Taboos regarding menstruation have been perpetuated for centuries (Leviticus 15: When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean…). These misconceptions surrounding the idea of women being impure, dirty or sinful as result of menstruating have no scientific or even logical bearing, and lead to exclusion, discrimination, and extreme health risks among women and girls. In some countries, women are considered contaminated during their menstrual cycle, and are forbidden from participating in religious or cultural ceremonies. They are banished from the community, they are removed from school, and placed in outside sheds, where they are left in isolation, leaving themselves vulnerable to illness or attack. Other harmful practices involve female genital mutilation, where a young girl’s labia or clitoris is grotesquely removed once she has gotten her first period.
These practices are nothing short of horrific, but we don’t have to cross an ocean to witness the shame and exclusion women experience as a result of menstruation. Many impoverished women here in the United States cannot afford feminine hygiene products, which are not covered under social programs like food stamps. As such, they are left to use unhygienic materials that may cause leaking and/or infection, thereby gravely affecting their health.
These ideas surrounding menstruation, where women are dirty or impure, are perpetuated on a conscious and subconscious level, where women will feel shame or embarrassment for what is nothing more than a typical biological function. Sneaking into public bathrooms with feminine products, hiding them from one’s own family perpetuates the idea that this event is shameful. And this harmful association between menstruation and shame oftentimes results in women experiencing negative or ambivalent feelings towards their own body. This disassociation can result in women minimizing their own experience, and dismissing very serious issues, such as endometriosis and dysmenorrhea, both of which are painful disorders that can affect fertility.
What happens during menstruation?
The menstrual cycle is a series of monthly changes in the uterus and ovaries of the female reproductive system, which is what makes pregnancy possible. The first day of a woman’s menstrual cycle is when she begins bleeding. On approximately day fourteen of the cycle, the brain signals to the ovary to produce an egg, at which point estrogen (the hormone responsible for the development and regulation of the female reproductive system) is released into the body. Once estrogen is released, it begins thickening the lining of the uterus, cell after cell, like bricks within a wall. When the ovary releases the egg (i.e. ovulation), it also releases another hormone called progesterone. Progesterone acts like mortar to the “bricks” by stimulating the uterus in preparation for pregnancy. If the egg goes unfertilized, the lining is discharged, there’s bleeding from the uterine blood vessels, and menstruation begins.
When women menstruate, the lining of the uterus releases substances call prostaglandins, along with other inflammatory mediators. They cause the uterus to cramp, as a means of applying pressure to the uterine blood vessels to thereby stop the bleeding. However, this process can also change blood flow to the uterus, causing inflammation and increased pain. A study involving women volunteers who had pressure catheters inserted into their uteruses during their menstruation discovered the amount of pressure generated is comparable to the second stage of labor when a woman is pushing. That is a significant amount of pressure and pain, which is often dismissed or given little regard, as it is a “normal” experience.
Potential Treatments for Menstrual Pain
There are few options for women who experience moderate to severe menstrual pain. One method is a TENS unit (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), which can be worn underneath the clothes, and sends electrical pulses (or vibrations) through the skin. Although we don’t know exactly why these vibrations work, the theory is counterirritation. If we hurt ourselves, we typically rub the injury, and we feel better because vibration travels faster to the brain than pain.
A more common treatment for menstrual pain are NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications) like ibuprofen. They can block the release of prostaglandins, and reduce menstrual pain for 80% of women, while reducing the volume of blood by up to 40%. Although predominantly seen as safe, ibuprofen can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and prolonged use can increase risk of heart attack and stroke.
Hormonal contraceptives (or birth control) are also prescribed for menstrual cramping. Birth control works by minimizing the lining of the uterus, thereby preventing the egg from attaching. If the lining of the uterus is thinner, fewer prostaglandins are produced, and with less blood, there’s less cramping. And although hormonal contraceptives are successfully used by millions of women, side effects can include depression, mood swings, fatigue, insomnia, weight gain, and nausea.
Menstrual Relief CBD Products
Cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown effective at relieving anxiety, pain, and inflammation. Similarly, and in combination with cannabinoids like CBD, terpenes have anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. At Rx Remedies, our staff pharmacologist formulates our Menstrual Relief products with highly concentrated, full-spectrum CBD because CBD is shown to be more effective when all the cannabinoids and all of the terpenes naturally grown in the hemp plant are present. We further include our concentrated terpene profile, packed with additional anti-inflammatories and analgesics, all for relieving anxiety and pain associated with menstruation.
Our Menstrual Relief sublingual drops also include various compounds such as vitamin-D, a known hormone, which reduces the production of prostaglandins. As previously mentioned, prostaglandins are what cause the uterine muscles to contract during menstruation, causing mild to severe cramping. Women who consumed 50,000IUs of vitamin-D per week saw significant relief in their menstrual cramping. Research further indicates vitamin-D can improve mood, and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Our Menstrual Relief product line further includes a topical, which is similarly based in coconut-derived MCT oil with highly concentrated, full-spectrum CBD. We include our anti-inflammatory and analgesic terpene profile, as well as over twenty different plant compounds for relieving pain and inflammation (i.e. camphor, menthol, black seed oil, ginger, and wintergreen essential oil). No other company offers pharmacologist formulations with concentrated, full-spectrum CBD with the added benefit of concentrated terpenes and plant extracts.
It shouldn’t be an act of feminism to seek understanding of one’s own body. However, by attaching toxicity and shame to menstruation, we are effectively discouraging women from becoming educated on their own reproductive system. And by doing so, we are unnecessarily putting women at risk of severe health concerns. To quote Celeste Mergens, “This planet is never going to reach its fullest potential if half its population is being held back by its very own biological nature”.
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