Period Expert Claire Baker on Why Your Menstrual Cycle Matters
Posted by Courtney Mayszak, RDN, LDN
Feb 26, 2021
You’re a period coach! Can you tell us a little about your philosophy as a period coach and educator, and why someone might seek out your services?
CB: There’s a huge, missing chasm of information that women and people with periods receive growing up about their bodies. It wasn’t until I was 26 that I learned it was normal to feel different when I was ovulating to when I was menstruating. This is knowledge that we have a right to know!
Rather than being conditioned to believe that having a womb is a weakness, I have a vision of a world where we ALL understand and revere the natural rhythm of the menstrual cycle and learn to work with the ebb and flow of the female body, rather than pushing against it.
Women come to learn from me when they get a sense that yes, there is something cool, powerful and interesting about having a menstrual cycle. They want to know themselves in a deeper way and they resonate with the idea that there is something more to understand about what it means to bleed once a month.
Sometimes people come to me because they’ve experienced issues with their cycle (that’s how I ended up in this job in the first place) and some others are drawn to it because they intuitively feel like there’s something in this menstrual cycle awareness work that feels true and important for them to explore.
Part of your work as a period educator is teaching people how to be more aware of their menstrual cycles. Why do you think menstrual cycle awareness matters? What do we stand to gain by being aware of our menstrual cycles?
CB: We all get the idea that we need to sleep every night. That’s just a fact of life, because we ALL have a 24-hr circadian rhythm. Well, women have another clock, a monthly clock. We go through that same rise and fall in energy that everyone does in 24-hrs, except it’s spread out over a month.
There are 4 different hormonal phases in the menstrual cycle; it’s so much more than just the week when we bleed. These hormonal phases affect our cognitive function, mood, libido, memory, metabolism, fertility, creativity and so much more, so it’s totally normal to feel different from week to week (even day to day) if you get periods. And yet so many women hold an unrealistic expectation to think, perform, feel and relate the exact same way every day of the month.
Men don’t have this inner monthly clock, and so because we live in a patriarchal society, this monthly clock—the menstrual cycle—has been overlooked for eons. But 50% of the population will bleed monthly for many years of their life—so it’s time to start honouring this miraculous and also very normal process.
We need to start paying attention to it and recognising how awesome it is to have periods, because as individuals we stand to gain an increase in body literacy, a doing away with menstrual shame and taboos, a renewed sense of self-authority and confidence in young girls, more ease and flow in our lives, better relationships, better sex, better performance at work, better health and wellbeing.
I love to imagine the ripple effect of integrating menstrual cycle awareness into workplaces and schools, where everyone has access to safe and free menstrual products, where we honour and optimise the different energies of the menstrual cycle in creative projects… and where we don’t feel like we have to hide tampons up our sleeves on the way to the bathroom!
You’ve shared that your own period hasn’t always been sunshine and roses. What would you say to someone who’s working hard to improve their period, but is still struggling with difficult symptoms?
CB: My period ‘vanished’ for an entire year when I came off hormonal contraception. I was also navigating one of the most stressful years of my life and stress plays havoc with our hormones, so it took a long time for my body to recalibrate. Then I had the joy of navigating period pain, pre-menstrual moods and breast tenderness, menstrual migraines, all sorts.
So while I am an advocate for period positivity, this doesn’t mean that I think having a menstrual cycle is easy, particularly because we live in such a busy, fast paced world that doesn’t value rest, self-care and living mindfully and sustainability—all qualities that my menstrual cycle awareness practice has definitely taught me to treasure and embody!
To anyone still struggling with symptoms, I would say a few things. Firstly, well done you for paying attention to your body and listening to your cycle. The menstrual cycle is an incredible feedback system and whatever is going on in your life will show up in your cycle. So keep listening. I know that when I have a period with pain or pre-menstrual breast tenderness, that there’s an imbalance in my life and body I need to address.
Secondly, I empathise big time. It really can be tough being in a body that bleeds. So I’d send my love and please remember, YOU’RE NOT ALONE.
Lastly, seek support from a holistic practitioner if you can. Acupuncture, naturopathy, homeopathy, a menstrual cycle awareness coach—these are all great places to begin to explore the root cause of what is causing these symptoms. If these services aren’t accessible for you, don’t forget the importance of basic but consistent menstrual eco-system nourishment: good quality fruits, fats, vegetables and proteins, lots of water, plenty of sleep and rest, learning how to manage stress effectively and moving your body every day. It can take time, but it can definitely get better. Your body wasn’t designed to cause you pain and suffering.
While they can certainly be challenging, what do you think are some reasons to celebrate our periods?
CB: Getting a period is a healthy sign of vitality from the body—they’re considered the 5th vital sign in some circles and regular, symptom-free cycles are absolutely a sign of inner harmony and wellbeing. Getting a period is like your body saying, ‘Yay, go you! Thanks for taking care of me!’
I also consider menstruation to be the most wonderful, big red RESET button. I love the fact I get to press pause, recalibrate and ‘start again’ each and every month. Because hormone levels are at their lowest levels when we bleed, this is the most natural moment in the menstrual cycle to chill, say no, call in support, and take time for ourselves. And don’t we all need a little more of that?! It might not be possible to escape from the world for days at a time, but just a tad more rest and self-nourishment here can set us up for an energised cycle to come.
Slowing things down when I have my period has been one of the most powerful acts of of self-care I’ve ever integrated into my life. Everyday I hear from clients and students who relish this concept and can't ever imagine going back to ‘pushing through’ on their period. We can do anything and everything when we bleed, but what I’m saying is… we shouldn’t have to. No one questions the revitalising power of sleep and I can’t wait until the day we consider menstruation in the same way.
Claire Baker is a sought-after period coach, author and speaker. For nearly a decade Claire has taught thousands of women how to live in harmony with their menstrual cycle, rather than working against it. Claire believes menstrual cycle awareness is the missing key in women’s wellbeing, empowerment and creativity, and her immersive online courses and workshops inspire women to know their flow and become the authority in their own lives. Claire’s online program Adore Your Cycle has students in over 35 countries.
With a background in visual arts and creative business, Claire is a certified health and life coach, has studied Menstruality Leadership and is a trained natural fertility teacher. Known for her authentic voice and ability to ‘make periods fun’, Claire is regularly featured in publications such as Red, Glamour, and Women’s Health magazine. Originally from Australia, Claire now lives in sunny East London and spends her days coaching, teaching, writing, dancing and being as close to trees as she possibly can. Take Claire’s free cycle charting class or say hello on Instagram @_clairebaker_.