What’s a Menstrual Coach, & How Do You Know If You Need One?
What’s your relationship with your period? Do you dread it? Do you have a condition like endometriosis or PCOS that makes it unpredictable, unbearable or both? Do you feel like you’ve tried everything and you still feel like the crappiest crap every month?
Have you ever heard of a period coach? It’s an actual thing, and it doesn’t just exist in places like New York and Los Angeles. Period coaches help you understand your cycle, its quirks and why and how things play out (or don’t).
Before we get into the specifics of period coaching, you should know that for some, it’s controversial. Some menstrual coaches don’t have a license, and so they’re not technically qualified to practice medicine.
“I have no idea why someone would see a menstrual coach instead of an acupuncturist and/or naturopath where we can treat holistically and recognize issues with our female patients and correctly triage to a GYN, endocrinologist or other medical practitioner. We integrate care,” Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, a doctor of Oriental medicine and acupuncture says.
Practitioners of Chinese medicine, Trattner says, are super-effective at resolving issues like fertility, menstrual pain and pelvic congestion syndrome. Depending on how a person who menstruates cares for themself, their diet, stress levels, sleep and iron intake can all affect periods. If your period is different in a bad way for more than three months, it is time to see a gynecologist. Trattner recommends addressing heat and cardiovascular exercise as a means of regulating your period and its symptoms.
What to expect from a menstrual coach
As far as period coaches go, there seems to be some variation in the practice. Limor Weinstein is both a therapist and a menstrual coach. She encourages her clients to talk about their periods and how they feel about them and urges them to remember that people who get periods all have similar experiences.
Weinstein also helps them to develop skills to cope with their symptoms, especially mood swings, depression and anxiety. She practices cognitive behavioral therapy and refers folks with especially severe symptoms to physicians and holistic practitioners.
“There are various natural supplements that are known to help women with reduction of symptoms — alongside working through the emotional aspects that are caused by the physical changes in the body," Weinstein says. "Working with a medical doctor in conjunction with a coach or a therapist is very helpful.” She also recommends consulting a menstrual coach if their cycle and its symptoms are adversely impacting their ability to function on a day-to-day level.
If you seek menstrual coaching from Samantha Salmon, an integrative nutrition health coach, author of You Can Afford to Be Healthy and creator of the Perfect Period Program, you’ll get guidance on how to have a more comfortable period experience. Salmon looks at how diet, herbs and lifestyle can actually get rid of period pain and decrease the amount of bleeding you have.
“The point of coaching is to bring the client from where they are to their goal, and information alone does not help people do that,” Salmon explains.” That’s why they hire a coach. I help them break through the mental blocks and obstacles so they finally take action on what they have been struggling to do for a long time.”
Johns Hopkins University alumnus Alisa Vitti is the author of WomanCode and the creator of Flo Living, a support system for people dealing with period issues and the first global modern menstrual health company in existence. Vitti cites her own experience with her period and what she calls a “hormonal breakdown” as the catalyst for her foray into period coaching.
“We’re just not thinking about hormones the right way,” she says. “Synthetic birth control doesn’t really cure or address any of the problems. We need to be thinking about how to leverage the endocrine system.”
Flo Living’s protocol helps the body regulate hormones via diet and lifestyle. Vitti acknowledges that acupuncturists and naturopaths are super-helpful in treating period issues, but points out that they’re also often not covered by insurance, so one session with a Flo Living coach, which happens online, may be more affordable.
“Ninety percent of the problem is that people don’t believe you can do anything about your period, so you take no action," she says. "There’s a cult of confusion and misinformation around menstruation, and that’s keeping women sick and underserved.”