The Instant Menstrual Cycle

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My uterus decided to end her 6-month vacation yesterday. This is nothing new; I’ve never had regular periods and have tried nearly everything to make my body function on a regular schedule, but it just doesn’t cooperate. Synthetic hormones prescribed by numerous doctors have always made things worse. Acupuncture, when I am working and can afford it, is the only thing that makes them more regular and manageable.

Take a moment to empathize with me – 6 months worth of bloating, fatigue, cramps, blood, etc. in one lousy week. Oh and this would be the second week of a new job – I’m onto you uterus, I’M ONTO YOU!

I’ve tried diet changes, more exercise, less exercise, meditation, medications, channeling my inner moon goddess – everything. I’m finally learning to accept that this is the way my body functions. I don’t like it, but I accept it. What I can’t accept is that we put a man on the moon 45 years ago, but we can’t figure out how to give women some relief. Women have been in science for some time now. Marie Curie won the Nobel prize for Chemistry in 1911. You’d think we could help ourselves, but the most we have advanced in menstrual related relief and technology is OTC pain relievers marketed in pink boxes with a different name and wads of cotton so toxic to our bodies that they can kill us! Don’t you think we need entire labs dedicated solely to easing the pain of menstruation and child bearing. The women scientists can wear brightly colored lab coats and eat an endless supply of chocolate while figuring out new ways to deal with age old biological functions.

Yesterday, I couldn’t leave the couch. I was supposed to go to a barbecue with friends, do all the chores I can’t do during the work-week, and hit up the grocery store, but I was couch-ridden with a heating pad, smelly Chinese herbs, red raspberry leaf tea, and a book. I’m afraid that my friends thought I was lying to get out of the social gathering (I tend to be reclusive), and more than one male employer has given me that “uh-huh, sure” tone when I’ve called in sick over womanly problems. Thankfully, I’m a generally healthy person so that’s the only time I call in sick (and I’m extremely thankful for my health). Take a minute to imagine being in the military and having to tell a male superior that you can’t go out to the field for an exercise because of earth-shattering cramps and excessive bleeding. Then going to a male doctor at sick bay to get a ‘chit’ as proof you weren’t lying.

And I’m supposed to channel my inner moon goddess and be thankful that I’m a woman and can bring life into this world? I’m going to channel my moon goddess alright, channel her and beat her. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a woman and everything that entails, but in the name of science and entrepreneurial spirit – don’t you think it’s about time we figured out a way to ease the pain and suffering that women have to endure monthly?

In an essay originally published in the Boston Phoenix in 1990 and republished posthumously in a collection of essays titled, The Merry Recluse in 2002, Caroline Knapp, wrote, “What Women Really Need from Science.” Here is an excerpt that I think of EVERY time I have an earth-shattering, couch-ridden period, like today:

“So now women can have babies at the age of 90. Big whoop. Roll out the Pampers and Geritol. Open a Cribs ‘n’ Canes shop. And thank you, thank you, thank you, modern medicine.

Something is very wrong here. While a teensy-weensy proportion of women over the age of 75 might welcome the opportunity to procreate in their golden years, and while this development might help ease the pressure some women feel as their biological clocks tick away, most of us shudder at the news. Babies when we’re 90? Postmenopausal midnight feedings?

This news also seems to indicate a slight problem modern science has with focus. What about the here and now? What about the daily realities women face in our younger years?
Any doctor or scientist who truly understood the lives of modern women would be looking in an entirely different direction for ways to ease our burdens and make our lives more manageable. Forget about extending our childbearing years. Forget about finding new and medically thrilling was to complicate our later lives. We need help now! Here, for ambitious doctors everywhere, are a few suggestions.

The Instant Menstrual Cycle

Consider how much simpler life would be if scientists could develop a way to enable women to menstruate in a mere five minutes. No more messy, five- to seven-day bouts of bleeding. No consecutive nights curled on the couch with heating pads to ease the lower back pain. And no more worrying: Will you run out of tampons? Leak? Bleed on his sheets? The five minute menstrual cycle would pack all that discomfort and inconvenience into much more manageable form. One huge cramp. One enormous mood swing. A single flood of tears, and then – whoosh – a single rush of blood into a single, extremely absorbent tampon. If science can come up with an instant coffee, instant breakfast, and instant cameras, instant menstruation couldn’t be that hard.”

Amen sister. She goes on to list other brilliant scientific ideas for some, young scientist to snatch up and make our lives easier including: egg-laying capabilities, clones for working mothers, anti-gravity skin enhancers, and more.

Someone, somewhere, PLEASE hear my plead: We can genetically modify animals to create spider goats and jellyfish pigs, we can travel to space, we can harness the power of nuclear fusion to create electricity and bombs – so why can’t we make advancements in women’s health that would bring relief to half of the world’s population? It’s past time for the Instant Menstrual Cycle – it’s time for a revolution, ladies!

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