We sat down with Victoria Alexander of The Elephant in the Womb to talk period coaching, hormonal birth control, lunar cycling, and improving your relationship with your period.
You’re a period coach! Can you tell us a little about what it’s like to work with you as a period coach, and some reasons why someone would seek out your services?
VA: As a period coach I help menstruators with a number of different things. Some reasons people may seek out working with me are to regulate their cycle, optimize fertility, learn about different birth control options, prepare to come off of birth control, and to manage PMS. Every 1-on-1 client I work with is so different, it’s a lot of getting to know not only their cycle, but their lifestyle and day to day, so I can best support their journey.
I’m able to work with people all over the world, since my work is all done on video call, which has been really interesting! It’s important to note that I’m not a doctor, and nothing is prescribed or diagnosed when working with a period coach. I support people through education, food/nutrient recommendations, lifestyle changes, and holistic practices. For some folks working with a period coach is their main cycle support, while for others working with me is a stepping stone to help support them along their menstrual journey with other health care practitioners (because navigating how to handle doctor appointments can be trickier than you think!).
You've spoken out about your choice to stop your period with hormonal birth control while you were recovering from surgery this year. I thought that was really brave because people are often shamed for their choice to be on the pill since it shuts down one’s natural cycle. What’s your take on birth control? Do you think it’s possible to be period positive while also being on the pill?
VA: I think hormonal birth control gets a really bad reputation, when in reality it’s something that helps many people live their day-to-day life. The last thing we should be doing to each other as menstruators is shaming or judging each other for our choices.
Hormonal birth control can have many negative side effects but can also have many positives as well; the key is being educated in the pros, cons, and alternatives to make an empowered/informed choice (an aspect not explained to many patients by their doctor, resulting in a negative experience). For example, birth control is a really important option for folks with endometriosis as it can help to reduce the thickness of the lining, thus slowing further endometrial growths, and reducing heavy bleeding. That’s not to say it’s the right choice for everyone with endometriosis, but it can help those people live a more fulfilling life. Birth control is also important for just that, contraception! I don’t think it should matter whether somebody is choosing to be on it for contraceptive or other purposes; so long as they are fully informed on how it works.
Many holistic practitioners focus on solely helping people transition OFF birth control, leaving a big gap for those who want to stay on it. This is why I speak so openly on how you can still find ways to connect with your cycle while ON birth control because everyone deserves to have support to be empowered by their cycle. I always aim to have an unbiased standpoint (which is very important as an educator) on birth control and pharmaceuticals so everyone can make their own decisions of what’s best for them.
We’re totally enamored with the moon (De Lune loosely translates into “of the moon”) and her connections to the menstrual cycle. What can we learn from tracking our cycles with the moon? How can we get started?
VA: The history of menstruation and the moon goes back centuries! In history, menstruation and the lunar cycle played a big role in daily life. For example, farmers would align their crop harvest with the moon, and also sometimes fertilize their crops with menstrual blood as it contains so many great nutrients for plants like nitrogen and phosphorus. There have even been ancient cave carvings found depicting a person with one hand on their womb and one holding a moon.
Throughout history people connected those dots of the lunar cycle and average menstrual cycle being similar in length. People started finding patterns, and thus Red Moon Cycles and White Moon Cycles were born.
Now many of you are probably like… is this lady speaking the same language as me at this point? Here’s a quick summary of how to know if you have a red or white moon cycle!
Red Moon Cycle: When you get your period around the full moon and ovulate with the new moon. This cycle is less commonly seen and represents the Healer archetype. These people are often less focused inward and expand their energy outwards to heal and grow their community. Red moon cyclers are often herbalists, witches, shamans, but also can just be those with a passion for helping others.
White Moon Cycle: When you get your period around the new moon and ovulate with the full moon. This is the more common type of cycle and signifies a Motherly/Parental archetype. People often find this is how their cycle aligns with the moon when they are in a part of their life where they are focused on self/family growth. These people often tend to be very nurturing!
Tracking our periods with the lunar cycle can just give us a greater sense of connection to the earth and put a positive outlook on our menstrual cycle. I have an online guide on my webshop called “Lunar Connections” where I dive even deeper into the history of menstruation and the moon, Red/White moon cycles, and how to align them!
We envision a world where people actually look forward to their periods! But we realize this is far from reality for many folks. What would you say to someone who has a troubled relationship with their period, but wants to improve it?
VA: For some people achieving a positive relationship with their cycle just isn’t going to happen, and that’s okay. Even reaching a point of neutrality where someone can live with the idea of their period without feeling dread/anxiety is amazing!
The average person menstruates 450 times in their life… that adds up to 10 straight years spent on your period! That’s a whole lot of time to be suffering, which is why it’s absolutely worth trying to take time to improve your relationship with your period.
My biggest tip for people wanting to start improving their relationship with their period is to stop “pushing through” the week and to try and switch it to a time of slowing down. Book the days off work if you can when you know you’ll be feeling the crumbiest. After all, we don’t feel guilty taking time off when we’re sick and our body needs rest, menstruation also deserves that kind of TLC! For parents, hire a babysitter for a night so you can relax in bed with your heating pad. Another concept that can help you feel your period is less of a drag is to pamper yourself a bit. Whether it’s booking a massage, getting a Starbucks, or sleeping in a few hours more on the weekend; give yourself something to look forward to for that week.
Celebrate the small wins, and don’t be too hard on yourself! Our relationship with our period will always have highs and lows throughout life. Being intentional and aware of your cycle is a great place to start.
Victoria Alexander is a Period Coach/Educator and the face behind The Elephant in the Womb, a space centered around reproductive health and menstruation. With extensive post secondary education in anatomy, physiology, and menstruation, they provide period coaching services for those seeking to mend their cycles and find balance in their hormones. Victoria strives to further stand up for inclusive menstrual equity and actively works with local government to achieve this. She currently has a small clothing line of feminist apparel where the profits are used to supply Indigenous menstruators in Canada access to period products.
Follow Victoria on Instagram @theelephantinthewomb