When a period isn’t a period

Technically, the bleeding that occurs after an anovulatory cycle isn’t menstruation:

Main Entry: men·stru·a·tion
Pronunciation: \ˌmen(t)-strə-ˈwā-shən, men-ˈstrā-\
Function: noun
: a discharging of blood, secretions, and tissue debris from the uterus that recurs in nonpregnant human and other primate females of breeding age at approximately monthly intervals and that is considered to represent a readjustment of the uterus to the nonpregnant state following proliferative changes accompanying the preceding ovulation ; also : period


Some women may have what is called an anovulatory cycle, (meaning no ovulation) and can experience some bleeding which is mistaken for a period, but it is actually not a true period. This bleeding is caused by either a buildup in the uterine lining that can no longer sustain itself or by an estrogen level drop.

So this is not a period. It’s just me bleeding forty-five days after the start of my previous cycle. But it still counts as day one. And everyone in the world who is not a medically trained quibbling pedant will call it a period. And we all may be “wrong”, technically, but given that knowledge doesn’t exist outside collective consciousness, and collective consciousness says this is a period, what does it matter?


This happens sometimes to everyone who menstruates. Sometimes our bodies just don’t quite get in rhythm and trip over their hormonal feet instead of dancing their way to ovulation. Thanks to symptothermal charting, I knew it was an anovulatory cycle, and didn’t flip out thinking it might be any other cause of weeks-delayed bleeding. This, too, is natural, and nothing to worry about.

…unless you’re my brain. If you’re my brain, you latch on to it, and decide There Must Be a Reason. We’re twenty-nine, it whispers, that’s almost thirty, almost old enough for perimenopause. And you’ve gained weight recently, perhaps it’s PCOS — or diabetes — or both. And short luteal phases? That’s nothing, see how you handle having none. And your ambivalence has caused this. And it doesn’t matter how much you work to fix one part of yourself, we’ll just fall apart somewhere else.

If you are my brain, you’re quite good at cruelty, and sometimes I hate you.

So it’s just as well you’re not.


At the start of last cycle, the anovulatory-cycle-to-be, I, succumbing to years of urgings from everyone with whom I talked about my ongoing coccyx pain to get internal work done, started Holistic Pelvic Care. Is it weird having someone I just met stick a finger in my vagina? Uh, yes. But the work itself — it’s not intimate, except in the way that deep and profound bodywork is, which is to say very, but also not. It doesn’t feel remotely sexual. It feels like nothing so much as trigger point work in the muscles of the pelvis (because that’s exactly what it is), which is strange only for the way of accessing them and because even those of us who Kegel, who reach inside regularly, who know the shape and feel of our cervixes — we don’t feel these muscles. They’re a part of orgasm, perhaps, but how much then are we paying attention to “Oh yes, that connects my tail bone to my ischial tuberosity, how interesting”? Very little, if we’re doing it right. But with internal pelvic work (which is a euphemism for “there’s a finger poking around in my pussy”), suddenly each muscle is felt — and each muscle’s tension is known, and, with pressure and that not-quite-pain of activated trigger points and the breathing that takes one back to birth, is calmed. Relaxed. Released.

Some people are taken back to (and often released from) memories of trauma, birth or rape or medical procedures. I suddenly had muscle tone. A rectocele too still, but… less.

And also, no ovulation. And a brain that declares this not a coincidence, ignoring the sensible steel of Occam’s razor.


I bought a Diva Cup a month ago, as part of a Halloween costume which was doomed to be idea only, lacking anyone to party with and the chutzpah to head out alone. With the increase in muscle tone, it fits, and, based on the past 24 hours, works. At least when, instructions and dire warnings aside, I flip it inside out.

That’s probably a metaphor.


One day, I will cease to cycle. One day, my ovaries, a bit at a time, will start to sit out from their decades-long dance. One day, they will retire altogether, graceful dames or cranky crones, to be thanked and honored and gradually forgotten either way. One day, I’ll have no more monthly(-ish) promptings to muse on menstruation, procreation, generation, genderization, humiliation, celebration, and the mundane monthly task of roughly half the population for roughly half our lifetimes to — one way or another — bleed and continue on living.

But please, not yet.

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11 Responses to When a period isn’t a period

  1. Stupid brains voices are stupid. And wrong.
    I am glad the Holistic Pelvic Care is working out well for you!

  2. This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Thank you.

    At 14, when I was a late bloomer and all my friends were menstruating, a period was all I wanted. Then, I cursed it for years.

    I’d like to apologize to my dear cycle, because once again, it’s really all I want.

  3. Excellent post.

    Also, *hugs.*

    Also, I really want to say “Oh yes, that connects my tail bone to my ischial tuberosity, how interesting” next time I have an orgasm ’cause that would be funny. Sadly, I doubt I’ll think so in the midst of said orgasm. :)

  4. I wish there was a magic formula to shut those brain voices up. Especially the brain voices compelling me to Google all the medical conditions I might have.

  5. Starve those brain voices into submission. When they speak up, look at ‘em, say “Hmph. Look at that.” and deliberately think about something else. Sometimes they are too loud or persistent, and you need to talk back to them a bit–”Don’t be silly, brain voice. Leave me alone.” Persistent ignoring eventually works, though. At least, it did for me, for what that’s worth. Arguing with ‘em just makes them stronger.

    And menopause? I would never wish it on anyone as young as you, and the transition was a pain–but when you get there, it’s a blessing.


  6. Whereas *my* brain voices were beginning to wonder if there would be an announcement this week. I was thinking: no menstrual posts in a while; could be she’s pregnant? I’m just as glad I got the news now and I can quit expecting ;-)

  7. I’m 34 – not a lot older, but a bit. And I am not perimenopausal – or, at least, I have no symptoms that indicate that I am. But I feel the march of time. Mostly, I feel an URGENCY.

    I’m not really looking forward to the day that it ends. Maybe I will come to. Hopefully I have some time to work through it in the interim.

    Also? I had an unusually long cycle while we were trying to conceive my second child. I took pregnancy test after pregnancy test, all negative. I knew I wasn’t pregnant. But I couldn’t give up that niggling voice that said, “Maybe, maybe.” And then was devastated when I wasn’t. This urge for a baby can be a powerful thing, and not at all rational.

  8. i love you blog! i read every post. i am getting started on blogging, any tips?

  9. I wish I could go back to my blissful ignorance of my cycle when I was like, “whelp, there it is again. It’s probably been about a month.” Now, though, if it’s four days late I’m freaking out and altering my diet to balance my estrogen. It all started when I had three bleedings in one month and did this anti-estrogenic diet which did work, I’m practically synced with the moon… well until the last one which was four days late. I’m plagued with the idea that my estrogen is going to go haywire and I’ll have all those problems associated with it, too. Or maybe I already do(!). My mom had early onset menopause nearly 20 years ago and I remember how hard it was on her. The more you know the more you feel like you can do something, like you’re responsible. There are just so many factors; diet, environment, stress, genetics. It’s like parenting, there are some things we can do and others we just have to let go, because it’s all part of an incomprehensible big picture.

    And can I just ask… how is a diva cup part of a costume? XD

  10. Pingback: Weekend News Round Up… | Sex Info You Can Use..

  11. Awesome article!Brains and lot of knowledge about anything can get annoying sometimes.Lol!Diva cup a costume? But trust me diva cup and my pair of adira period panties are highly dependable during periods!

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