New view on menstrual cycles

Claire Chaidhry from Pinelands, Cindy Robertson of Diep River, Washiela Rawoot of Constantia, Tania Hibbert of Bothasig, speaker Rona Mirimi of Lakeside, Kirsten Burgess of Observatory, Charlene Yarred West of Noordhoek and Cato Meaker of Durbanville.

Fertility awareness and menstrual cycles, taboo topics for many, were openly discussed at a talk held at Soil for Life in Constantia last week.

“It’s really about getting to know your body,” said Rona Mirimi, who then took a group of women on
a journey to discover menstrual charting. What it is, why it is best to use
it, its safety and the spin-offs of using it.

Ms Mirimi, 44, was born in Israel to a family who believed they had an open door policy. 

At age 16 she decided she wanted sex with her boyfriend but had no idea how to go about it safely. Her older sister’s nanny took her away to the next village and a doctor who did not even look her in the eye, wrote a script and sent her on her way to get started. For about the next 15 years she was on the Pill.

Then she married husband Gil and moved to South Africa in 2009 where they wanted to start a family but Ms Mirimi had numerous miscarriages. Eventually a six-month pregnancy ended in an emergency Caesarean section and a boy who is now a healthy nine-year-old.

Wanting a second child, she experienced further miscarriages. Feeling that something was wrong, she asked her doctor to do a blood test. These findings showed that she had a blood clotting problem and should never have been on the Pill.

After her second son was born, this time having to inject herself with blood thinners every day during
her pregnancy, her gynaecologist told her that she should never be
on any form of hormonal birth control. Doing some research, she ordered the book, Taking Charge Of Your Fertility: the definitive guide to natural birth control, pregnancy achievement and reproductive health by Toni Weschler.

Following the guidelines Ms Mirimi has seen the many positive changes in her body and the positive spin-offs, both physically and psychologically. 

“It’s natural, hormone-free and optimises intercourse to achieve pregnancy and knowing the exact date of the birth of a baby,” said Ms Mirimi.

Through her experience she became a fertility awareness educator, an entrepreneur and long-time campaigner for women’s health. 

She said the fertility awareness method (FAM) is about learning about your body, your health and your fertility by charting three primary fertility bio-markers every day – cervical fluid, basal body temperature and cervix position. “By checking them we know whether we are fertile that day or not and act according to our goals. It can be used to optimise conception or just as a life skill to know our body and our overall health,” she said.

Ms Mirimi now teaches women about FAM and said the menstrual cycle is a mirror to our overall health and that charting helps in gauging our health, is inexpensive, has no side effects and is suitable for any religion. And a woman knows exactly when her period starts and can be prepared for this.

Ms Mirimi said another advantage of charting is assessing medical conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, an ovulatory cycle, and hormonal imbalances. “Also by charting, one can see how different medications, supplements and diet changes influence one’s cycle and as a result, our health,” she said.

The downside is that it is not for everyone as some women are not happy to touch that part of their body and not everyone trusts themselves enough.

Ms Mirimi said menstrual charting should not be confused with the rhythm method, which is a calculation method which a few decades ago was thought to be the normal menstrual cycle and is not based on our biology and physiology. Many also think that by using an app they are using a fertility awareness method when this is actually very risky since most apps are based on algorithms and statistics and have nothing to do with our body. Both, the rhythm method and apps do not take into consideration life conditions such as travelling, being sick and stress, and relying on them can end up in huge disappointment, frustration and anger.

At the talk, some of the women asked why they had not heard about menstrual charting before. Ms Mirimi said gynaecologists are taught and focus on pathologies and problems and if asked about menstrual charting, they ask for a study on it.

Gynaecologist Dr Natalia Novikova, who practises at Cape Town Mediclinic, said she did not commonly discuss menstrual charting in her consultation, however, knowing your body and changes you experience during your menstrual cycle helps you to be aware of what is normal and what is abnormal.

She said some of her patients mention menstrual charting and like using this method. Asked if they are taught about birth control methods, Dr Novikova said gynaecology is a wide discipline. “We are taught about women’s health, vaginal and menstrual health and abnormalities.”

Ms Mirimi also imports menstrual cups and has five different brands because there is not a one cup, fits all. Menstrual cups are healthier, environmentally friendly, pocket friendly and
are a better way to deal with periods.

A menstrual cup, which is made from medical grade silicon, is worn internally like a tampon by moulding itself into the shape of the vagina. It collects menstrual fluid rather than absorbing it and is then emptied into the toilet. Ms Mirimi says it does not need to be changed as frequently as tampons or pads, is reusable and lasts up to 10 years and can be worn for up to eight hours before it needs to be emptied.

For more information about menstrual charting, Ms Mirimi can be contacted on 079 153 6418 or email nurturing@ronamirimi.co.za