This excerpt from The Cycle was written by Jennifer Aldoretta

Birth control options are not created equal. Hormonal methods and I were friends for many years. After all, they’re easy to use and incredibly effective. My tumultuous relationship with the pill lasted nearly 10 years, and breaking up wasn’t easy. By the time I started experiencing the recurring heart palpitations, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath, I had already been on the pill for eight years. It was only after numerous doctor visits, countless tests, and being told by my doctors that the pill couldn’t possibly be at the root of my problems that I decided to take matters into my own hands. When I finally gathered the courage to stop taking the pill despite warnings and pressure from my gynecologist, my symptoms completely disappeared and I embarked on a quest to find something better—something that worked for me. That something turned out to be the sympto-thermal method of fertility awareness.

It scares me to think what might have happened had I obeyed my doctors and stuck with the pill. Perhaps my symptoms were warning signs of a stroke? Or a blood clot? Luckily, I will never know. Unfortunately, stopping the pill came with a new set of challenges. Ever since my very first period at age 11, I have struggled with dysmenorrhea—periods so painful that they interfere with my daily life—and perhaps even endometriosis, according to doctors. And I’m not alone. The pill had been my “quick fix,” and my new non-pill status meant that I must find another way to cope. This journey has been far from easy. Although I am well on my way to “fixing” what ails me, there are millions of others who unfortunately cannot make that claim.

So just what is this information—this “menstruation revelation,” if you will—that I’m here to share with you? Put simply, it is the idea that menstruation isn’t just a “curse” that women must endure; it has a whole host of benefits to offer us! Yes, you read that right. I’m here to share those benefits with you.

There are three goals I would like to accomplish with this book. The first—and most important—is to provide free educational material about the sympto-thermal method (STM). STM is an incredible tool that serves a multitude of purposes, such as providing highly effective, hormone-free and device-free pregnancy prevention, helping couples get pregnant, assisting in the detection of possible gynecological problems, and simply monitoring and maintaining gynecological health. STM is based on science. It is not the rhythm method. It is not reserved for Catholics. It does not involve guesswork. And women who use this method are not irresponsible; they are not only filling a personal need for family planning, but they are also taking control of their reproductive health. Despite its many benefits, fertility awareness (FA)—and specifically the type of FA that constitutes STM—is glaringly absent from the sex education curriculum, and, in general, from public knowledge. But it shouldn’t be. Education—namely, free education—about this topic is vital.

Given the education provided in this text, we arrive at my second goal: to make women, young and old, comfortable with menstruation. There is a lofty social stigma surrounding the topic. Discussing it is a big no-no, and women don’t dare divulge their menstrual status. This leads to a society that is incredibly uncomfortable (and even disgusted) with an event that is regularly experienced by approximately half of the human population. Well, you know what? I think that’s a bunch of baloney! By educating the masses about a topic that is so central to human life, we will help to break the existing stigmas. Then maybe, just maybe, we can turn a healthy period into something to strive for.

My third goal, to create a society that is comfortable with menstruation, is impossible without a thorough STM education. I know I’m talking a lot about education here; that’s because it’s not something to take lightly. It is an incredibly powerful tool, and the most impactful way to make important change on a large scale is with education. By educating people, we are breaking down the stigmas that plague our society. And a societal change like the one I’m suggesting is nothing to turn up your nose about. A society comfortable with menstruation, and comfortable with the female reproductive system, is a society chock-full of happy, confident, and successful women.

These are certainly some big, radical changes that I’m suggesting. Perhaps you have doubts about the possibility of achieving any one of my goals; perhaps you’re a skeptic. You may even think that I’m just a big loony spitting off feminist nonsense. Widespread change starts with a few passionate people, and I like to think I’m pretty passionate. Regardless of the content or degree of your reservations, I urge you to read on. It’s free, so why the heck not? You may come out on the other side a changed person. Or, by the end, if you still think I’m just some crazy feminist lady, at least your mind will be a little bit bigger and a little more open than before you began. Even if reading this book does nothing aside from providing you with more fuel for your contradictory fire, at least you will be well-versed in an opposing argument. Being well-educated is never a bad thing…so go forth and educate thyself, my friend! Let’s do this thing.

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