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Seven Things Every Christian Man Should Know about Periods

 
Rachel Jones | May 11th 2021

Ok, so maybe with a headline like that we need to back up and ask: Why does a Christian man need to know anything about periods?

Well, like it or not, they’re coming for you. There’s a growing number of voices in our culture seeking to bust the taboos and bring periods into the mainstream.

But there’s another, more compelling reason Christian men should know something about periods: your sisters in Christ have them. And if they matter to the women in your life, it stands to reason that as a husband, father, son, pastor or brother in Christ, they should matter to you. Given that the majority of people attending church in the UK and US are female, periods are not a niche concern. 

So if, in love, you’re willing to listen, here are seven things it’s helpful for Christian men to know about periods.

1. There’s more to periods than you think

Hopefully you already know the basics: each month, the lining of the womb builds up in preparation to receive a fertilised egg and begin a pregnancy; if no pregnancy occurs, the lining is shed as a period. This happens for around 3-7 days approximately every 28 days, starting when a girl is around 10-14 years old. It continues until she is 45-55, when periods stop with the menopause. It is entirely normal and really no more gross than anything else our bodies do.

But the menstrual cycle is about more than “that time of the month”—the period is just one phase of a menstrual cycle that’s running every day, with four main hormones that rise and fall in phases, affecting everything from our mood, appetite, energy levels, sexual desire, sleeping patterns and more. And that’s on top of all the other things a body does in the course of a month. So, we’ve got a lot going on.

2. Every woman is different

That said, those averages mask a huge range of experiences. This is true on a physical level. Periods can be more or less regular, more or less lengthy, more or less heavy, more or less painful and more or less emotionally intense. For some women, they’re utterly debilitating; for others, they’re just not that big a deal. Some women, for one of a variety of reasons, may not have periods at all.

And how we feel about our periods will vary so much too, depending on our culture, family background, age, and where we’re at in life. Periods are going to mean vastly different things to you if you’re 18 and about to leave home, or 28 and trying for a baby, or 48 and single.

So, if there’s a woman you’re walking through life with, making assumptions or comparisons probably isn’t going to be helpful. Just ask and listen.

"Brother, these are the kinds of struggles faced by many of the women sitting in your church on a Sunday—often in secret. This is where their theology of suffering meets their everyday life."

3. The struggle is real

Endometriosis is a condition estimated to affect up to 10% of women, but in the UK it takes on average 7.5 years to get a diagnosis (Endometriosis UK). It’s where the kind of tissue that belongs to the womb lining (the endometrium) attaches itself to other organs in the abdomen. So when it’s that time of the month, and the hormone signal goes out to shed the womb lining, problems arise. The journalist Emma Barnett describes the pain as feeling “like iron chains were dragging my stomach down, pulling me towards the floor, as my bones ground against each other during what should have been a lovely easy amble around a [city] park” (Period, page 71).

For some women, the menstrual anguish is mental rather than physical. Many women who struggle with depression or anxiety report that these feelings are more acute before or during their period. In addition to that, it’s estimated that 3-8% of us suffer from premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)—intense depression, anxiety and/or irritability, which is tied to specific phases of the menstrual cycle (Period Power, pages 274-276).

Brother, these are the kinds of struggles faced by many of the women sitting in your church on a Sunday—often in secret. This is where their theology of suffering meets their everyday life. And like any hurting person, they need brothers and sisters to come alongside them, love them, and help them see the difference that discipleship to Jesus makes in the midst of their pain.

4. … and so is PMS

“Pre menstrual syndrome” describes the symptoms experienced by many women before they come on their period: both physical (bloating, cramps, etc) and—perhaps foremost in your mind—emotional. Again, this is different for everyone, but for some, this is very raw and very real. Do remember that even if you think a feeling is irrational, that doesn’t mean the person in question feels it any less intensely. So “be kind and compassionate” (Ephesians 4 v 32), “bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4 v 2).

A Brief Theology of Periods (Yes, really)

A Brief Theology of Periods (Yes, really)

$12.99 $11.04

What does the Bible say about periods?

5. Stopping them is sometimes worse than having them

If we don’t talk much about periods, arguably we talk even less about menopause. As with menstruation, menopause has both a physical and emotional dimension, and is often very challenging (although as with menstruation, experiences do vary significantly). For more on this, Mel Lacy at Word Alive 2019 is worth a listen. The bottom line: if you know a woman aged 45-55, please be kind to them.

6. Being a woman is really very cool

So far, so miserable. But we mustn’t miss what the Bible declares: it’s good to be a woman. Our bodies are good. Sex is good. Motherhood is a wonderful gift. (Plus we’ve got a whole tampon-swapping sisterhood going on in the office that you don’t know about.)

But more than that, it is male and female together as God’s image bearers that takes his creation from “good” to “very good” (Genesis 1 v 31). And our physical differences point us to our complementarity. The Bible is overwhelmingly positive about men and women coming together to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1 v 28)—and about men and women coming together to “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28 v 19). The latter is a mission that both men and women are essential for, just as much as the former. And it’s a mission that every believer—male or female, with or without children—has the privilege of being part of.

7. You can help

When Peter tells husbands to “honour” their wives “as the weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3 v 7, ESV), it’s probably a reference to the fact that, in general, men tend to be physically bigger and stronger than women. So much of modern life depends more on brains than on brawn that for many of us, in the absence of anything heavy to lift, this fact doesn’t make that much difference day by day. But for some of us, there are a few days each month when we feel unmistakably like a weaker vessel. By instinct, we don’t want to admit that to ourselves, let alone to anyone else.

But what if we did? Well, in a Christian community such an admission of weakness ought not lead to a hierarchy with the strong person at the top, feeling superior. It should lead to the strong person getting on their knees to serve and “honour”—to raise up—the weak. That’s a pattern we see throughout the New Testament (and, it’s worth saying, not in a way that is limited to male-and-female relationships).

That’s partly why Rico Tice, Senior Minister at All Souls Langham Place in London, told me that when he does marriage preparation with couples at his church, he always talks about periods. “I do believe that totally discounting this area leads to spiritual attack,” he said seriously. He encourages a husband-to-be to talk to his wife about how her menstrual cycle tends to affect her, and to make a discreet note in his schedule of the days when she might be experiencing physical pain or finding things more emotionally intense. He encourages guys to avoid trying to make big decisions as a couple around that time, and not to jump to rash conclusions on the back of an argument but instead to come back to talk about the issues a few days later. Most importantly, he encourages husbands to be a little more intentional about loving and cherishing their wives on those days.

What exactly does that look like? Well, it’s going to depend on the woman in your life. So ask her! Don’t assume she’s overreacting or that she’s only feeling something because of her hormones. Don’t compare her with other women you know. Instead, “be like-minded, be sympathetic, love another, be compassionate and humble” (1 Peter 3 v 8). Encourage her to see a doctor where necessary. Pray for her. And if in doubt, be proactive about finding practical ways to serve: Wash the sheets, fill the hot-water bottle, buy chocolate!

Thanks for reading this far, brother. We’re grateful for you.

For additional helpful insight on women’s cycles and what the Bible has to say about them, check out A Brief Theology of Periods (Yes, Really) by Rachel Jones

Rachel Jones

Rachel Jones is the author of A Brief Theology of Periods (Yes, really), Is This It?, and several books in the award-winning Five Things to Pray series, and serves as Vice President (Editorial) at The Good Book Company. She helps teach kids and serves on the mission core team at her church, Chessington Evangelical Church, in Surrey, UK.

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