Girl, you’ll be a “woman” soon.
Puberty is no joke. It’s stressful and confusing and, often, extremely lonely. Like many mothers of her time, De’Nicea Hilton’s mom never outright told her what to expect as she merged into puberty or what to expect when starting her period. Instead, she gave De’Nicea a book on the topic. Turns out that’s not the most effective way to teach someone what to expect when their body starts to change! De’Nicea laughs as she remembers thinking “Okay, I’m reading these books and I still don’t get it.” Still, like many young women before her, she managed to take care of herself despite her confusion. She was, at this point, far from learning the importance of holistic menstrual health, but the journey had started.
My body my choice?
Then, before going off to college, her mother insisted that De’Nicea be put on birth control. Now, you may have some feelings about this. That’s ok. This is a very personal decision and De’Nicea, who wasn’t yet sexually-active, knew babies were life-disrupting no matter what stage of life you’re in. Therefore, she agreed to follow her mother’s orders and began taking birth control. She chose to use the patch, a method where the user absorbs hormones through a small square of fabric that adheres to skin.
A frightening discovery
About a year later, she found a lump in her breast. It turned out to be a tumor, but the doctors didn’t outright label it “breast cancer.” They removed the tumor without issue and De’Nicea chalked up the experience to bad luck. That was until she met a presenter in grad school whose wife passed away from the same rare tumor De’Nicea had. All of a sudden De’Nicea was paying very close attention. The presenter said the origin of his wife’s tumor was synthetic hormones prescribed for her menopause. Something clicked in De’Nicea’s head: She was technically on hormones, too.
For De’Nicea, the choice to go on birth control wasn’t her own. Instead, her well-intentioned mother ascribed to the belief that women need a steady stream of hormones to prevent pregnancy (Who among us has heard that “Pregnancy can happen at any time?”). For the presenter’s wife, the choice to go on hormones was reactionary—Borne from the conventional wisdom that says menopause is dreadful. Though the connection isn’t one-to-one, the thread is there: The choices both women made for their physical health was informed by cultural milieu.
My body, a different choice
De’Nicea found studies that show that menstruating people from cultures that embrace menopause have a completely different experience with the phenomenon. She came to the realization that we can change the function of our hormones when we change how we think and feel about our bodies. Today, many young people receive basic information about menstruation and overall reproductive health in school, but both topics are still pretty taboo. We don’t just perceive the world through what we learn in school. We pick up on conventions and cultural patterns through our families, our friends, our peers, art—The list goes on.
A holistic and compassionate approach
De’Nicea Hilton hopes to reframe people’s perspectives on their menstrual cycle. Armed with wisdom from both her academic background and her personal experiences, she wants us to look at our bodies holistically and compassionately. She believes that when we treat our physical ailments without addressing the accompanying emotional component, we don’t address the whole issue. Take a hysterectomy, for example: “Even if the physical organ might be removed, the energy behind what started it is still there,” De’Nicea explains. “That means then it’s going to find somewhere else to show itself.”
Holistic menstrual health
Though her work focuses on the specific bodily function of menstruation, she emphasizes that we must think of ourselves on a macro level. She says her goal is to aid people on the perpetual journey of aligning mind, body, and spirit. The keys to this process, she says, are compassion, communication, and patience. If we are honest with ourselves and we give ourselves space to grow, we can change our life’s narrative.
Learn about holistic menstrual health and get to know De’Nicea
De’Nicea Hilton is a doctor of oriental medicine, a holistic period and fertility specialist, and the host of the Playful Healing Journeys podcast. She teaches a multifaceted perspective of menstruation. This perspective shatters the belief of what’s expected as a normal and healthy cycle. You can learn more about De’Nicea’s work on her website. You can also follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.