Menstrual synchrony. Per Wiki, it is defined as such: a phenomenon reported in 1971 wherein the menstrual cycles of women who lived together reportedly became synchronized over time. The existence of menstrual synchrony has not been definitively established, and studies investigating it have been controversial. The phenomenon of menstrual synchrony also addresses the larger question of whether or not humans have and can perceive pheromones, or utilize chemo-signaling. (See one of my older posts on pheromones here.)
The synchronization of women’s menstrual cycles has been known to go very far back, to the times when women would gather in moon huts and hold “Moon Lodge”, like in the Native American tradition. Women were known to bleed more in tune to the lunar cycles back then, releasing blood at the New Moon and ovulating at the Full Moon. Naturally, bleeding women would gather together at the New Moon in their lodges to retreat, rest, rejuvenate and dream for the tribes in their spiritually heightened state of being. Girls entering menarche would go to the lodges as well to experience the communing of women there.
Many of us women are familiar with it, and have even experienced this synchronization of cycles with other women at one point or another in our lifetime. I remember during my mid-teenage years while still living at home after I began bleeding regularly every month, mine and my mother’s menstrual cycles would sync up for a series of months at a time. That first experience of synchronization is my earliest memory of beginning to become aware of my cycle’s arrival. I knew if my mom’s came, I wasn’t far behind.
I was raised with little to no explanation or even attention given to my womanly cycles. When I reached menarche, I received a sterile explanation of sexuality and was shown how to insert a tampon. I was also offered the option to go on the pill, which I took my mother up on at the time, for the purpose of “safe sex”… Oh, and it would be good for my skin too. How many of you women heard that line back in the day?
As menstruation went unspoken, I have very little recollection of even much communication amongst my girlfriends about it either. I know we chatted about it here and there, perhaps to say we were “on our period”, sharing fears of bleeding through our tampon during soccer practice, or exclaiming about the “grossness” and “messiness” of it… Little self-conscious exchanges of that sort. Thank you, Tampax, for ingraining those subtle (and sometimes substantial) fears and anxieties from day one, with those fabulous commercials of women running around in white jeans.
Moving on… I vaguely recall menstruating in synchrony with some of my girlfriends in my teenage years as well, and it having a sense of supportiveness, during a physical experience that at the time felt so vastly confusing and even scary.
Over the years, as friendships have waxed and waned, come and gone, I have experienced many of these moments of synchronization with other women during my adulthood. I have found that not only did it happen with women who I was spending a lot of physical time with, but the menstrual synchrony would happen with women who I was also feeling particularly deeply bonded with at the time, regardless of being around one another physically. As I continue to become more and more aware of this synchronization with my sisters, I notice the deep sense of bonding it brings with it. It feels like like such a deep sharing, as we are cycling at the same time and can easily relate to the experience the other is having, share insights, excitement and inspiration.
It has been really fun over the last few years developing tight-knit sisterhoods where we share openly about our cycles. I tend to always have several text message threads going amongst my close girlfriends, and it is not out of the ordinary for us to text each other and share with excitement, “YAY my moon-time came today!” while the other ladies express excitement for whomever began bleeding.
I have a particularly powerful experience of menstrual synchrony that took place with one of my dear sisters late last year, which was the source of inspiration for this post. My girl Camille Giglio and I spend a pretty generous amount of time together, whether it is in the physical, chatting online, texting, or talking on the phone. In November, we spent a little bit more time than normal hanging out in person, between a few visits up to her house and vis versa. Reflecting on it later, it wasn’t actually that much more time in person than we usually have each month so I feel there was something deeper at work here.
So here is how this experience of menstrual synchrony went: The build up for my bleeding time earlier that month was particularly intense. I was a sea of emotion. I basically couldn’t wait for my moon cycle to start because whenever it does, it is always such a sweet release of clarity, understanding and processing. Leading up to the day I was anticipating starting my cycle, I was chatting a lot with Camille about it because both she and I were having a similar experience of being particularly excited for our moon-times to arrive. Camille was also having an interesting experience, because her cycle was running quite a bit late. We perceived there to be no apparent reasons for her cycle to be late–She was feeling healthy, there was no conception, and she had been having regular 28-ish day cycles leading up to that. It got to the point where I was a day or two out from starting bleeding and she was 9-10 days late from when she was anticipating starting. We were chatting about it and I jokingly said, “Your body is just waiting for me to start, so we can sync up!”
A couple more days passed, and I started bleeding. It was the sweet release I had anticipated. My moon cycle started in the afternoon and I texted Camille right away, sending her some “moon-time juju” in hopes of assisting the process for her. It wasn’t more than an hour and a half later, when I got an ecstatic text from her saying that she had started her cycle! We literally began our cycles for the month an hour apart from one another. I had never synchronized with another woman that closely! We exchanged several elated and fairly shocked texts from there, literally in awe of our bodies. It was such a humbling and beautiful experience to witness the inherent power of women’s bodies so acutely and to share that with a best friend.
My feeling on this particular instance of menstrual synchrony is that while it had some to do with us spending a good amount of time together over the preceding months, I felt like it had more to do with the bonding we experienced leading up to our cycles. I can recall several moments in advance to our moon-time where Camille and I had shared particularly bonding moments, where we supported one another while we were in need, shared ab-aching laughter, told secrets and saw each other through a few pivotal life moments. I feel that all hugely contributed to our experience of menstrual synchronization.
To recap, it feels like there are many factors at play that can cause menstrual synchrony. Some of the ones I am aware of from experience: Sharing lots of physical space with one another, sharing deep bonding moments with one another, and pheromone perception (while not proven, it makes sense–Just like we attract partners with our natural pheromones, so we sync cycles with women we are around lots!) Perhaps there are more? I’m sure! Let’s explore this amazing alignment of our womanly rhythms and see what else we find!
Now… I want to hear from you! What is your understanding of menstrual synchrony? Have you experienced this with other women before? Please share any insight you have on this subject matter–I am so curious, and no doubt there are a host of women out there who could benefit from your input as well!
Thank you as always for reading. Feel free to share this with other women who will find this supportive and spread the moon-time juju!
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