Cycle Mindfulness: What Happens When You Teach Fertility Awareness to Teen Girls 

In the 1980s, Leslie Carol Botha taught basic fertility charting to 13-17 year-olds at eight different restorative care homes for at-risk girls. A typical girl in the program had been a victim of sexual assault, ran away from home, used drugs and alcohol and ended up in jail. In working with these girls, Ms. Botha made an amazing discovery: teens who chart can regain control of their life. Here is what she found out: for 90% of the girls in the program who had ended up in jail, it happened during the premenstrual phase of her cycle, that monthly darkness that Ms. Botha calls “falling down the rabbit hole”: increased anger, disruptive and self-destructive behaviors, suicidal ideation, and drug and alcohol cravings.

Ms. Botha engaged the girls in a comprehensive menstrual health education program that included tracking their cycles as an art project, complete with colorful markers and stickers.

“The data I walked away with was mind boggling,” she reported. Generally more stickers and bright colors are seen early in the cycle, followed by a plunge into darkness upon reaching the eight days on each side of the start of the period.

“No matter the girl, her background the type of abuse she endured, her weight, or body image,” Botha writes, “they all fell down what I call the ‘rabbit hole’ in their mind.”

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