Share your First Period Story

RachadminGuest Writings, Menarche, Menstrual Health, Moon Lodge/Red Tent, Musings

Would you like to share your ‘first period story’ for my Menarche book? I’m updating it and would love to include some real life stories- bear in mind it’s aimed at young women! If you would like to have your story included please email me – stories to be less than 500 words please! Thanks 🙂

First Period cartoon

Current version of ‘Menarche a Journey into Womanhood’ by Rachael Hertogs available here!

[guest paper] “The Menstrual Cycle: A Feminist Lifespan Perspective”

RachadminGuest Writings, Menstrual Health

“The Fact Sheet –four pages of content and two pages of must-have references—was collaboratively written by a team of members of the Society for Menstrual Research. It is available for download [pdf]. Sections include menstrual attitudes and representations, menarche, peri/menopause, menstrual care, problems associated with menstruation and more.”

[guest blog] 15 Crazy Things About Vaginas

RachadminGuest Writings, Musings

 by Lissa Rankin, M.D. in Owning Pink

 Did you hear the story of how asked me to write this post — “15 Crazy Things About Vaginas” — for their website on the launch day of my book? They had posted “15 Crazy Things About Sperm” and it was wildly popular. So they figured they’d play nice in the sandbox and give us girls our time in the limelight.

And then, after it had been up on their website for about an hour, some suit in corporate made them pull it.

“Too saucy.”

You can read the whole crazy-making story here.

Anyway, I never did get around to posting what I wrote for them. So here you go.

15 things I bet you never knew about vajayjays.

It’s amazing how much misinformation is out there about the vagina. Given how fascinated our society is with the female body, you’d think we’d be a little more informed. But from what I discovered while soliciting questions for my book What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend, many of us still have a lot to learn.

To help out, I’ve compiled a few things you may not know about the female genitalia.

  1. Pubic hair is not just a biological accident that forces us to the waxing salon. It serves three critical functions. First, it protects the delicate vagina. Second, it serves as a reproductive billboard to alert potential mates that you are biologically (if not emotionally) prepared to procreate. And last, it’s a pheromone carpet and traps the scents that lead potential mates to the promised land. So you might think twice before you shave it all off. It’s there for a reason. Embrace it.
  2. There are 8000 nerve endings in the clitoris, dedicated exclusively to female pleasure. The penis only has 4000. Who says God didn’t take care of us girls?
  3. The average vagina is 3-4 inches long, but fear not if your guy is hung like a horse. The vagina can expand by 200% when sexually aroused, kind of like a balloon. Remember, the vagina was made to birth babies, so it’s exceedingly elastic. If you have pain when getting it on with someone large, you can use dilators to help stretch the vagina so you can accommodate the whole package.
  4. The vagina doesn’t connect to the lung. While the vagina can expand, it’s not an open conduit to the abdominal cavity. While microscopic sperm can swim through a tiny hole in the cervix, a tampon simply won’t fit. So if you lose something in there, don’t worry. Reach in all the way and pull it out. Do not — I repeat, do not — go hunting for whatever you’ve lost with a pair of pliers. Think of your vagina as being like a sock. If you lose a banana in a sock…it stays in the sock.
  5. Yes, it’s true — your vagina can fall out. Not to belabor the sock metaphor, but it can turn inside out just like a worn out sweat sock and hang between your legs as you get older. But don’t fret; this condition — called pelvic prolapse — can be fixed.
  6. Vaginas have something in common with sharks. Both contain squalene, a substance that exists in both shark livers and natural vaginal lubricant. (Cue music: “She’s a maneater…”)
  7. You can catch sexually transmitted diseases even if you use a condom. Sorry to break it to you, but the skin of the vulva can still touch infectious skin of the scrotum — and BAM! Warts. Herpes. Molluscum contagiosum. Pubic lice. So pick your partners carefully.
  8. The average length of the labia minora is less than ¾ inch long (yes, someone got out a ruler and measured 2981 women). Only 1.8% of women have labia longer than 1 ½ inches. But remember, every vulva is different and special. Some lips hang down. Some are tucked up neatly inside. Some are long. Some are short. Some are even. Some aren’t. All are beautiful. You’re perfect just the way you are.
  9. While hair on your head can live up to seven years, pubic hair has a life expectancy of about three weeks, which is why it only grows so long. So don’t worry if you opt not to groom your pubes — you won’t need to braid them any time soon.
  10. The word “vagina” comes from the Latin root meaning “sheath for a sword,” which may explain why some women simply hate the word. So if you don’t like the word “vagina,” pick your own name for your girly parts. Just call it something and don’t be afraid to talk about it.
  11. Only about 30% of women have orgasms from intercourse alone. The clitoris is where the action is. Most women who do orgasmduring sex have figured out how to hit their sweet spot, either from positioning or from direct stimulation of the clitoris with fingers.
  12. Increasing evidence suggests that the G spot feels good because it lies right over a deep part of the clitoris. Although experts describe the G spot as being inside the vagina on the anterior wall, just under the urethra, the crura of the clitoris actually runs right there. And a recent study demonstrated that vaginal orgasms may actually be deep clitoral orgasms. But who cares? An orgasm is an orgasm. Appreciate it, regardless of where it comes from.
  13. Vaginal farts (some call them “queefs” or “varts”) happen to almost all women at one time or another, especially during sex or other forms of exercise. So don’t be embarrassed if your hooha lets out a toot. You’re perfectly normal.
  14. Some women do ejaculate during orgasm, but you’re normal if you don’t. The controversial “female ejaculation” most likely represents two different phenomena. If it’s a small amount of milky fluid, it likely comes from the paraurethral glands inside the urethra. If it’s a cup, it’s probably pee. Many times, it may be a little bit of both. But don’t stress out about peeing on yourself. Put a towel under you and surrender to the experience.
  15. Safe sex (or even just orgasm alone) is good for you. Benefits include lowering your risk of heart disease and stroke, reducing your risk of breast cancer, bolstering your immune system, helping you sleep, making you appear more youthful, improving your fitness, regulating menstrual cycles, relieving menstrual cramps, helping with chronic pain, reducing the risk of depression, lowering stress levels, and improving self esteem. So go at it, girlfriends!

There you go. There you have it. It’s important to know this kind of stuff, because you can’t truly love all of yourself until you love and understand your girly parts. We talk about the eyeball or the elbow or the big toe. Why not talk about the vagina? Plus, the vagina is way more interesting than the pinky finger or the belly button. The vagina is the creator of life and the portal of pleasure. But it’s also where we carry many traumas — menstrual cramps, childbirth trauma, molestation, rape, abortion, and painful gynecological exams. If we don’t release these traumas, they back up and manifest in a whole host of health conditions like depression and chronic pelvic pain. We must talk about our girly parts to liberate them.

The more we know, the more we’re empowered to live life out loud, love fully, and really rock this life.

*      *       *

So there you have it.

Can you believe that these 15 facts caused such a hullaballoo? What do you think? Did you learn anything new? Have any more fun vajayjay facts to share? What do you think about how “sperm trumps vagina” and that this article was pulled? (It still rattles me…)

I had such a great time on tour talking with women about their yonis, these sacred sources of vitality and power. Big hugs to everyone whom I met on tour, who has read What’s Up Down There, and who continues to bring vaginas out of the closet!

In tune with the moon?

RachadminGuest Writings, Menstrual Health, Musings

I wonder how many of us are in tune with the moon? Supposedly we bleed with the dark moon and ovulate on the full moon- presuming we have a regular cycle.

Over the last 9 months- interestingly since I have moved out of the city and am much more exposed to the rhythms of nature, my cycle has slowly shifted to the opposite of the ‘norm’. I menstruate on the full moon and ovulate on the dark moon….

so what does this mean?

this blog has an interesting take on things…

“You won’t find a lot of literature about women who cycle with the Red Moon. My guess is that’s because of what menstruating with the full moon represented in the past. According to Miranda Gray, this cycle was linked to the archetype of the seductress, the enchantress and the woman who knew how to wield healing power and magic. This was the kind of woman whose sexuality was applied to something ‘other than’ the formation of the next generation. She was considered by our patriarchal ancestors as the ‘evil woman.’”

and here Lauren talks about Lunaception….

Who can benefit by cycling with the moon?

I believe every woman should align her cycle for the moon, but it can be particularly helpful in certain cases:

If you have ever taken The Pill
If you frequently skip periods (and it’s not time for menopause)
If you have irregular and/or painful cycles
If you are struggling with infertility
If you have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
If you have other hormonal problems, like hypothyroidism


© 2012 Rachael Hertogs, All Rights Reserved

Embracing Your Moon Time

RachadminMenarche, Menstrual Health, Moon Lodge/Red Tent, Musings

Embracing your Moon Time

Rachael Crow reflects on positive menstruation

published in Juno Magazine Autumn 2011 

Imagine living in a culture that honoured women’s bleeding time (moon time) as sacred. There used to be a time when women’s sexuality was not separated from spirituality. These cultures understood that a woman’s bleeding time was a sacred time, a time of deep introspection, a time for her to shed her outward responsibilities, to retreat to the moon lodge where women would reflect and reconnect with themselves. Their resulting dreams and visions would be shared for the benefit of the whole tribe.

This withdrawal into the moon lodge has been misinterpreted as a time when women were ‘dirty’ and might ‘contaminate’ anything they come into contact with – therefore they were not ‘allowed’ to perform their usual household chores. In fact it was a choice. I think this misunderstanding has been the source of a lot of misinformation. Interestingly, the original meaning of the word Sabbat was a day of rest while the Goddess was menstruating! But for most western women of today’s modern society, just to consider honouring our menstrual blood might seem outrageous. We have travelled so far from the time of honouring our female bodies.

So how do we embrace our moon time? Let’s begin by looking back at our lives and the messages we received as young women. Maybe you were lucky and you were honoured and embraced. But many women were not. Many were given messages of shame, disgust, and disappointment, often by other women. We still perpetuate these messages today. How differently would we feel about our bodies, our bleeding, and our sexuality if we had been given positive messages of love, beauty, and acceptance? Would we still hide our bleeding-time in shame?


Today’s menstrual woman in the western world lives in a male oriented society which influences her perception of the world and herself. This society offers no guidance, no structures for the feelings and experiences of the menstrual cycle, nor any recognition of it. So how do we begin to go about filling this gap and reconnecting to our cycle?

Healthy cycles

My first step was attending a “Healthy Cycles” course. This was a weekly gathering of women sharing their experiences of their menarche (first period). We explored herbs that eased PMT and cramps, and that encouraged or decreased flow. We sang and chanted, meditated, drew and made moon necklaces. We learned how to chart our cycle, about its connection to the moon, about natural fertility and contraception. At the end of the course we organised a ritual – similar to what a menarche ceremony may have been like. It was beautiful; we sang and blessed each other. For me this was a life changing moment: I experienced a huge healing shift in my consciousness and my body.

I had been brought up to believe that menstruation was a biological disadvantage, making women emotional, unreasonable and unreliable workers. I went through my teens and into my twenties hating myself, feeling guilty for being depressed, irritable, bloated and clumsy at certain times of the month. My first period was not celebrated – it was shamed. I had no rites of passage, no guidance, it was hidden away. As I got older my sexual energy was feared and called ‘dirty’ and my curvy figure was called ‘fat’.

Attending these weekly gatherings helped me to move away from the negative messages I had been given as a child and young woman and enabled me to see myself in a different light. It also set off a spark in me to want to help other women change their attitudes around their cycle. Many women feel that they missed out on celebrating their menarche. They have a deep sense of loss that their transition in to womanhood wasn’t honoured or recognised. I encourage women to create a ceremony for themselves and reclaim their menarche.

Many tribal traditions celebrate a young woman’s menarche with ceremony to recognise and honour her first blood. Here in the West it is no longer customary to celebrate menarche in such a way. Mothers will sometimes honour their daughter with a gift, or allow their daughter to have her ears pieced as a marking of her steps in to womanhood. But there is no gathering of wise elders, no coming together of the community as there used to be. How a young woman is guided through this experience will affect her for the rest of her life.

I believe that we desperately need to expand and build on these positive, illuminating rituals and celebrations in the lives of adolescent girls and wounded women. It is my hope that when a man or woman shares in these rites that they will be able to take away a little ancient magic for themselves.


Reconnecting to our natural cycles

After the first year or so of bleeding our menstruation should have taken on its own pattern of cycling. Women’s cycles can vary but most of us will bleed every 28 days or so. Prior to the actual bleeding we may have what is medically termed as ‘PMT’ or ‘PMS’ (Pre-Menstrual Tension or Pre-Menstrual Syndrome). I used to suffer from PMT two weeks out of four, from ovulation to my time of bleeding. Since becoming more in tune with my cycle my PMT has lessened. Now I have one day of feeling crabby and out of sorts, my skin usually has a break out but that’s as bad as it gets!

I believe PMT is our body’s way of telling us to go within, reconnect and spend time with ourselves. We are so busy ignoring our periods and ‘doing’ life we have forgotten how to just ‘be’. PMT is telling us to ‘be’.

If we are experiencing awful PMT we can tune in to our inner wisdom to try to connect to what this imbalance is about. What else are we preparing to gestate in our life? What other seeds are awaiting fertilisation and implantation? Creative projects, big ideas, decisions? Not all our dreams and desires can be fulfilled in one short menstrual cycle but are we working towards those goals, are we acknowledging our needs, are we making some progress in life’s plan?

To help ease PMT I recommend plenty of rest and relaxation – make some time for yourself, time to just ‘be’. Create your own ‘moon lodge’, a quiet space to meditate, do yoga, write, dream, draw or sew. Eating a healthy balanced diet is important, food that allows your body to detoxify for a while. By giving our body the nutrients it needs, our PMT becomes more manageable. As our body is supported and nurtured, it will support us on other levels – mental, emotional and spiritual. As you heal and address your relationship with your cycle, your PMT will decrease.

Charting your cycle

Some women struggle to recognise their PMT time – this is where charting your cycle can help. Knowing that our mood swings or food cravings are just a symptom of our cycle can empower us to overcome them or allow us to surrender to them.

Charting your cycle can be done in many ways. One is to note the position of your cervix. You can also chart your cervical mucus and your body temperature. Some women use charting as a tool for awareness of fertile times – a natural contraceptive or useful if they are trying to become pregnant. Others use it as a means of being conscious of their connection to the moon’s cycle or just so they have an idea of when they will bleed. Whatever your reasons it is a wonderful way to reconnect to your cycle.

The most basic way to chart your cycle is to keep a diary- noting in it when you bleed. With this you can go in to as much or as little detail as you like. Some women like to write things like – how heavy their loss is, how they feel, physical symptoms; cramps, back ache etc. You may want to prompt yourself with some questions. With relation to your inner life, ask yourself: Do I take time alone? What do I dream? What are my feelings? What do I need to say- and to whom? And your outer life: What am I eating? When do I play? When do I exercise? How does my body feel? What am I wearing – do I feel attractive?

Sanitary protection

Of course, along with bleeding comes sanitary protection. We use approximately 15,000 disposable sanitary items in our lifetime – to hide our bleeding. We shove a non-sterile wad of cotton wool up our tender, sensitive vaginas so that no one knows we are bleeding. There are now alternatives – washable pads, sponges and mooncups. You may wonder how using these alternatives can help us? I believe that the physical act of washing our pads, cups or sponges connects us to our blood and our cycle. Washing your blood out can be a mini ceremony each month – taking the time to nurture, reflect on and respect the rhythms of your body as you wash.

Embrace your Moontime

Our daughters, nieces, cousins and god daughters, all need to be guided through the transition into womanhood with as much awareness and sensitivity as possible. We have to be there for them, to guide them through the emotional waters of their menarche, share our wisdom with them and be a living example that our menstruation doesn’t have to be a curse. It can be a wonderful time of renewal and powerful magic.

 Embracing our moon time is about taking every opportunity to listen, nurture and embrace our cycle. It’s about sharing and supporting our sisters, educating our sons and our brothers, connecting to our inner magic and reclaiming our natural birthright.


Article adapted from Healing the Wounds of the Womb by Rachael Crow 

© 2009 Rachael Crow, All Rights Reserved

Monthly Ritual/ Womb Prayer

RachadminMenstrual Health, Moon Lodge/Red Tent, Musings

What monthly Moon Time rituals do you have?
each month as I celebrate my bleed, I enter my Red Tent /Womb Space and I send healing and prayers to my womb….here’s one I’d like to share:

World of the Womb

My eye cannot see you.

My will cannot control you.

But I feel your presence,

and I note your being

and I wish you all blessings,

and I love you.

Lines excerpted from the poem, “World of the Womb” by Tikva Frymer-Kensk

and a lovely quote from Susun Weed which sums up how your Moon Time should be spent…if only!!

‎”Sit, sister, here on the soft green moss, and give your sacred moon blood to the earth, back again to the spiral of life. Let flow your womb’s blood red to the green and brown of earth. Sit here. Relax and close your eyes and let the visions come. Rest now and give your moon blood to nourish the mother who nourishes us. Relax and let the visions come.” Susun Weed

[guest blog] Menstruation and the Moon

RachadminGuest Writings, Menstrual Health

an excerpt from
The Lunar or Lunation cycle refers to the journey that the Moon makes each month as it travels through its phases – from new moon to full moon and back to new moon again.
This cycle exerts a major influence upon women and their menstrual cycles. It affects a woman physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Physically, the Moon influences cycle length. The average length of a menstrual cycle is 29 days, which is exactly the time it takes for the Moon to travel through her phases.

The Moon can also trigger ovulation at any time during the menstrual cycle, regardless of when biological ovulation takes place. This means that a woman can be fertile or ovulate twice in a menstrual cycle. This is sometimes referred to as double ovulation or the Natal Lunar Phase Fertile Time.
Emotionally, the moon affects our moods.
For example, feelings and emotions are heightened during a Full moon. Recognising the Moon and its phases can help at those times when you are feeling overwhelmed and emotionally ‘over the top ‘. It can help to anchor you and help you realise that this mood will pass.
If the emotion is overwhelming, and it is being made worse by the moon, then you can take action to minimise the damage caused in your life by taking time out and realising that it is not all your fault.
Symbolically the Moon is linked to nurturing, mothering, feeling safe, emotions, and intuition.
All these attributes are often linked to women or exemplified as feminine attributes. By using the Moon’s cycle as feminine blueprint you can discover more about yourself. In this way you can use the Lunation cycle spiritually as a model for growth and spiritual development.
The menstrual cycle is a complex affair and can be viewed from many perpectives.

Physically or biologically where the hormones produce real changes in the female body throughout the menstrual month so that women can have babies.

Lunar or moon based perspective, where the influence of the moon affects female fertility and emotional behaviour.

Spiritually where the model of archetypes encompassed in the Female Energy Cycle provides a metaphor or description of behaviour or experiences common to most women.
So far, throughout this website we have looked the way your menstrual cycle is affected by your hormones and the moon.

Just as the moon waxes and wanes throughout the month so do you. You experience different moods, desires and aspects of yourself (and being female) depending upon where you are in your menstrual cycle.
You are influenced emotionally, mentally and spiritually by an invisible energy system of personalities. I have called this invisible energy system the Female Energy Cycle.
The Female Energy Cycle contains a pattern or blueprint of feminine behaviour. And just like the lunar cycle there is a distinct order, system, ebb and flow to the way these feminine archetypes appear within the Female Energy Cycle
Women, just like human beings in general, are capable of expressing many different facets of their personalities. We are not just one role or another, even though in the past we have been strongly encouraged to limit ourselves to the roles of Wife and Mother (just as men have been equally constrained in their roles as provider, macho man etc).
We are limitless. In truth we are Wife and we are Mother. We are Lover, Daughter, Warrior, Teacher, Sister, Healer, each one at a time and in essence all of these all the time to lesser and greater degrees.
We choose which personality to express at any time and we all have the potential to develop and express different Goddesses or archetypes at different times in our lives.
Generally, most of us resonate more strongly with a particular group of archetypes than another .
Some Goddesses are very strong within our psyche or our culture and others are not.  We also change our preferences for for which archetype we express at any time. For example, the change from Wife to Mother.
Women also change their personalities or behaviour monthly; with and through the menstrual cycle. The menstrual cycle offers women the unique ability to try out at least four different, primary archetypes in their lives, if not on an external level than at the very least to be expressed and experienced within.
These four archetypes of the Female Energy Cycle are:
They simulate the moons journey (or the lunar cycle), and have within them recognisable and particular behavioural traits. The diagram on the next page gives a brief description of the phases and where they occur within the menstrual cycle.
Each month a woman will experience changes in the way she perceives herself and her world in accordance to where she is in her menstrual cycle and which archetype is expressing itself through her life.

Premenstrual Mother

RachadminMenstrual Health, Musings

Years ago, when I first discovered that working with my cycle rather than against it made my premenstrual phase much easier to manage, and those PMT symptoms slowly began to disappear.
I made sure I gave myself rest time, time to journal, time to meditate and time to work through any resentments that came up at ‘that’ time of the month!
I was also balancing my life as a single mum with 2 children- one with special needs.

I realise I have been very lucky to have practically erased my PMT symptoms, well until 2010 when i had my daughter; my cycle returned after 4 months – even though I was breastfeeding full time and none of my new mama peers had any signs of starting their moontime again!
I pondered what went on each month with my hormones- I was charting my cycle again, waiting for it to regulise and noticing my PMT symptoms retuning- but this time mid-bleed?!

I’ve been cycling again now for 18 months, i’m still breastfeeding and my PMT is now premenstrual, being a premenstrual mother of a demanding feeding toddler is something i hadn’t experienced before and boy it’s tough!!

My sensitive nipples are being gnawed on while she teeths, my desire for ME time is strong and she’s mega clingy, frustrations are high as I get behind in my chores because she is demanding I spend every moment with her…and as soon as daddy comes through the door he gets a barrage of my resentments- ‘all i wanted was to have 2 minutes to grab a shower and i didn’t even get that today’!!

luckily i have a supportive husband who whisks our daughter away for some stories so mama can grab a shower and wash away the resentments of the day. He even presents me with a bar of chocolate that he had bought for my xmas stocking!
He promises to take the day off work tomorrow so i can go to a morning yoga class and get some ME time 🙂

He can’t solve the issue of sensitive nipples but hey, you can’t have everything! a bit of ME time reenergises me and tops up my patience batteries. once more all is well in my world ….for now!

;© 2011 Rachael Hertogs, All Rights Reserved