? How can we create healthy boundaries against the energetic "noise" of our lives so that the primal forces of the earth and moon can touch us?
We cannot heal what we cannot feel.
This is why I believe the first step on this healing process is to get in touch with the truth of your cycle. Not your cycle as you would like it to be, but as it currently is. From this place of deep acknowledgement of where we are, we can work towards balance and where we want to be. Charting my menstrual cycles for the past ten years has been such a gift to me. It helps to highlight where I am with relation to myself and nature, and helps me to surrender to the ebb and flow of my life.
I am deeply grateful for having met my dear friend Zahra Haji who inspired me to adopt a more spiritual approach to my menstrual cycle. She introduced me to the work of Miranda Gray through her Moon Goddess yoga program which I took almost eight years ago. I am thrilled that she is bringing forth her work in a bigger way this coming March 8th for International Women’s Day, and equally thrilled that we will have a chance to co-host a Q & A about menstruation on Monday March 14th (join Zahra’s We’re Not Psycho, We’re Cyclical event to receive more details about this event).
I also want to express deep thanks to my current teacher Nikiah Seeds, author of Moon Mysteries. Through the shamanic skills I am gaining in her year-long Red Moon Mystery School she is supporting me to move even deeper into my own healing process.
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Kim & Amy Sedgwick love to discuss sex, periods, and all the other things we’re not supposed to talk about. The co-founders of Red Tent Sisters and ecosex.ca, they’ve been featured in every major Canadian news outlet and have become a trusted resource for women seeking natural (effective!) birth control, a more joyful sex life, and an empowered journey to motherhood.